Sam Bain on Corporate Animals: 'I felt like there was untapped comic potential in people trapped together'

Sam Bain on Corporate Animals: 'I felt like there was untapped comic potential in people trapped together'

Demi Moore in Corporate Animals

Peep Show writer Bain and director Patrick Brice discuss their latest project starring Demi Moore

Workplace satire meets extreme survival film in Corporate Animals when a group of employees on an outdoor pursuits team bonding experience get stuck in a cave. Directed by Patrick Brice and written by Peep Show's Sam Bain, its pitch-black humour is attuned to modern times, though the film was partly inspired by Billy Wilder's 1951 film Ace in the Hole. Demi Moore stars as an irredeemable boss who is joined by a diverse cast of comedic actors including Jessica Williams, Karan Soni and Dan Bakkedahl.

'I was always fascinated by survival stories, like the Chilean miner disaster and the Uruguayan plane crash and I always wanted to write one because I felt like there was untapped comic potential in people trapped together,' explains Bain. 'Being trapped is essentially where every sitcom starts, whether it's The Office or Peep Show, it's people put in a pressure cooker. Any sitcom really is about people who are forced to spend time together so this is just taking it to the ultimate extreme of literally being trapped in a life or death situation.'

Brice and Bain met via a producer, the two already fans of each other's work. Brice is the man behind uncomfortable comedy and horrors like Creep and The Overnight, which place people in awkward situations and eke out the humour. 'I have very specific fetishes when it comes to making movies, I guess. So, making comedies that are a little scary and weird and also horror movies that are kind of funny too. This seemed like an idea that fit right into my world and also, I was a huge Peep Show fan so the chance to work with Sam and collaborate on anything was exciting to me,' says Brice.

The casting of Moore came late in the game after another actor dropped out, and Bain touches on a salient point regarding the way women are treated in Hollywood when they reach a certain age, saying, 'I always felt fully committed to making her irredeemable and I don't think those parts exist that much for actresses. Clearly it hit a nerve with her in a good way.'

Each of the ensemble cast gets their moment to shine, as the film comments on office politics in various ways including the unenviable position of being someone's assistant and the competitiveness of it all. This was something Bain took from a project he had been researching, but never got off the ground, 'I met quite a few assistants who worked with really powerful people and hearing their stories was really interesting because there's something about being essentially someone's servant, which is a very strong, strange and tense situation.'

Brice chips in, saying, 'I was an assistant myself for a couple of years for a film producer. When your job is to facilitate what someone else is doing, you end up kind of living in their head a little bit. Trying to anticipate their needs is part of doing your job well and that can make you go absolutely crazy, especially if it's working for someone like Demi Moore's character.'

Screening as part of the Sundance Film Festival 2019: London. General release from Fri 9 Aug.

Corporate Animals

  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 26min
  • Directed by: Patrick Brice
  • Cast: Demi Moore, Ed Helms, Jessica Williams

Disaster looms at a corporate team-building caving weekend organised by the megalomaniac CEO of an edible cutlery company.