A white woman looks up to a much taller white man outside in the dark in 'Cat Person.'

‘A Bubbling Kind of Horror Story’: Michelle Ashford on Capturing the Allure of ‘Cat Person’

Adapted from a viral short story, Cat Person is a dark commentary and psychological thriller set in the modern dating world. The Mary Sue’s Rachel Leishman sat down with the film’s screenwriter, Michelle Ashford, to discuss the process of bringing the story to the screen.

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The original story by Kristen Roupenian appeared in The New Yorker in 2017 and took off on the internet. It follows 20-year-old Margot during her brief relationship with an older man named Robert. In the movie, Margot is played by Emilia Jones (CODA), and Nicholas Braun (Cousin Greg from Succession) plays Robert. Although the story isn’t explicitly in the horror genre, many women who read the story were creeped out by it and the movie picks up on that vibe.

Ashford explained she saw it as “a bubbling kind of horror story underneath that it felt like a horror story to me.” She continued, “It just, but there’s a real sense of dread. So I thought that would be interesting, to bring out, because I do think horror is one of the best genres to tackle societal kind of issues. You know, burning kind of things that everyone’s talking about. And certainly, what was going on, this is pre Me Too.”

In the story, Robert’s appearance is described in detail. Ashford wanted to keep his physical size larger than Margot’s in the film. She explained how important the casting was for this role. “When we were talking about casting, yes, we talked endlessly, endlessly, endlessly about Robert. Like, who would that be?” Braun seemed to fit the bill. “We felt that Nick actually had that perfect mix of kind of not totally
confident, like there’s something sort of vulnerable about him that. He seemed absolutely perfect. And even the fact that Cousin Greg character is, has similar qualities.”

Expanding on the characters from the story, Ashford hoped audiences would see more sides to it and take something away with them. “I hope that people look at it and say they were not communicating.” She added, “The real breakdown happens when people are not being honest, communicative, saying their truth. You know, it’s funny, when I got done with that story, I thought, ‘Well, if women would speak their truth more often and men would listen, maybe things would be better.'”

Watch the full interview below.

Cat Person is playing in select theaters.

(featured image: Rialto Pictures)

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Image of D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.
Image of Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.