Our Kind of Traitor: Susanna White breaking directional mould with thriller


Our Kind Of Traitor director Susanna White. Picture: Getty Images.
Our Kind Of Traitor director Susanna White. Picture: Getty Images.

DESPITE several years of experience in the thriller genre with her television work, director Susanna White is a member of the exclusive club of women who have directed athriller film.

After honing her skills on television series Black House and Generation Kill, White’s work on the John Le Carre novel adaptation Our Kind Of Traitor ranks her alongside her directorial peers Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) and Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) who have made their mark in the male dominated genre.

Figures have shown the uphill battle it has been for women to helm a thriller, let alone a feature; the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University in 2014 found 85 per cent of films were directed by men.

And White is all too aware of the privileged position she is now in.

Speaking with communitynews.com.au just after finishing her dinner in New York, White reflects on her directorial opportunities.

“I love doing action; I have done a lot of drama work with grown up or adult subjects,” she said.

“It was exciting to be offered a thriller.

“I believe only about 3 per cent of thrillers are directed by women.”

However, the opportunity only came after directing a family-friendly film first, with 2010’s Nanny McPhee Returns.

“I think it was to do with me being a woman that I was offered a family film, which was amazing to do a big $30 million film,” she said.

“It was an incredible privilege.”

White said she relished sinking her teeth into a film from her favourite genre.

Our Kind Of Traitor is about British couple with marital problems (Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris) who find themselves caught up in a dangerous plan to save a Russian mobster (Stellan Skarsgard) and his family.

“I am a big fan of Le Carre, and I found this was a very modern Le Carre story; he is usually known for Cold War stories, but here he portrayed a modern marriage, which is interesting for a guy in his ‘80s,” White said.

“The marriage is complicated, they both hold down careers and the wife has overtaken her husband in terms of earnings.

“Then into the mix comes Stellan’s character who is ultra macho and they go on this journey together.”

Despite the heavy plot, White said there was some levity on the set, particularly with 65-year-old Skarsgard’s full frontal nude scene.

She laughs describing his relaxed approach.

“Stellan is very Scandinavian, nudity was not embarrassing for him in any way,” she said.

“We did that scene day two of working together and usually with nude scenes the wardrobe people rush in with towels to cover the actor up, but he didn’t want it.

“I would go in and discuss the scene with him and he would be starkers.”

Our Kind Of Traitor (MA) is in cinemas now.