Writer-Director Marti Noxon’s feature film debut, To the Bone (2017), is a dark comedy based on her struggles overcoming an eating disorder as a young woman. Noxon is known as a prolific television writer-producer, having worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and Lifetime’s hit series UnREAL (2015– ).

At the film's Sundance premiere, ScreenPrism spoke with Director Marti Noxon; Actors Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves and Kathryn Prescott; and Producer Monika Bacardi. We discussed the autobiographical nature of To the Bone, breaking the conversational taboo surrounding eating disorders, supporting women in film, and much more.

On the true story behind To the Bone:

[The film] is semi-autobiographical. From when I was 14 until almost 25, I was anorexic, bulimic and then I threw alcohol into the mix. It was a nice big soup of addiction and disordered eating.

In [To the Bone], we show [Ellen’s] behavior without commenting too much on it, to let people get to know her as a person and to see where it was coming from. [We wanted viewers to see] that this weird behavior wasn’t a vanity issue. It was a situational issue and an addiction issue.

- Director Marti Noxon

On her personal struggle with an eating disorder:

I myself suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager, so I related to [this character] so intensely. I thought: wow, this is a story that needs to be told. I feel like I’m the perfect person to join forces with Marti. I had just written a book and [finished] the chapter on eating disorders right before I got the script, so I thought the world was also telling me that this was something I [needed] to do and talk about and face. It was a no brainer.

- Actor Lily Collins (Ellen)

Actor Lily Collins and Writer-Director Marti Noxon on set of To the Bone (2017)

On visually rendering Ellen’s emotional state:

The cinematographer (Richard Wong) and I had a really strong point of view about how to shoot [Lily Collins’ character Ellen]. We wanted to keep her isolated in the frame so she’s alone a lot, and we only [related] her to other characters when she had a real relationship with them. We used a lot of tricks.

- Director Marti Noxon

On opening up the conversation on eating disorders & addiction:

I really expected that by the time I was an adult, [the dialogue on these issues] would be better. [I hoped] the conversation about body image and size would have evolved far past where it has. If we can start more of a conversation about accepting yourself the way you are and finding what’s healthy and happy for you, that would be an amazing thing.

- Director Marti Noxon

I think [To the Bone] will promote a conversation about a topic that is still considered so taboo among young men and women. It shouldn’t be. [We need to start] having conversations and being free – having no shame or regrets in your history and just owning yourself.

- Actor Lily Collins (Ellen)

On leading by example & supporting women’s careers:

[As women], we need to lead by example. We need to support other women filmmakers, entrepreneurs and businesswomen – because [that is the] only way to get people where they want to be. For me, [it’s important] to promote not only women, but also anyone who hasn’t had opportunity. Across the board, it’s about creating access.

- Director Marti Noxon

[Everything] starts with your mother. Women have had a monumental impact in my life, in terms of friendships, lovers. Creatively, I’ve had the chance to work with many remarkable actresses and directors.

- Actor Keanu Reeves (Dr. William Beckham)

On preparing for his role as Ellen’s doctor:

I [prepared for the role by] speaking with a couple of caregivers and physicians. I also did some reading and really followed the script. [My role] was about providing a safe place as a physician and help and support ­– trying to help this person live.

- Actor Keanu Reeves (Dr. William Beckham)

Actor Lili Taylor, Marti Noxon and Lily Collins at the film's Sundance 2017 premiere 

On what drew her to the film:

What first drew me to [the script] was that after I read it, I realized I actually hadn’t seen a film about eating disorders, I don’t think, ever. I was shocked... I think [the story] is told in a really beautiful, personal way. You get inside of the head of Lily’s character. You get to see hints of the back workings of what may have added to or caused [her eating disorder]. You can understand it when you see it from that point of view.

- Actor Kathryn Prescott (Anna)

On the film’s social message:

[To the Bone] is very important [in its] social message. A lot of people, especially teenagers, are suffering from anorexia because of social pressures to be slim and beautiful. They have to know that they [can] seek help. I have a 15-year-old daughter and I really want her [and other teenagers] to see this film.

- Producer Monika Bacardi

On going to the movies to feel:

The best stories are the ones that have some truth to them and make you feel something. I want to go to the movies to feel. Sometimes I want to feel Captain America punching someone in the gut. Other times, I want to feel what it’s like to be alive and understand other people better.

- Director Marti Noxon