An Elderly Woman Showed Up at Walton Goggins and Nadia Conners’ Home. Her Visit Inspired Their New Film, ‘The Uninvited’

One night, not so very long ago, Walton Goggins and Nadia Conners were getting ready to host a cocktail party for about 150 people when an elderly woman showed up outside their Los Angeles home. She was confused and disoriented, asking Conners to help open the garage door because her clicker wasn’t working.

“She thought she was home,” remembers Conners. “I looked through her phonebook, trying to find someone who knew her and who could help, but most of the people in it were dead. She had outlived her circle of friends.”

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Later, after the police had arrived to help the woman, Conners returned to the party and shared what had happened with her guests. “I was telling this story and trying to explain to people why it had impacted me so deeply. The reaction was sort of like, ‘Great, you got her back home.'”

“People thought it was a cute anecdote as opposed to a sign of what’s coming for all of us,” says Goggins. “You can’t be impervious to mortality.”

That incident would ultimately inspire “The Uninvited,” a new film that Conners wrote and directed, which just premiered at SXSW. And though the film stars Goggins — her husband — and also involves the appearance of an elderly woman (Lois Smith) at a party and its impact on the married couple, Conners stresses it’s a work of fiction.

“This is not my marriage,” she says. “I am not this woman. The character that Walt plays is not what he’s like as my husband. But making this film allowed me to explore certain resentments I had felt as a wife and a mother. It became an expensive sort of therapy.”

Goggins, best known for playing the villainous hillbilly in “Justified,” appears here as Sammy, an oleaginous agent who is dealing with a professional crisis, one that threatens the stability of his marriage to Rose (Elizabeth Reaser). And Rose, an actress who put her career on the back burner to have a kid, reassesses her choices after meeting Smith’s character, Helen. It is Helen, alternating between senility and lucidity, who provides a disquieting reminder of the ephemeral nature of the life we lead and the relationships we form.

“Any couple that watches this movie can see themselves in it,” says Goggins. “But by the end of this story, the thing that we’re left with — the thing that is most uninvited — is time itself. So it’s a reminder that it’s going to attend your life whether you like it or not.”

Writing the movie also allowed Conners to unpack the challenges of balancing a life in the arts with motherhood.

“I became a mother at 40,” she says. “And I felt this internal war, where I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my child, but I also wondered if this version of myself and my career that I had cultivated for 20 years had vanished. Who was this domestic person I had become?”

To make the film, Conners assembled an ensemble of heavyweights, many of them friends like Pedro Pascal and Rufus Sewell, and shot the film in an elegant villa in the Hollywood Hills over 15 days and nights. “This was a labor of love,” says Goggins, who wasn’t going to play Sammy, a shallow and egotistical schmoozer, until his wife got a glimpse at how he might approach the role.

“At one point, I was doing a rewrite and he read Sammy’s lines while I was reworking some material, and I was just so blown away by his aggressive version,” Conners says. “I had seen Sammy as a much more submissive type of person, so it really stayed with me.”

And though Sammy is far removed from Goggins, making the movie has changed his perspective on some things.

“My husband has always been sensitive and evolved, but this has given him more insight into my struggles as a wife and mother,” Conners says. “It’s given him even more empathy. I can see it in the way he talks to me about certain things.”

For his part, Goggins says he’s begun approaching his career differently since COVID forced him (and everyone) to take an unanticipated break. He’s not as willing to take jobs that will keep him away from his family — unless someone like Mike White calls, as he did for the upcoming season of “White Lotus.” Signing onto the show has required Goggins to spend months shooting in Thailand.

“It gets harder to leave your loved ones,” he says. “So we now have a family discussion before I’m offered any job. And in this case, everyone knew I’d be crazy not to do it.”

Goggins can’t give much away about what awaits the troubled guests at the fictional hotel chain when “White Lotus” returns. But, he teases, “it’s everything I hoped it would be.”

“Mike White sees around the corners of humanity and exposes the worst side of all of us,” he said. “The man is a fucking genius, and I think people are going to be blown away by it.”

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