Do you see hostage taker Kyle as an everyman, standing in for Americans who feel screwed by the recession?
Definitely. He starts off threatening, filled with righteous rage. Yet you see simple things you completely relate to.
It’s not a clean heroes-vs.-villains narrative.
It isn’t. And yet when you get to what really happened, [it’s] pretty simple. Somebody abused the system out of greed. And that’s all Kyle was looking for: moral vindication. It’s not like he was saying, Give me money. He was saying, Give me dignity.
His rhetoric about the system being rigged sounds a lot like that of Bernie Sanders.
We wrote it first! But listen, it’s a dialogue that’s out there. The film is equal parts cynicism and hope. Leaving the theater you could have some interesting political conversations. But I don’t see it as a political film. The best way to get people engaged is to create characters that are emotional and full.
Why focus on directing now?
Probably because my kids are older. They don’t need me to be as present as before–in fact, they need more space. I only directed three movies in almost 20 years, and I sort of regret that because there’s so much I want to say, but I had a hard time juggling my acting life, my family life and the directing.
A lot of women say meaty roles dwindle after a certain age. What’s your stance on that?
Well, that’s just true. I think people are inherently more interested in a younger person’s story. But I’m excited about having a different kind of career as an actor now. I’m excited about being 60 or 70 and not fighting the expectation of carrying the movie or looking glamorous. It’ll be nice to really do the work.
This appears in the May 23, 2016 issue of TIME.