Is Netflix’s Lou Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Liane Hentscher/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Lou’ follows the story of the eponymous character who prefers to live in seclusion. She is miles away from the town, and the only two people in her closest proximity are a woman, Hannah, and her young daughter, Vee. One night, in the middle of a raging storm, the latter is kidnapped, which takes both Lou and Hannah on a harrowing journey that forces them to confront their past.

Directed by Anna Foerster, the action thriller movie uses the isolated setting of an island, paving more difficulties in the protagonists’ path with unforgiving weather. It is a gritty watch that makes one think about their own survival in similar circumstances. If you are wondering whether ‘Lou’ is based on real life, then here’s what you should know.

Is Lou a True Story?

No, ‘Lou’ is not based on a true story. It is based on an original story by Maggie Cohn, adapted into a screenplay by her and Jack Stanley. While the events in the film are fictional, certain signposts from historical events are catalysts for the story. Allison Janney’s Lou is presented as an ex-CIA agent who is implied to have done some horrible things during her time in the field. It also references the 1953 Iran coup, which is later tracked as the epicenter of the conflict in the movie.

Image Credits: Liane Hentscher/Netflix

Academy Award-winner Janney has played all sorts of characters in her illustrious career, but this is the first time she has taken on an action-packed role. The ‘I, Tonya’ actress said that she might have conjured it for herself. On James Corden’s talk show, she was asked what she wanted as her next role. “I said I wanted to play an action hero, and I did a high kick or something. And then this movie came from J.J. Abrams, and I couldn’t believe he was sending me this movie, ‘Lou,’” said the actress.

In preparation for her role, where Janney performed a lot of her stunts herself, she went through a rigorous training schedule with fight choreographer Daniel Bernhardt, who is known to have trained the likes of Charlize Theron and Halle Berry. While Lou is fleeing from her past, Jurnee Smollett’s Hannah is running from something horrific that had happened to her before the film’s events. The contrast between the plight of the two women presents a rather compelling narrative.

In preparation for playing Hannah, who is revealed to have suffered domestic abuse, Smollett did a lot of research. “I spent a lot of time here in Los Angeles at a domestic violence shelter called Jenesse Center. And one thing that I learned is that these women are survivors; they’re not victims. I think that’s one of the things we really wanted to hone in on for Hannah; that she is struggling to just survive,” she said. Apart from bringing their roles to life on the screen, the actresses worked behind the scenes as executive producers.

Janney and Smollett collaborated with director Anna Foerster to add more nuances to their characters, like stripping away a lot of dialogue from Lou. “I was like, I think less is more with Lou. I don’t think she should say anything here. And I loved cutting away all of the fat and anything that would say too much. I think it was better for this character to not say a lot until she has to—until what happens, happens, and she has to do some talking and explaining,” Janney said. It is through these little things that the film feels more realistic.

‘Lou’ falls in the category of action-thriller, yet it has some significant issues at its core, and the film presents that in a very grounded manner. Considering all this, it is fair to say that though it is not based on actual events, it talks about some genuine things and gives the audience something to think about.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s Lou Filmed?