Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy on why Stillwater runs deep

12 mins read

The roots of Tom McCarthy’s new movie Stillwater are fairly apparent: a younger American scholar is much from residence, serving time in a European jail for the homicide of her good friend (and on this case lover), against the law she vehemently denies.

However whereas there are parallels with the incarceration of Amanda Knox — whose conviction for the homicide of her Perugia flatmate Meredith Kercher was overturned in 2011, and who lately wrote an outraged 1,700-word weblog about Stillwater titled “Who Owns My Title?” — McCarthy’s movie takes a distinct path.

The author and director admits that he was gripped by the case because it was unfolding: “like everybody — it was sensational”. He even started work on a screenplay immediately impressed by it, however by no means warmed to it. “However I liked the set-up,” he says, “there was simply one thing about that father-daughter relationship.”

On the coronary heart of the movie, which premiered on the Cannes Movie Competition in July, is Invoice Baker (Matt Damon), an Oklahoma roughneck who works oil rigs and, in his downtime, units off for Marseille, the place his truculent daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is doing time. Throughout one among his visits, he meets single mom Virginie (Name My Agent’s Camille Cottin), and an odd friendship blossoms as Invoice embarks on a quest to show his daughter’s innocence — to the annoyance of her lawyer, who thinks she is responsible.

The 140-minute operating time ought to clarify that Stillwater isn’t a straight thriller, and the movie is definitely at its finest when the whodunnit aspect fades into the background. McCarthy, director of the 2015 Finest Image Oscar winner Highlight, recollects that he was extra serious about exploring cultural variations than in making a murder-mystery. “I’d wished to make a film in Europe for some time,” he says. “I really like travelling, I really like embedding in numerous cultures and communities, and I wished to take a shot at doing it overseas.”

Camille Cottin as Virginie with Matt Damon as Invoice in ‘Stillwater’ © Jessica Forde/Focus Options

However, one way or the other, the script by no means felt completed. “So I put it to mattress for about six, seven years, after which I re-read it and went, ‘Rattling there’s one thing right here . . . ’” To transform it, McCarthy known as in French screenwriters Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré, acclaimed for his or her work with Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan). “I didn’t know them,” McCarthy says, “I simply reached out to them and stated, ‘Right here’s the script, I’m not married to something in it apart from the set-up’.”

By now, the Trump period had begun and the writing interval was intense, he recollects with amusing. “We’d speak about what was taking place on this planet — which, in fact, was normally me simply venting. They have been simply so curious. I used to be like a zoo animal to them. They have been like, ‘How is it there? What are you feeling?’ I’d be like, ‘It’s loopy. What does it appear like from on the market?’ They’d say, ‘Effectively, it seems to be worse from out right here!’ So we’d have these conversations in regards to the nation, after which I feel that began to filter in.”

Matt Damon, he says, was at all times an apparent option to play Invoice Baker. “Early on, we knew we have been going to play with the notion of the American hero and what that meant, and America’s ethical energy, authority and may. We wished to problem that and invert that on some degree. So we at all times felt like we would have liked a very top-flight American actor, and Matt was at all times manner up there, in a big half as a result of I feel People, and his worldwide viewers, see him as a good particular person with excessive integrity — if not a type of ethical compass — even when he’s enjoying Jason Bourne.”

The actor accepted the position with out even realizing what a “roughneck” was. “I had no thought,” he admits. “I’d by no means met one. I took the half on the deserves of the dynamics between the characters and the relationships — I simply thought [the story] was stunning and heartbreaking. After which I went to Oklahoma with Tom, and began hanging out with these guys.”

As soon as there, his understanding of the position deepened significantly. “They’ve a totally particular look. I may present you footage on my telephone of 15 of them: the goatee, the wraparound shades, the cap. And in the event that they’re not sporting their cap, they’re sporting their laborious hat as a result of they’re on the rig. They’re driving massive vehicles on these massive, vast highways, they usually simply go. They don’t speak lots as a result of they’re used to simply sitting of their automobiles.”

The entire males they met voted for Donald Trump, however, as each actor and director level out, it doesn’t essentially comply with that they have been Trump supporters. “Oklahoma’s one of many reddest states within the union,” Damon says. “Of course they vote Republican. They vote Republican down the ticket. Each time. There’s no query. You speak to them about it, they usually say, ‘I would like to supply for my youngsters, and that’s the selection I’m going to make each time.’ That’s the top of the dialogue.”

“I perceive that,” Damon continues, although himself not a Trump supporter. “Tom and I’ve lots of empathy for that character, and that’s why I used to be excited to do a film about that a part of our nation, a film about that man wherein we take him out to a spot the place he would by no means go, that he would by no means hassle listening to about, then pressure him to cope with a world that he doesn’t perceive and watch that journey and that evolution.”

From left: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin and director Tom McCarthy on the set of ‘Stillwater’ © Jessica Forde/Focus Options

It’s additionally maybe no coincidence that Damon himself has 4 daughters, aged 11 to 22. “It’s an fascinating thought train for a dad or mum,” he muses. “It’s your biggest nightmare: you get up and your little one’s in jail abroad. You’re feeling you’ve bought a damaged relationship along with her, and also you’re making an attempt to restore it, and you’re feeling accountable for her. It’s lots to hold.” (Damon this week discovered himself in a swirl of controversy after relating a dialogue with one among his daughters a couple of homophobic slur. He subsequently defined that he had by no means used it in his private life.)

Baker’s evolution — and typically the shortage of it — is Stillwater’s chief pleasure, as he negotiates the alien tradition of France. Much less profitable is the ultimate third, wherein the movie snaps again into thriller mode and Baker takes the legislation violently into his personal arms. Each McCarthy and Damon defend that selection.

“We wished to make it as actual as doable,” insists Damon, who factors out that his character has a tattoo on his arm, not seen on display, with the letters FFTP. “Meaning ‘Fuck. Battle. Journey pipe’, which is actually their job, they name it ‘tripping pipe’. They don’t shrink back from a struggle. They’re very, very robust guys, not fearful folks. So it’s a giant line to cross . . . however the violence on this film may be very actual and terrifying.”

For McCarthy, the character’s response is a touch upon the creeping me-first ideology that’s infiltrating US politics. “What Invoice does, properly, you may say it’s justice,” he says. “Folks may say, ‘Wouldn’t you do the identical for your daughter?’ Effectively, to a level, however that’s too far . . . In order that’s what I feel takes this movie past being a thriller. Thrillers don’t actually look at penalties of motion.”

He invokes the 2008 thriller Taken wherein Liam Neeson’s character travels to France to search out his kidnapped teenage daughter. “We talked lots about it within the writing and stated, ‘OK, that’s that model, now what’s the actual model? What are the repercussions of simply taking what you need?’ That, to me, is an fascinating dialog for us to be having as People proper now — and presumably as international residents.”

‘Stillwater’ is in US cinemas now and in UK cinemas from August 6

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