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August 12, 2013

ATBS Frames, Pt. 8


I have two favorite scenes in the film, which I love above all the others and which, to me, are real and true moments in a movie that is all about posturing. This week, as we lead up to the release, I want to highlight a few frames from the one that very often sneaks ahead in my favor.

This first one can be glimpsed in the trailer. Bob Muldoon, grievously wounded, waves down an approaching car, driven by a young man on his way to Oklahoma, and hijacks his ride. It sets up what is, to me, the last scene of the movie. It's not literally the last scene, but I'll get to what I feel like it is in a moment.

We shot this on the second day of principal photography, our one day with the great Rami Malek, who plays Will. As written, Bob's truck breaks down and he waits there in the cab until he hears an oncoming vehicle, at which point he gets out and strides out to the middle of the road. This was supposed to take place at the crack of dawn. Given all the other material we had to shoot this day, it was going to be a race to get everything done within the window of daylight we had. Jay Van Hoy came up with the brilliant idea of having Casey leave his broken down truck and set off down the road on foot, allowing us to make a time jump to shortly thereafter, with the sun already up. This way we could give ourselves some leeway and shoot the bulk of the scene with the sun still up, and then back up and shoot the truck breaking down with the last few moments of dusk simulating dawn (it also nicely emphasized the immensity of Bob's drive to get back home, come hell or high water).

This breathing room was still quite slight, and as the sun dipped down, we all raced over to the piney road on which we were set to shoot. Although we'd initially planned on using some Steadicam here, we ultimately decided to do everything handheld, so that we could bounce from one setup to the next and hopefully merge a few into one (that never quite happened). After shooting so slowly and laboriously up until this point, it was a joy to suddenly be running and gunning. Our biggest delay was when we were descended upon by a cross-country bicycle race.

This was also the first time I got in trouble for moving something. I think I grabbed a lens case to get it out of the way and received a slap on the wrist. I know unions have rules for a reason, but that sort of thing drives me nuts.

This particular shot was, I believe, the second we got. A 3/4 following shot that resolves itself into the above composition when Casey turns around. It's one of those moments where an image just falls into place without any planning. I didn't think about it for another two weeks, but this turned out to be the perfect bookend to one of the shots early on in the film, when Bob surrenders at the farmhouse, raising one bloody hand in the air (his left hand, as the right would have been too overt of a Nick Cave reference, although I wasn't thinking about that at all at the time). Here, he makes the same gesture, in what is, ultimately, a second form of surrender.

Speaking of blood, I recall looking over the call-sheet for this shoot the night before and realizing with some degree of panic that I hadn't told Malgosia (our costume designer) that Casey needed to be shot up and bloodied in this scene. I ran over to her trailer to let her know, to which she she said something like "of course I know, it's in the script" and showed me the racks of wardrobe all pre-shot-up and drenched in blood. I had yet to realize the extent to which, if you write something, your crew makes sure it's taken care of. My naïveté knew no bounds in those days, and likely hasn't improved much since.

Casey had to get into this wardrobe (and push himself to a state of near death) for the picture car portion of this scene, then change clothes and clean up for a quick scene with Nate Parker (shot just as the day's thunderstorm was rolling in), and then take himself back to the point of expiry and re-drench himself in corny syrup. This was also the day he had to shave his beard, which we were debating keeping for the whole movie all the way up until just before the cameras rolled. It just looked so good.

I mentioned above that I'd explain why this scene with Bob and Will is, to my mind, the last scene of the movie. I will, but I think I'll save it for tomorrow's shot...

Posted by David Lowery at August 12, 2013 1:58 AM