Cormac McCarthy

New interview: The Road

Paul Gaita at LA Times has a new Q & A with Garret. A part of it is below, for the rest go here.

The Road should get an expanded release in the U.S. tomorrow, so check your local listings if you haven’t had the chance to see it yet.

Is it true that villains get the best lines?

I guess they get a lot of good lines, huh? I like them — they’re complex, and I like complex characters. Sometimes the villains are the only ones that are completely drawn.

It’s funny, because I’ve actually played a ton of good guys, funny guys — I played Jesus Christ (in the short-lived and controversial series “The Book of Daniel“). But people remember the bad guys (laughs).

Your character in “The Road” is particularly unsavory. What is the challenge to playing such a role?

There have been a lot of discussions about it online — people wondering what would they do to survive. To what level would they stoop if there was no food, no vegetation, no animal life. What would you do? Would you just forage for canned goods? And when they ran out, then what? How bad would you want to feed your child?

He’s just a guy with a little bit weaker moral fiber than Viggo [Mortensen]’s character. He didn’t choose the noble route, like a lot of people in that world. And the result of him ignoring his soul is what you see on screen.

So is that what moves you from medium to medium? Because you’ve found some great projects in both television and film.

Yeah, I like to have fun — I think that’s a good way to live. I think you’re better at your job if you like it. And I’m a bit of a frustrated writer — I’m not very skilled at that, and I thought that was what I was going to be. So it doesn’t seem like such a big coincidence that a lot of stuff I’ve done has been adaptation of [books by] my favorite authors. I was planning to make Ron Hansen’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” for about 15 years. I thought I was the only one to know about it. I was going to play Jesse James, of course. (Dillahunt played the outlaw Ed Miller in the 2007 film version with Brad Pitt).

But you just find these stories, and I don’t care about the size of the part, you know? In the end, it’s got to be about the story. I can’t speak for every actor, but I imagine that’s what everyone wants when they sign on to do a role.

You’ve said in interviews that you are a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s work. What is the appeal for you?

The first one I read was “Blood Meridian,” like a lot of college guys. I was just blown away by that one-sentence paragraph where the Comanches come upon the scalphunters. It’s just stunning — the image of the guy wearing the blood-stained wedding veil — the way he would describe things was so evocative to me. Each line was somehow laden with emotion and history. I think my favorite of his books might be “Suttree.” If you read it, you can tell me why that guy doesn’t die (laughs). There’s something larger and thematic [in his work] than what’s going on, and that’s appealing to me.

“The Road” might be a challenging film for a lot of viewers, who could see it as having very little light in it. What do you hope that audiences take away from it?

I’m kind of sad that people might have that sort of knock on it — that it’s a bleak film. I think it’s actually more hopeful than “No Country for Old Men.” That felt like it was saying, “This is how it is, and there’s no change.” At the end of this, as it is in the book, it seems to be about the unquenchable spirit of man. [Viggo’s character] finds another home and more good guys. Maybe they have a little garden.

What’s your general response to critical praise and talk of nominations and awards?

I’m an ensemble guy, I guess — that comes from the theater. If I ever won some kind of award someday, I imagine I’d try to be very gracious, but in the end, I just want to keep working. I don’t see why that, if you just put your mind to it and keep sowing the right seeds, you can’t keep doing the things you want to do. When we won the SAG Award for “Old Men,” that was the perfect award, because it takes so many people to make a movie. Someone’s always going to argue with the individual awards. [LA Times]

The Road: Interview with Cormac McCarthy & John Hillcoat, new clips

Dread Central has several new clips from the film. Some of them are short versions of the clips that were released about a month ago and others are new. You can check them out here. If you haven’t seen the one with Garret, it’s on the page for The Road.

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent interview with Cormac McCarthy and John Hillcoat, posted in two parts. I’m posting a few snippets below. To read the whole thing, follow the WSJ links. The Road opens in 10 days.

Garret Dillahunt,Viggo Mortensen,The Road,Cormac McCarthy,The Road movie

WSJ: When you first went to the film set, how did it compare with how you saw “The Road” in your head?

CM: I guess my notion of what was going on in “The Road” did not include 60 to 80 people and a bunch of cameras. [Director] Dick Pearce and I made a film in North Carolina about 30 years ago and I thought, “This is just hell. Who would do this?” Instead, I get up and have a cup of coffee and wander around and read a little bit, sit down and type a few words and look out the window.

WSJ: But is there something compelling about the collaborative process compared to the solitary job of writing?

CM: Yes, it would compel you to avoid it at all costs.

WSJ: When you discussed making “The Road” into a movie with John, did he press you on what had caused the disaster in the story?

CM: A lot of people ask me. I don’t have an opinion. At the Santa Fe Institute I’m with scientists of all disciplines, and some of them in geology said it looked like a meteor to them. But it could be anything—volcanic activity or it could be nuclear war. It is not really important. The whole thing now is, what do you do? The last time the caldera in Yellowstone blew, the entire North American continent was under about a foot of ash. People who’ve gone diving in Yellowstone Lake say that there is a bulge in the floor that is now about 100 feet high and the whole thing is just sort of pulsing. From different people you get different answers, but it could go in another three to four thousand years or it could go on Thursday. No one knows. (…)

WSJ: “The Road” is this love story between father and son, but they never say, “I love you.”

CM: No. I didn’t think that would add anything to the story at all. But a lot of the lines that are in there are verbatim conversations my son John and I had. I mean just that when I say that he’s the co-author of the book. A lot of the things that the kid [in the book] says are things that John said. John said, “Papa, what would you do if I died?” I said, “I’d want to die, too,” and he said, “So you could be with me?” I said, “Yes, so I could be with you.” Just a conversation that two guys would have. (…)

WSJ: What was your relationship like with the Coen brothers on “No Country for Old Men“?

CM: We met and chatted a few times. I enjoyed their company. They’re smart and they’re very talented. Like John, they didn’t need any help from me to make a movie.

WSJ: “All the Pretty Horses” was also turned into a film [starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz]. Were you happy with the way it came out?

CM: It could’ve been better. As it stands today it could be cut and made into a pretty good movie. The director had the notion that he could put the entire book up on the screen. Well, you can’t do that. You have to pick out the story that you want to tell and put that on the screen. And so he made this four-hour film and then he found that if he was actually going to get it released, he would have to cut it down to two hours. (…)

WSJ: People have said “Blood Meridian” is unfilmable because of the sheer darkness and violence of the story.

CM: That’s all crap. The fact that’s it’s a bleak and bloody story has nothing to do with whether or not you can put it on the screen. That’s not the issue. The issue is it would be very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls. But the payoff could be extraordinary. (…)

WSJ: Because “The Road” is so personal, did you have any hesitations about seeing it adapted?

CM: No. I’ve seen John’s film [“The Proposition”] and I knew him somewhat by reputation and I thought he’d probably do a good job in respect to the material. Also, my agent [Amanda Urban], she’s just the best. She wasn’t going to sell the book to somebody unless she had some confidence in what they would do with it. It’s not just a matter of money.

JH: Didn’t you start “No Country for Old Men” as a screenplay?

CM: Yeah, I wrote it. I showed it to a few people and they didn’t seem to be interested. In fact, they said, “That will never work.” Years later I got it out and turned it into a novel. Didn’t take long. I was at the Academy Awards with the Coens. They had a table full of awards before the evening was over, sitting there like beer cans. One of the first awards that they got was for Best Screenplay, and Ethan came back and he said to me, “Well, I didn’t do anything, but I’m keeping it.”

WSJ: For novels such as “Blood Meridian,” you did extensive historical research. What kind of research did you do for “The Road”?

CM: I don’t know. Just talking to people about what things might look like under various catastrophic situations, but not a lot of research. I have these conversations on the phone with my brother Dennis, and quite often we get around to some sort of hideous end-of-the-world scenario and we always wind up just laughing. Anyone listening to this would say, “Why don’t you just go home and get into a warm tub and open a vein.” We talked about if there was a small percentage of the human population left, what would they do? They’d probably divide up into little tribes and when everything’s gone, the only thing left to eat is each other. We know that’s true historically. (…)

WSJ: Is there a difference in the way humanity is portrayed in “The Road” as compared to “Blood Meridian”?

CM: There’s not a lot of good guys in “Blood Meridian,” whereas good guys is what “The Road” is about. That’s the subject at hand.

JH: I remember you said to me that “Blood Meridian” is about human evil, whereas “The Road” is about human goodness. It wasn’t until I had my own son that I realized a personality was just innate in a person. You can see it forming. In “The Road,” the boy has been born into a world where morals and ethics are out the window, almost like a science experiment. But he is the most moral character. Do you think people start as innately good?

CM: I don’t think goodness is something that you learn. If you’re left adrift in the world to learn goodness from it, you would be in trouble. But people tell me from time to time that my son John is just a wonderful kid. I tell people that he is so morally superior to me that I feel foolish correcting him about things, but I’ve got to do something–I’m his father. There’s not much you can do to try to make a child into something that he’s not. But whatever he is, you can sure destroy it. Just be mean and cruel and you can destroy the best person. [WSJ 1]

There is a moment in “The Road” where the man discovers a can of Coke and gives it to the boy. McCarthy was asked why that particular brand name shows up in the book.

“Well, it just struck me. It’s the iconic American product,” he said. “The one thing that everybody knows about America, the one thing above cowboys and Indians, above everything else that you can think of, is Coca-Cola. You can’t go to a village of 18 people in the remotest part of Africa that they don’t know about Coca-Cola.

Hillcoat interjected. “Here’s the irony,” he said. “There’s some people who don’t know the book and have picked up on this in the film and say, Why did they go for such a blatant product placement?’ Of course, we had to get permission, and every soft drink company was saying, ‘We’re a family brand and we do not want to be associated with cannibalism.’ That’s what they all said.” [WSJ 2]

The Road pushed back to November

This bizarre little article showed up on Variety yesterday and was edited today to confirm the latest release date for The Road — November 25.

Dimension Films has confirmed a Nov. 25 wide release for Cormac McCarthy adaptation “The Road,” which premiered at the Venice Film Fest. (…)
Weinstein is planning a multi-layered marketing operation for “The Road,” targeted at both fans of McCarthy’s book — which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 — and auds fascinated by the more ghoulish aspects of the tale such as the hordes of cannibal killers roaming the barren landscape. Pic will go out in 1,200 to 1,500 locations. (…)
“I can work with my brother Harvey on the artistic side of the film, which has the potential for awards,” Bob Weinstein told Daily Variety. “There are also people out there who may not have read the book but would love the aspects that deal with the basic survival story and are like an action thriller.”

Peter Sciretta over at Slashfilm reported the same, confirming that the Weinsteins indeed meant this Thanksgiving.

Just received word from my local San Francisco reps that Dimension Films will be pushing back the release date of The Road, yet again, this time for a Thanksgiving release – November 25th 2009.

The film has so far been screened in Venice and Telluride and will be shown this Sunday/Monday (Sept. 13 & 14) in Toronto. It’s also been added to the London Film Festival lineup, so those in the UK will get an early chance to see it in mid-October (Oct. 16, 17 and 19 – details here). The film doesn’t open wide in the UK until January 8.

Here are the new posters:

The Road,The Road poster,The Road John Hillcoat,The Road Viggo,Garret Dillahunt

The Road,The Road poster,The Road John Hillcoat,The Road Viggo

The Road,The Road poster,The Road John Hillcoat,The Road Viggo

The Road – premiere, reviews, clips

The Road was screened for the press yesterday and premiered today in Venice, so the first reviews are in. But you probably want to see this first:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

For more clips from the film, go to TrailerAddict.com.

John Hillcoat, Joe Penhall, Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee were at the premiere. For some pics, visit Zimbio.

The Road has also been added to the Telluride lineup. The festival opens tomorrow.

Here are some initial reviews from the Venice screenings:

In “The Road,” director John Hillcoat has performed an admirable job of bringing Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the screen as an intact and haunting tale, even at the cost of sacrificing color, big scenes and standard Hollywood imagery of post-apocalyptic America. [The Hollywood Reporter]

John Hillcoat’s superb adaptation of the prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy leads its audience on a road to nowhere. The route takes us through blighted forests and past derelict homes, all this way to a grey and barren ocean that breaks against the shore. (…) What a haunting, harrowing, powerful film this is. Before last night’s premiere there were rumours that its lengthy post-production period (the movie was actually shot back in February 2008) spelled signs of a troubled, sickly production. By and large, those fears have now proved to be unfounded. [Guardian.co.uk]

As heartbreaking on screen as it was on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-prize winning pages, The Road is an almost unbearably sad film, beautifully arranged and powerfully acted – a tribute to the array of talents involved. There is so much in this picture, from dread, horror, to suspense, bitterly moving love, extraordinary, Oscar-worthy art direction and a desperate lead performance from Viggo Mortensen which perfectly illustrates the wrenching desperation of parental love. But its hopelessness will make The Road hard going for general audiences: critical and awards support are vital to its commercial success or failure and even still The Road will be a challenge. [ScreenDaily.com]

John Hillcoat has made a film of power and sensitivity that works remarkably well on the big screen. It plays like a Dystopian version of Huck Finn. “Tattered gods slouching in their rags across the waste,” was how McCarthy described the father and son on their grim odyssey south across America toward the coast.

The film captures well the strange mix of heroism and seeming futility that characterises the journey. What is most impressive is the restraint the filmmakers bring to their material. The look of the film is muted and grey other than in the flashbacks to the pre-apocalyptic moments that the man (Viggo Mortensen) enjoyed with his wife (Charlize Theron) before the world ground to a halt. [Independent.co.uk]

The Road is harrowing and beautifully composed. It aestheticises horror, thus getting away with ugly, disturbing, even ghoulish scenes by turning them into the cinematic equivalent of those Sebastiao Salgado photographs of Brazilian gold miners.

McCarthy’s novel worked partly because of what it left to the imagination. The film leaves nothing to the imagination — not even a cellarful of desperate human cattle who are being kept alive for slaughter. So although Joe Penhall’s script is remarkably faithful to the original, it doesn’t feel quite right. The film is bleak and visionary, but it leaves a faintly nasty taste in the mouth, as if it wanted to rope in the horror fans under its arthouse cloak. Yet there’s no denying its raw power. [London Evening Standard]

The Road reviewed by Showbiz411

Roger Friedman at Showbiz411 has posted his review of The Road. Here are a few quotes:

Hillcoat has done justice to McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winner. “The Road” is elegiac and moving, artful and yet suspenseful. No, it’s not a raucous good time. It can be thoughtful and grim. But here’s the interesting thing: Viggo Mortensen’s performance as a father walking through a post-apocalypse America with his young son is just fascinating. It stays with you long after leaving the theater. Mortensen is that good.

There aren’t a lot of other actors in “The Road.” Charlize Theron is very good as Viggo’s wife, in flashbacks. Both Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce make cameo appearances. Eleven-year-old (he’s 13 now) Kodi Smit-McPhee is just right as the couple’s son.

What Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall do is accurately capture McCarthy’s tone and lauguage. This isn’t easy to do. “The Road” is a bleak trip, told in muted blacks, blues, and grays. There are no blue skies after whatever caused the apocalypse (is it nuclear war? we don’t know. Everything left, including the trees, is dying.)

You can read the full article here.