With his fourth feature, Andrew Haigh proved to audiences at the Toronto Film Festival that, after the triple whammy of Greek Pete, Weekend and 45 Years, he had more in him than just British stories. Set in America’s backwater fairs and racing tracks, Lean on Pete tells the story of a young drifter named Charley (Charlie Plummer), who finds a sense of purpose when he is employed by a seasoned horse trainer (Steve Buscemi) and his jockey (Chloë Sevigny).
When he came to the Deadline studio, Haigh explained that he’d spent a few months in the U.S. just soaking up the ambience before starting shooting. “I came out for about three months after I got the rights [to the book],” he said, “and I spent time with Willy Vlautin, the writer. I went to the local horseracing tracks, went to county fairs. Then I went on a road trip that Charley in the book goes on, and in the film, so I spent three months traveling around, camping, staying in diners, just kind of meeting people and trying to feel the world.”
Newcomer Charlie Plummer said that going for the role was a no-brainer. “I think I had read the script first, and I connected so much with the character in this story…I remember just not being able to think about anything else. So I wrote him a very honest letter about how I connected very, very specifically with the character in the story and the journey of the character.”
Plummer’s co-star Sevigny revealed that they were fortunate in their research to meet their real-life counterparts. “Luckily enough,” she said, “Charlie and I got to work with these horse trainers who really helped us get immersed into the world. [We] went to the track and sat with real jockeys and heard their stories and their trials and tribulations, and they really opened up the world to us. It was pretty incredible to have access to so many people that really are in it.”
See more in the video above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.