EXCLUSIVE: Between nightly guild screenings and the AFI Fest, you could go to theaters all over Hollywood, throw a rock, and probably hit a great director or actor. One I’m intrigued by is Scott Cooper, whose debut Crazy Heart drew an Oscar for Jeff Bridges and a nomination for Maggie Gyllenhaal. His follow-up Out Of The Furnace threatens to do the same for a stellar ensemble cast of Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. What’s fascinating is Cooper spent years knocking around as an actor, hoping for but never getting the kinds of roles he writes for other actors. He discusses that with Deadline along with the high price of truthful writing, the role of luck, fate and ’70s films in his process, and how painful violence in serious films imprints on a gun-crazy society.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Out Of The Furnace’
Deadline: It would have been hard to think of you in any other context than a struggling actor when you made your directorial debut on Crazy Heart. You put your on-camera background to good use, helping Bridges and Gyllenhaal to career performances. Scripts start coming your way and you latch onto The Low Dweller, the big-money Brad Ingelsby spec that stalled when Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out. Why did you choose it as the template for Out Of The Furnace?
Scott Cooper: I had very unremarkable career as an actor and wrote a very personal story in Crazy Heart. Robert Duvall, a mentor and close friend who let me get married on his farm, produced my first film and to have a guy like, who speaks the language of actors, get behind you was key. That film met with some modest success, and then I’m starting at a pile of scripts after never being offered anything in my life as an actor. I have kids to feed, but I want to stay true to myself. I said no to a lot of scripts that went on to become very good films that shall remain nameless. Ridley and Michael Costigan really loved Crazy Heart and so did the folks at Leo’s Appian Way. They offered me The Low Dweller, which received acclaim around town when Leonardo and Ridley were going to do it. I was in a place where I only wanted to tell personal stories. The script was very well written, but I didn’t want to film some of the themes that coursed through it and said no. They came back and said, why don’t you take carte blanche with it? I do have a brother, and there was this seed in that script that ultimately became the movie. A man gets out of prison and avenges the loss of his brother. From there, I personalized my life and turned it into something I felt would resonate. (more…)