For director-writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, The Mustang was a journey that started by reading an article in a French newspaper to throwing herself in research of a rehabilitation program learning to train wild mustangs. It’s no wonder that she took a journalist approach to making the Sundance film about an ex-convict and his story of healing through animal therapy.
“I love investigating and gathering details which feed my script,” de Clermont-Tonnerre tells Deadline. “I needed to deepen the story with authentic elements.”
De Clermont-Tonnerre, who wrote the script with Mona Fastvold and Brock Norman Brock, learned of animal therapy in prisons and was “very intrigued with this odd pairing and men with small animals.”
“Through this journey, I learned the power of how an animal can heal and impact,” she says. From this came the short film, Rabbit which debute at Sundance four years ago. This film paved the way for more research and led to her finding a rehabilitation center in Nevada that used horses. Thus, the seed for The Mustang started to sprout even more.
The film follows Roman (Matthias Schoenaerts), a convict fresh out of solitary confinement at a maximum security prison in the Nevada desert. Still wary of human contact, Roman enrolls in a tough but rewarding rehabilitation program learning to train wild mustangs. With Myles (Bruce Dern) guiding, he takes charge of an ornery horse in the hopes of preparing it for an annual auction. With the wild animal acting as a mirror for his own raging emotions, Roman must learn to tame not only the mustang but also the beast within.
The Mustang premieres at Sundance Thursday at the Eccles Theater. Watch the interview above.
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