Stillwater Director Tom McCarthy Talks Matt Damon, Casting & Amanda Knox

Matt Damon stars as Invoice Baker in director Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater. Jessica Forde / Aim Capabilities Getty Illustrations or photos

An previous university sensibility permeates Stillwater, the new Matt Damon-led film from Spotlight director Tom McCarthy. Specified trailers and Television set spots have bought the movie as an Amanda Knox thriller parallel sprinkled with Taken factors as Damon’s Invoice Baker tries to confirm his incarnated daughter’s innocence. But actually, the film is a redemption tale and a household drama. It is a lot more soft spoken and, nicely, continue to than some may hope.

The star vehicle for Damon is deliberately understated. Whereas Spotlight was a painstakingly in depth procedural pursuing a procession of case developments, Stillwater is one thing of its inverse. The sentiment of our protagonist’s existence will take priority in excess of the investigative particulars. In a dialogue with Observer, McCarthy opened up about employing Damon’s community hero persona to obstacle the audience in their generation of Bill Baker and how the movie, which comes in theaters July 30, came to be.

Observer: Can you tell me where Stillwater originated and how it to begin with came to your notice?

Tom McCarthy: I would say it was like I employed inspiration outside of intention. Numerous, several many years back — 10, 12 years back now — subsequent that Amanda Knox circumstance, I imagined it was a fascinatingly tragic circumstance. But what genuinely struck me was this strategy of a romance, or the predicament of the younger girl becoming in prison, and I started out imagining, Wow, what’s the tale close to that? There was sufficient prepared and stated about that story. I didn’t want to tackle that in any serious way, but I was truly loving the concept, or just fascinated by the concept is a superior way of stating this, of a young American girl staying in prison abroad for a crime she may or might not have committed. And then I quickly began concentrating on the romantic relationship amongst her and her father, which was fictionalized. This strange romantic relationship amongst father-daughter in this remarkable setting. What a excellent jumping-off stage for a story.

How did you go about casting a motion picture like this? The public doesn’t always associate Matt Damon as this rural Oklahoman. I’m curious what features you had been hunting for that particularly breathes lifestyle into the eyesight you have for the movie?

The important factor was when audiences appear at Matt Damon, they imagine: What? He’s type of like a quintessential American hero, correct? He always has that integrity and that kind of sense of know-how and get-it-accomplished that we affiliate with heroes, particularly cinematically, right? Jason Bourne may perhaps not know who he is, but he often is aware specifically what he’s accomplishing and where he’s likely and how to get it accomplished. We needed to perform on that.

We preferred to start there, being aware of audiences have been going to acquire it in. So, when you see Bill Baker in the tasks jumped by six youngsters, you are like, “Oh, he’s likely to unload,” and what comes about? What ordinarily transpires when any male is taken on by six other men? He gets the shit crushed out of him, right? So, that’s inescapable he gets a number of very good punches in mainly because he’s a roughneck and those guys know how to battle and they’re tricky as shit and potent as shit. But it is fact.

We’re dealing with reality listed here, not a motion picture.

We’re working with fact right here, not a movie. So, we have been attempting to be authentic to that and subvert that. So actually, it started off there. We have to have that ingredient in our direct actor, the list is really smaller quickly of guys that audiences will display up and be like, “Oh person, this guy’s going to earn — he’s the guy, let’s see exactly where he goes,” and then let us obstacle that. And let us force an viewers to take into account the implications of that man’s steps. Both individually and in conditions of the folks all-around him and even form of globally, which is what we were interested in talking about.

Sticking with casting, 8-yr-old Lilou Siauvaud is an complete standout as Maya as Bill’s surrogate daughter of sorts. Was that job really hard to solid and what divided her from the pack?

Her expertise separated her from the pack, very frankly. Of course, it was extremely challenging to solid. When you say “I will need an 8-12 months-aged French girl for a function,” the bench isn’t that deep. And that said, I was stunned at how lots of wonderful French actresses of that age came in it was an lovable approach. We noticed some really good women for the part, and then I obtained a simply call from my casting director down in Marseille and she was like, “You’ve got to get down right here. I just saw this lady.” And I was in Paris functioning with the writers, and she mentioned, “She’s extraordinary.” And I mentioned, “Why?” She goes, “I really don’t know why. She’s in no way acted a working day in her existence, she lives about an hour from Marseilles, and her dance trainer sent her in,” but, you know, I went in and there was Lilou, and yeah, she just…with young ones and casting, gentleman, there’s a small little bit of magic there, you know. It is form of like you are constantly seeking for the needle in the haystack.

Stillwater Matt Damon Tom McCarthy interviewStillwater Matt Damon Tom McCarthy interview

(L to R) Actor Matt Damon, actor Abigail Breslin and director Tom McCarthy on the set of Stillwater. Jessica Forde / Target Capabilities

Stand-up comics are fond of indicating there’s reality in every joke. I was shocked by the amount of humor in Stillwater, which is if not an psychological spouse and children drama. I was pondering what your psychological math is when developing a movie like this that nevertheless have times of levity?

When I 1st approached [co-writers] Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré with this original script, it was a very awkward and dry meeting wherever they had been incredibly vital of the script, which I agreed with. There was a really sort of sobering prognosis, or diagnostic, of what was incorrect with it and what they assumed they’d redo, and I imagined, Oh, boy, these fellas are going to be truly dry, genuinely critical Frenchmen. So I basically bought on the aircraft, flew to Paris and expended a week with them at Thomas’s condominium, and they ended up the most charming, funny guys. We laughed so hard, and which is seriously essential to me. The method wants to have humor, needs to be joyful — the do the job is really hard you need to have to come across that in the get the job done, ideal? I believe that that in all get the job done.

It is a truly intensive, suspenseful and gradual-burn, gripping drama. It’s acquired that thing in which you are just waiting around for the other shoe to fall a great deal of the time. I believe discovering those people moments of humor just give audiences a moment to not only breathe but hook up in a deeper way with the characters.

You’ve formerly reported that you uncovered from every film you make. What has been your significant takeaway from Stillwater?

Properly, it’s a tale that nevertheless requires to be published. We’re just sharing it with audiences now, so I’ll know additional once audiences are viewing it. But I could convey to you, what was truly remarkable about that screening in Cannes was irrespective of the reception at the end and the ovation and all that stuff that’s been composed about it, was just sitting down in a French audience as an American director who directed a film largely in French in France and observing them actually embrace the film and laugh and be amazed and respond and truly, seriously feeling that.

What we had been attempting to do with this film is allow for the story to go wherever the tale preferred to go and not feel constrained by preconceived notions of what a story or a style ought to be. If we experienced a central character in a story that was powerful plenty of, would an viewers go on that journey with us? I experience like just from that a single screening on your own, I was like, to me, the reply is “Yes.” Will it get the job done for everyone? Almost certainly not, they in no way do. But which is definitely thrilling to me, mainly because I believe we need to have to type of be challenging variety suitable now in motion pictures, suitable? Normally, it is heading to get stale, and we have to have to be, like, challenging audiences and ideally, audiences will aid movies like this.


This job interview has been somewhat edited and condensed for clarity.

How ‘Stillwater’ Director Tom McCarthy Challenged Matt Damon’s Hero Image and Tried to Capture Reality

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