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Blue Ruin: Interview with Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair‏

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Blue Ruin is a great thriller that’s out this Friday (May the 2nd). If you want to know why it’s just so darn great then head over here, and check out my review.

Dwight is a beard-y loner, living like a bum, until one day he hears that he has been released from prison: the man who killed his parents. Without a second though Dwight transforms himself into a man on a mission. A mission for bloody revenge.

With some help from gun nut Ben (Devin Ratray), Dwight must knock off the man responsible for his mum and dad’s murder, while trying to protect his sister and her family from any comebacks.

Blue Ruin has a very unique look and feel, but what really sets it apart from most revenge thrillers is the main character – Dwight. Dwight is not a tough guy, he’s an awkward nerd. What he lacks in training he makes up for in confidence, and it’s this spin that makes the film so odd, different and good.

I was very lucky to get a little time on the phone with the film’s writer, director and cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier; as well as the star Macon Blair, who plays Dwight. My connection was a bit spotty, so apologies for any little gaps, and by the way, Macon is pronounced like Bacon with an “m”, not like Mason. The more you know.

Hiya guys. I’m Alan from Live for Films. I really enjoyed the movie, so thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me – I’ve been looking forward to this.

Macon Blair: What’s happening, Alan?

Jeremy Saulnier: Hi Alan, I’m Jeremy how’s it goin’?

 

(L-R) Key Grip Carlos Valdes-Lora, Jeremy Saulnier, and 1st AC Ryan Dickie

(L-R) Key Grip Carlos Valdes-Lora, Jeremy Saulnier, and 1st AC Ryan Dickie

So, like I said, I really enjoyed the film, but what was the process of making it like? Was it something you’ve been trying to get going for a while? Or was it easy? Was it a quick shoot?

Macon: IT WAS TOTALLY EXCRUCIATING!

Jeremy: We started making movies back in 1988. So Blue Ruin was like… it had this two decade long build up, but when it came together it was lightning fast. We had gotten frustrated with the whole process, and were like “you know what? This might never happen for us. Let’s pursue alternate careers, let’s have families and get mortgages and move on and embrace reality”. But before we did so, it was about… if we’re gonna leave this industry, it’s gonna be on a high note. And it’s gonna be with a film that we stand by, and that will represent our best efforts. It was under duress, and reckless, to make this film. From writing to wrapping was eight and a half months.

 

What were those alternate careers that you had?

Jeremy: I was a cameraman, Macon was at an advertising agency.

 


Were there any particularly enjoyable parts of the film to work on? I imagine the sequence with Dwight having an arrow stuck out of his leg being really good fun…

Jeremy: Funny thing… it worked out really well, but that was the hardest thing to shoot! It was a ten page action sequence, with no words, so the coverage and technical requirements were crazy. Our crew were at capacity – they were maxed out. I hadn’t been sleeping and fell down and they had to pull me back up! It was handheld, Macon was crawling… I think, for me, the most enjoyable part was the writing.

Macon: I think the aftermath of that scene with the arrow. When I had to dig it out of my leg! It suddenly turned into this sort of special effects based film making that Jeremy and I first bonded over as children. Except, this time, we had a guy from The Walking Dead doing our effects for us! So it was like getting the best toys that you can get, and we got the fake leg, with the individual hairs punched into it – it was a ton of fun!

 

Blue-Ruin-Poster-High-ResolutionMacon. This is important. Did you grow a real beard?

Macon: Oh, yeah, man!

 

So what was it like shaving it off? Was it emotional?

Macon: It was emotional in the sense that we had a party!

 

A “Beard Wake”?

Macon: Hahahaha, yeah! Listen, summertime in Virginia with a beard like that is not comfortable! We didn’t wanna do a fake beard, we didn’t have the resources to do that and have it look real. And, even if we did, Jeremy and I would rather everything be as real as possible. Like, if you have to throw up, then don’t put a bunch of oatmeal in your mouth – actually throw up! It’ll look better. It’s the same as with the beard, or with anything else. If there’s a way to do it without an effect, we would prefer to do it that way. So, if the worse thing I have to complain about is that the beard is a little hot, then I’m in good shape! You know?

 

Jeremy, as well as writing and directing, you’re also the cinematographer on Blue Ruin. Was that always part of the plan?

Jeremy: You know… when we started making films together, it was this collective brain hive of creativity and we never really separated out jobs on the set. So I started out not knowing what the delineation was between jobs on the set. I’ve always shot my own work, and I don’t wanna translate my vision through other people. I want to move really fast. Light and lean

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The film has a really beautiful, stark, but still quite warm look – it’s quite difficult to describe… How did you go about achieving that?

Jeremy: The thing was to not over… brief… my images. I really took refuge in finding great locations. There was definitely a colour palette shift from the opening of the film to the end of the film. That was very intentional. I’ve seen so many films that are dialogue driven that are just stuck in rooms! I wanted to go out and explore my native state of Virginia and this beautiful Delaware shore. There was no filtration on any of the lenses, it was just about getting where you needed to go. The world in front of you, that you’re looking at, is visually arresting in and of itself, so my approach technically was quite minimal.

 

How did the pair of you go about creating such a stand out main character like Dwight? Did you always have a clear picture of him from the very beginning, or did he evolve?

Jeremy: Macon and I had a lot of back and forth’s about the character Dwight. “How crazy is he? Is he crazy at all? Would he be a drinker, or a teetotaller?” You know? All this stuff really helped so that later on it was all freedom and potential energy.

 

Macon, what was it like working with Devin Ratray? I loved his character and then loved him that little bit even more when I realised that he was Buzz from Home Alone!

Macon: Yeah! I mean, Devin has what is really the only “hero moment” in the film. A little of it comes through in the performance, but he’s one of these wildly charismatic, storytelling, raconteur type of people, who’s a lot of fun to be around. So much so that in some of the darker scenes we had to tone him down a little! Then, once we wrapped, he was back and cracking everybody up! He was definitely the most hilarious guy there, and a great deal of fun to work with.

 

Jeremy, that relationship between Dwight and Ben is brilliant. Macon and Devin have such great chemistry! Jeremy, were you ever tempted to feature Devin even more, in the film, when you saw them together?

Jeremy: Oh no, not at allll! I needed Macon to be a sole lead. This is his first feature lead role. He’s a great actor. The whole design was to get amazing actors around him. But those guys could only work three to five days. We simply could not afford, or get, well known actors for more than that time period. If you try and get them for thirty days, and they have to cancel a play, or turn down another feature film – the answer’s gonna be “no”. But if you say “Hey, can I get a  long weekend from you?” Then they’ll say “why not?”

 

What are you both doing next? Are you sticking together?

Jeremy: Sticking together, but we’re not afraid to go our separate ways. Macon is my muse and his work ethic is untouchable, so I do want him to be my partner going forward. I already achieved my twenty year goal, which was to give Macon his first lead, and now, if you love something then set them free.

 

Awww, hahaha! My time is about up, can we finish with some quick fire stuff? What is the first film you both remember seeing in the cinema?

Macon: Me, would be Moby Dick, or Pinocchio.

Jeremy: Flash Gordon!

 

Do you prefer salted or sweet popcorn?

Jeremy: Salted. For sure!

Macon: Errrrrr… I like nothing on my popcorn. Sorry!

 

If you could make, or star, in the remake of any film – what would it be and why?

Macon: (singing and thinking) If I could starrrrr, in, the, remake, of annnnny film… Blast of Silence. Just because I love that movie and I think it would be a lot of fun to bring it to a modern audience. I wouldn’t be the lead though – I would be the guy that helps him get the weapon that he needs to do his mission

Jeremy: I refuse to do remakes. I don’t want to do anything as an artist where I would be compared with source material.

 

If you could get killed by any movie monster, which one would it be, and what would your last words be?

Macon: Um, Frankenstein. And “Why?!”

Jeremy: The alien from John Carpenter’s The Thing, and I would hope that my throat would get slashed before I had anything relevant to say!

 

Lovely. All done. Thanks you guys, enjoy the rest of your day!

Macon: You too, man. It was nice talking with you.

 

Big, big thanks to Jeremy and Macon, and to Paul at Premier for sorting me out with some time to chat with them.

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