THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN
Production Information (Cont'd)
PARTNERS IN CRIME
SENIOR CITIZEN INMATE ALWAYS WALKED A CROOKED MILE
-- The Palm Beach Post
Joining Robert Redford as Tucker's co-conspirators in the Over-The-Hill Gang
are two men with
distinctive, long-lived careers all their own: four-time Emmy nominee Danny
Glover as Teddy Green and
singer-songwriter-actor Tom Waits as Waller. "Danny and Tom were the first names
David spoke about
and we thought they were fantastic ideas," recalls Steckler. "As a trio with
Bob, it's something magical."
For Lowery, the casting felt organic. "I knew I needed actors who could lend
something more to
the characters. I've admired Danny all my life, from the time I saw LONESOME
DOVE as a little kid all
the way to seeing his name as a producer on Apichatpong Weerathesakul and
Lucretia Martel movies. It
was an honor to have him in the film. And Tom Waits is Tom Waits. He's a hero,"
The screenplay swept in Glover. "I loved the pacing and the language," he
says. "I loved how it
was orchestrated so that you could take either side. And it was the
relationships in the Over-The-Hill
Gang that really interested me-the way that they communicated with each other
and the way that,
though they each had their own different story, they were all cut from the same
kind of cloth."
Glover gave a lot of thought to why Teddy and Waller followed Forrest as
their leader. "On the
one hand, Forrest is a dreamer but on the other, he's capable of taking great
risks and he's someone who
you can trust has the capacity to go through with a plan, and trust is key in
this world," he points out.
On set, the rapport between Glover, Redford and Waits was unmistakable. Says
Waits of the
trio's synergy: "Danny's a great actor and he's fun to work with. He's
spontaneous, so he was great to
improvise with and so is Bob. They were both ready to go. Their engines are
always running, and I like
Waits might be a musical legend for his story-spinning songs and smoky
delivery, but he has also
drawn accolades in acting roles in such films as Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS and
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. He, too, was sold on Lowery's script and his cast mates. "It
felt to me like a
modern Western," he says. "David's got a real eye, ear and voice as a writer.
And it was Redford,
Spacek and Glover. It's like if someone is having a party and they tell you who
is coming and then you
say, yeah, who else? And who else? And who else? You're hooked by hearing who's
going to be there."
For Waits, Waller was a more prototypical criminal than Forrest, someone who
didn't quite have
it all together. "I think he had a screw loose," he muses. "He was in prison for
10 years, he had made a
lot of mistakes and, you know, his socks didn't match. Forrest was much more
together. He was
composed and that's why he was the gang leader."
Rounding out the cast are several vital supporting roles including John
Hunt's wife Maureen,
portrayed by Tika Sumpter, who played young Michelle Obama in SOUTHSIDE WITH
Sumpter of Maureen: "She saw her husband going through a midlife crisis and she
was the kind of
woman who encouraged him but would never tell him what to do. She believed he
would figure it out,
and she supported him as he did, and I loved that about her."
Actress Elisabeth Moss appears in the film as Dorothy, the daughter Forrest
really seem to want to know. The Emmy and Golden Globe winner says of her brief,
indelible, role: "Dorothy brings a little bit of a reality check to the story of
Forrest and gives you a
more complicated picture of who he actually was. He's so charming and legendary,
help but be on his side. But Dorothy shows how his life style has had some
BEHIND THE SCENES: THE DESIGN
THE OLD MAN & THE GUN takes place on the cusp of the 80s, which allowed
Lowery to pay
his own form of homage to 70s filmmaking. At the same time, the film's settings
are an outgrowth of the
film's characters. Lowery worked closely with director of photography Joe
Anderson (who worked as a
nd Unit DP on Lowery's AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS), production designer Scott
SINNER), costume designer Annell Brodeur (A GHOST STORY) and Oscar-nominated
Zeno Churgin (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, PETE'S DRAGON) to bring what he envisioned
While the period adds another rich layer to the storytelling, Toby Halbrooks
notes that it never
overwhelms that storytelling, either. "We don't wear ever wear the period-ness
of the story on our
sleeve," he says. "I think of the film as being more of a throwback emotionally
rather than in its style.
It's never flashy or kitschy and that's part of what David is so good at. The
emphasis is on the people and
it's almost not important when and where this all takes place. It's just that
you suddenly might realize
that hey, nobody has a cell phone or the internet and you're in this world
that's a little different from the
one we live in now."
Lowery always intended to shoot THE OLD MAN & THE GUN on Super 16, even as he
writing. "Super 16 has such a special aesthetic quality that immediately harkens
back to 70s filmmaking.
And David not only wanted to shoot on 16 but to also shoot using zooms, older
lenses, and without using
tons of fancy, new tools," says Johnston.
The idea creatively exhilarated cinematographer Anderson-but he knew his work
was cut out
for him. "No one makes16mm cameras anymore. So you have to find ones that are 15
years old or so,"
he explains. "Luckily, the 16mm film itself is still in production and being
processed so it's alive and
For Lowery, 16mm offered far more pros than cons. "Super 16mm is a dream to
work on, much
easier than digital or 35mm," he comments. "And it looks really old-fashioned,
which is why we wanted
to use it. We wanted the image to feel old but we also wanted to avoid
nostalgia, and 16 was the way to
do that. I was looking for a way to make the images less refined, a little less
perfect. I described my
approach as wanting to shoot actors against concrete walls in harsh midday
sun-which we literally did
when Bob and Sissy meet for the first time."
Anderson notes that shooting on film is not just about the image; it also
changes the atmosphere
on set. Shooting on slow-speed 16mm film did however demand more experimentation
"When you're shooting digitally everyone is shrouded behind monitors. But when
you shoot film, the
crew is communicating with one another more," he points out, "working together
to imagine what the
film will look like versus obsessing over every little pixel. People use their
The first bank heist in the film-the only one of Forrest's myriad heists
depicted in its entirety-
was one of the most demanding sequences. "It's meant to be fun and robust and
have a lot going on at
once," says Lowery. "I wanted to lean into the cleverness and charm Forrest
employs, and let that same
cleverness and charm extend to the filmmaking. It was a lot of fun working out
the rhythm of that scene,
the handoffs from one character to the next."
Throughout, Anderson worked closely with Kuzio and Brodeur to develop the
chosen palette. "We didn't want to overplay the period," comments Kuzio. "We
wanted a timeless feel.
We stuck to the physical side of everything being pre-1981, but we didn't
necessarily do a wink to, 'hey,
this is a 1980 film.' We wanted a colder, more sterile look, using greys, whites
and primary colors, rather
than everything being warm browns, woods and oranges."
A favorite set for many was Jewel's house, which is very much her refuge from
the world. The
location that Kuzio chose transported cast and crew. "It was a big, old country
farmhouse with wraparound
porches and the most stately, beautiful views," describes Spacek. "When we all
saw the house for
the first time, it took our breath away, including Bob's. I think for Forrest,
that house was a port in the
storm. And for Jewel, it was really a big part of who she was."
Says Kuzio of the house: "We needed a beautiful horse farm that was neither
dilapidated and we could not find it. We could find exteriors and we could find
interiors, but never both.
So, in the end we settled on a picturesque farm and then we completely remade
the house to fit Jewel's
character, which we wanted to free spirited but not be easily defined. Her house
is that of a bohemian
who grew up in a working-class Texas family, so it was about mixing those two
Forrest's house contrasts with Jewel's in its minimalism. "Forrest never
wanted to grow up or
settle down so his home was practically bare. It's essentially the kind of home
12-year-old would have
been happy with. He's not someone who wanted lavish things. He's a bank robber
but the robberies are
for the love of doing robberies and not about leading the high life," Kuzio
Completing the triangle of houses is John Hunt's family-oriented abode.
"John's home represents
the family suburbia of the 70s. It's about aspiring to the classic American
dream," says Kuzio.
More fun came in creating the film's prison escape montage. Standing in for San
Quentin was an
active prison in Jackson, Michigan that happened to have a totally empty block
of cells that Kuzio
refashioned. Then, since Forrest finally escaped in a hand-made boat from that
Kuzio decided he should make his version of the boat from scratch. "We decided
to use only materials
that you could find at a prison woodshop and could be constructed very quietly
because this is how it
would have been created realistically," explains Kuzio.
Kuzio worked in tandem with Brodeur's costume designs. Says Kuzio: "Annell
brought her ideas
and I brought in mine and then we'd sit together and ask: how can we blend the
best of these together?"
Brodeur's work sent her on endless expeditions into thrift shops looking for
late 70s threads. But
it all centered around a singular piece de resistance: Forrest's sparkling blue
suit that catches Jewel's eye
when he stopped to give her some roadside assistance. "David, Scott and I talked
about how the world
appears almost flat and then you see Forrest come in with this blue suit that
pops and you know he is
something special," Brodeur explains.
Brodeur knew that Redford would bring whatever she designed for him to life
in his own way.
"The real Forrest was very flashy, perhaps even more so than in the film. So I
was really excited to see
Bob in that way. He's so dapper that he's able to reflect someone who takes
great pride in his
appearance. It felt like such a perfect fit to see him become this very suave,
smart bank robber."
Redford stays in the same suit throughout most of the film, which later gave
Lowery and editor
Churgin endless options while stitching the final film together.
Casey Affleck's clothing, on the other hand shifts, coming more alive
chromatically as the story
progresses. "As John got closer to Forrest, we see more color in John's world,"
Brodeur points out. "By
the time they met, John had a bold green tie and was much more saturated in
color than we had seen him
in the film because that was his mood."
Equally fun for Brodeur was working with Spacek as Jewel. "Jewel is no muss,
no fuss but
there's a lightness about her, too. I saw her clothes as very fluid because
she's not rigid in how she looks
at the world. She's on her own independent journey so she maintains her own
Brodeur also gives credit to Spacek for inspiring the approach. "Much of what
Sissy wears was
influenced by Sissy, who lives on a horse farm, so she knows that lifestyle. She
gave me lots of ideas and
it was a wonderful collaborative experience with her."
When photography wrapped, Lowery returned home to Dallas, a city with a newly
film industry, where Churgin joined him for six-and-a-half months of editing.
She was eager to reunite
with the director after her experience on PETE'S DRAGON. But it was also her
first chance to work on a
film starring Redford.
"I feel really proud to be part of something in the latter part of Redford's
career and for the
opportunity David gave me to work with such great acting by Sissy, Casey and the
rest of the cast," says
Churgin. "That's always what turns me on most. David has the ability to bring so
much out of the actors
and the visual storytelling. Since we first met on a big Disney feature, I found
it a lot of fun to do a more
indie story with him."
Says Lowery of their unique way of collaborating: "It's a lot of small
discoveries over a period of
months. I edit in one room and Lisa edits in another and then we trade sequences
and compare work. Or
sometimes she'll cut something, I'll go destroy it, and then bring it back to
her to fix. The one scene that
pretty much never changed from the first cut to the last was the rainy-day bank
robbery. She cut that
while we were still shooting and it really set the tone for the rest of the
Their biggest challenge Churgin says was structuring a story that
purposefully mixes up pace.
"It's a more subtle, human take on a crime story," she observes, "but it also
has a very jazzy kind of feel.
We really went for the idea that less is always more and that we wanted to leave
audiences with mysteries
For Churgin, a favorite scene is the film's opener. "I still smile every time
I see that first scene
between Bob and Sissy because you're in her shoes and you're just totally
seduced by him," she muses.
While Churgin and Lowery watched some revisionist, self-reflective Westerns (Sam
PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID), road films (Monte Hellman's TWO-LANE BLACKTOP) and
Redford's early work for inspiration, Churgin notes that the final piece has a
rhythm all its own. "I find
the whole structure of it to be unique," she concludes. "It has elements of a
Western but it's not about the
gun. Forrest Tucker was not about the gun. It's about Forrest's idea of what it
was to be alive."
Unusually, Lowery and Churgin cut the film without music, not even a temp
track. "It makes you
find the internal rhythm rather than have an external rhythm put over it,"
Churgin explains. It makes you
more rigorous- you end up letting the action and the pace determine things
rather than rely on music
The last touch added to the film was the work of composer Daniel Hart, who
had established a
close creative relationship with Lowery on A GHOST STORY and PETE's DRAGON.
Early on, Lowery
gave Hart one overarching musical idea that Hart ran with. "David said he kept
hearing percussion in his
head when thinking about the film so that was my start," says Hart.
Says Lowery: "I always felt that something percussive would be good. It would
have been easy to
do something more folky or country, but I really wanted to push against those
more predictable instincts.
Daniel suggested we try a jazz score, and he shared some Miles Davis tracks that
he thought would be a
good template. It felt really good when we put it up against the picture."
Hart says the film was a gratifying experience. "One of David's greatest
gifts as a director is his
ability to listen to other people and his ability to trust other people's
judgment," Hart describes. I think
it's one of the things that make David's films feel as sincere as they do."
For Lowery, that sincerity started with a plan that was his cornerstone
throughout every element
of the production, from screenplay to post-production. "I wanted to do three
things with this movie. I
wanted to push against all of my natural instincts as a filmmaker and see how
far outside my comfort
zone I could get myself; I wanted to make something that would make people
smile; and I wanted to write
a love letter to one of the great heroes of the silver screen. Hopefully,
telling a good story was a
byproduct of those three."
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