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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," he says.

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 that."

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 Martin McDonagh's 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 YOU. Says 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 doesn't really seem to want to know. The Emmy and Golden Globe winner says of her brief, but 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, you can't help but be on his side. But Dorothy shows how his life style has had some hidden consequences."

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 Kuzio (THE SINNER), costume designer Annell Brodeur (A GHOST STORY) and Oscar-nominated editor Lisa Zeno Churgin (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, PETE'S DRAGON) to bring what he envisioned to life.

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 was 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 well."

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 with light. "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 imagination more."

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 film's carefully 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 posh nor 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 worlds together."

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 reflects.

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 illustrious institution, 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 story color-wise." 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 burgeoning 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 edit."

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 and questions.

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 Peckinpah's 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 alone."

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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