Blue Ruin: HMZ Film exclusively interviews star Macon Blair
The FIPRESCI prize winner Blue Ruin is one of the year’s stand out pieces of cinema. The film is a stark and gritty revenge thriller that satisfies the demand of genre fans whilst flirting with the whims of the art house devotee. It is a flashing light for the power of independent cinema and a prime example of how an unconventional spin on a tested genre can yield compelling results (click here for the full review)
It was Macon Blair’s beautifully poised and understated turn as protagonist, Dwight, that adds gravitas to Jeremy Saulnier’s masterfully dark screenplay. His breakthrough performance is undoubtedly one of the year’s undisputed highlights.
HMZ Film had the immense pleasure of catching up with Macon to discuss the origins of the crowd-funded sensation, his eye-catching performance as Dwight, violence in modern cinema, comparisons to the Coen brothers and much more.
HMZ Film: Let’s talk about the origins of Blue Ruin. How did the initial idea come about and why did you and Jeremy Saulnier feel compelled to tell this story?
Macon: We needed jobs. Jeremy and I felt like our window of opportunity was closing, we needed to make a movie that could hopefully get our feet in the door, so to speak, and it needed to be a departure from the last thing we did together, which was a sleazy cheap-o horror comedy several years ago. Jeremy had the idea for the Beach Bum character in his head for years and built the character for me to play. It was born out of practicality: he wrote for someone he knew he could cast, with locations and props he knew he could get for free or cheaply. The idea was to take a very standard formula (revenge!) but try to embrace our weaknesses–like NOT having a classic tough guy in the lead of a so-called revenge thriller–as a way to make it interesting.
HMZ Film: Dwight isn’t your archetypal anti-hero but more of a ghost defined by an inability to face and confront his grief. Do you agree? How would you describe your character and his predicament?
Macon: Yeah, that’s exactly the point. He’s not about bloodlust or rage, he’s about deep sorrow that he can’t process and it compels him to make terrible decisions. Most people find a way to deal with grief and move ahead without destroying everything around them. But Dwight is wired differently and the tragedy in his life, losing his folks, just broke him.
HMZ Film: The gritty tonality ensures that revenge isn’t glamorised in Blue Ruin; it is depicted as a painful and confusing experience for Dwight. It is refreshingly realistic. Why did you feel that the aftermath of ‘revenge’ was more interesting than the act itself?
Macon: That was all Jeremy’s take on it. He’s very interested in process and mundane details. To him, blasting the bad guys is not as interesting as what happens right after the blasting is done. There would be a mess left over so who’s going to clean it up? On the other hand, because it’s a genre movie, we do occasionally blast the bad guys. But it’s not meant to be cause for celebration, it’s all meant to be ugly and tense and a little hard to digest.
HMZ Film: The lack of dialogue and your brilliantly understated performance contributes towards a suspenseful and nerve shredding experience. Do you feel action speaks louder than words?
Macon: That’s very kind of you, thank you. And sure, I think if there’s a way to communicate something without talking about it, that’s generally more interesting to me. Not always but for the most part. I’m certainly more comfortable with the physical side of things. Long stretches of involved dialogue are much more daunting.
HMZ Film: Let’s talk about the graphic violence in Blue Ruin. There were a number of walkouts in my screening during the visceral arrow scene, do you think Hollywood’s glamorisation of violence has altered our perception of it? What was your objective for these scenes?
Macon: Obviously movies are more graphic these days, in terms of what you can show. But for the most part people still get wasted on screen like they always have and it’s still “not a big deal.” It’s just cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians, it’s for spectacle, and the idea that for all the hundreds of people that get machine gunned in a big action movie there are somewhere going to be families and friends in mourning is usually never really acknowledged. And I’m not even condemning that, either, I’m just pointing it out. Our movie played across from White House Down and that movie was an absolute slaughter, hundreds of deaths, but the violence isn’t mentioned because it’s all for fun. It’s just playing. In Jeremy’s movie, only a small handful of people die but he tried to have the deaths deliver some impact on the audience. The objective was to give a death a great deal of weight. It’s not sexy, it’s not fun, it’s not just another level that the hero needs to beat in order to get closer to the Big Boss at the end. It’s all just tragic and gross and hard, as it is when people die in real life. Now, the arrow scene was designed specifically to pay off a kind of joke: you think Dwight is going to do the usual self-surgery scene we’ve all seen a million times in First Blood and No Country… and whatever else and it’s supposed to be awful and squirm-inducing because you can’t just get shot in the leg with an arrow and shrug it off, not in real life. Dwight is in agony and we’re going to dwell on that for a little bit because the punch-line all that gore and pain hopefully serves is that, in fact, he just does the thing any regular-ass person would do and goes to see a doctor.
HMZ Film: Were you ever expecting such a positive critical reception (comparisons to the Coen brothers!) to Blue Ruin after the long and arduous journey in getting it made?
Macon: Never. Certainly not. We hoped for it to break even and get a modest DVD release after a five screen one-week theatrical run, something like that. If that had happened, we would have felt like we’d won. So all of this is just insane, and delightful, and embarrassing at times.
HMZ Film: What’s next for Macon Blair? Has your life changed at all after the success of the film?
Macon: It has not changed in any fundamental sense. I go on auditions, I write a lot, I watch my kid during the day. There are new opportunities popping up that weren’t there before, which is great, but for the most part it’s business as usual. Trying to line up the next job, is all.
HMZ Film: And finally.. If you could be the lead star in any film in the history of cinema. What would it be and why?
Macon: Any movie that’s already been made? Hmm. Any one of the kids in Dazed & Confused, I guess, because it just seems like that would have been a really fun set to be on.
HMZ Film: Thanks very much for your time Macon, I wish you every success in what I’m sure will be a brilliant career
Macon: Thanks very much! All the best to you…
To follow Macon’s progress: Follow him on Twitter @MaconBlair and IMDB