After being a small-time actor, Scott Cooper turned his hand to writing and directing in 2009 and his debut film Crazy Heart bagged a handful of BAFTAs and an Best Actor Academy Award for Jeff Bridges. Now, in his second film as a writer/director, he returns with Out Of The Furnace, a steel-town action drama starring Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson. Screenjabber's Peter deGraft-Johnson managed to catch up with Cooper just before the film was released for a chinwag about the state of Hollywood cinema, his filmmaking style, and his new film ...
Scott, congratulations on a really tense film, it's always hard with these interviews because you feel desperate and obliged to say something nice, even if there's not much nice to say, but thankfully, I really did enjoy this, so I can compliment you without a guilty conscience!
Well, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the film.
It's such a tense film almost constantly, where did that darkness and ominous tone come from?
Well, most films are overly verbose, in my opinion, so I wanted to draw in audiences in a different way. Perhaps with a look, or a movement, or a little bit of psychology or behaviour without resorting to over-explaining. Of course not all films are like that, but it's something I don't particularly like.
Is that also true of the political overtones to the relationship between the “straight-shooting”, mill-working Bale and the off-the-beaten-track, hedonism of Harrelson? Did you leave that in there, but not want to over-explain it?
I tried not to be overt with anything, especially not politically, that's not really my game, so I think's that's just down to those great performances again. Those guys really are extraordinary at what they do. I wanted audiences to engage with those questions without putting too fine a point on it. I just put as honest a portrayal of these two characters on the page as I could, and let the actors bring that to life.
Do you think that minimalism helps the film feel multi-genre feel then? The trailer sets it up as a standard action film, but when you're watching it, it covers a lot. There's a bit of action, revenge tragedy, thriller, family drama…
I mean, because there's less dialogue, it lends itself to more interpretations, that's just the way it is, and I love that. So there's that, but also, it's not just about the camera either, it's all about the actors to create that darkness, that nature. All of the other stuff is background to those incredibly subtle performances. I was working with a great crew that really got that, the production design, set design, costume design all understood what I was going for.
You mentioned the crew of this film, I think another great asset of this film was this creepy soundtrack that provides a really strong backbone for the film, could you tell us a bit about that?
Well, the score was written by the great Dickon Hinchliffe, and we even had Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam on there too, and it was, just like I wanted for the film, subtle, nuanced and like you said, a little bit creepy. I'm really happy with it. It helps give the film this really unsettling, elliptical feel.
Just as an aside, what was it like distributing and marketing a film like this? It's not exactly your traditional Hollywood picture – there's no nice ending or hot pink love stories? (It's all the better for it, in my opinion)
It's nearly impossible to get a film like this made. It's basically a film about two brothers, a blue collar steel mill worker and a soldier, and their lives, and it's something that could really happen. Also, Hollywood…they like their movies softer, easier and more digestible – and that's everything this film isn't, and I really hope people see the film because of that.
Lastly, what's next for you?
Well, I'm working on a few things I can tell you about, including a film around the story of Whitey Bulger, who was one of the most wanted men in the US until a few years back. I'm working with Johnny Depp on that one. I'm also adapting a Great Depression-era drama called The Road Home, and that'll be produced by Leo (DiCaprio), like this film was too. Safe to say, I'm keeping pretty busy.
• Out Of The Furnace review