Over the last five years’ genre films like “Hellbenders”, “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” have been vehicles that have given life to performances that offers humor, vulnerability and darkness. He wrote the 2013 screenplay for the “Monkey’s Paw”. He has been a producer on two critically acclaimed films in “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room”. Now, he is ready to direct his own film in the next year or so. He is the versatile Macon Blair who stars as Gabe with Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Mark Weber and Anton Yelchin in the recently released “Green Room”. We grabbed Macon for a bit and welcomed him into “The Night Market” here on “Tom Holland’s Terror Time” to talk about the different dark corners of Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room”.
Jay Kay: How does it feel to be clean shaven in “Green Room”? All joking aside, Gabe and Dwight both share a vulnerability as well as a sense of duty with these necessary evils in their roles within narrative. What was your thoughts on playing characters with this inner struggle and did you bring any of Dwight to the character Gabe?
Macon Blair: I don’t think I really thought specifically about bringing any of Dwight to Gabe other than the way I have to put myself into any character I get to play, if that makes sense. The overlap between the two is that they are just different versions of me. Certainly a character who’s dealing with some kind of conflict is going to be more fun and Jeremy is great at writing characters who are forced into really impossible situations and have to gnaw themselves out.
JK: When Jeremy Saulnier approached you about “Green Room”, what was your thoughts on taking on a film as intense, rich, aggressive as well as cat and mouse as this?
MB: Jeremy makes kickass movies and this was an idea he’d been thinking about for many years and I knew it was going to be a blast. Bigger than anything he’d done before, more intense, exciting for a lot of reasons. He didn’t want me to play Gabe though, I had to audition my way in to that part.
JK: “Blue Ruin” is one of my favorite films of the last five years for so many reason as we have talked about previously on “The Horror Happens Radio Show’. Was there any pressure with this film to create another incredible project and surpass “Blue Ruin”?
MB: Not for me, I had a very small part this time so if the movie sucked it wouldn’t have been my fault, the way it was on his last movie. But I would say Jeremy felt an enormous amount of pressure, yes. Because it was such a jump up in terms of budget and movie stars, it had to prove the idea of, “Okay, you did a good job with a little self-funded indie but can you handle a bigger movie like this?” And of course he could, but that question was the pressure.
JK: As Jeremy’s friend and partner on these productions, did you see a difference in Jeremy’s leadership and directing style with Sean Porter as the cinematographer on “Green Room”?
MB: He was much more physically abusive, for sure. In the past he would just slap people across the face, maybe poke a finger in their eyeball but this time he really cracked the whip. One time he was displeased with a shot and had a PA boil a pot of water and dumped it over Sean’s head, right there on set. It was horrifying but Sean nailed the shot after that, for sure, second-degree burns and all.
No, Jeremy’s a great leader and Sean’s an immensely gifted cinematographer and their aesthetics are very much in sync. With a collaborator like that at his side, Jeremy was able to focus more on performance and tone than the technical side of things, at great benefit to the movie.
JK: What was the experience like working with the cast and crew on this project? Patrick Stewart? Anton Yelchin? Imogen Poots?
MB: It’s going to sound like I’m blowing smoke here but I can only be honest. Patrick Stewart was so generous and kind, it was prepared to be very intimidated and within thirty seconds of meeting him he’d gone out of his way to put me at ease. Just a total gentleman, totally down for this crazy ass movie. Great storyteller.
Imogen is a goddamned force of nature: she went to such extremes with her performance, just to watch her on set, ripping herself up like that, was so impressive. She I was intimidated by.
And Anton was a truly incredible person. For someone so young, he was just so intelligent and learned and committed to his craft. He took the work so seriously it felt like he was going to give himself an ulcer, obsessing over every layer and detail, wearing himself out over it all. And beyond that he was such a sweet guy, genuinely kind and open to everyone around him. I feel very grateful that Jeremy afforded me the chance to get to work with all of them.
JK: How much do you love music and was this a more fitting set to be on then “Blue Ruin”? Did you need any training to be the “house manager”? What is your “Desert Island” artist?
MB: I love music more than anything but I can’t sing, can’t play an instrument and have the rhythm of a broken lawn mower motor. My brothers got all the musical genes in the family. But I wouldn’t say this set was more fitting or less fitting, just different. Bigger. Didn’t have any house manager training, just practiced a lot with a clipboard. They can be tricky. Desert island band always changes: maybe Guns n’ Roses? Maybe Sam Cooke? Maybe The Cure?
JK: In “Blue Ruin”, the character of William (David W. Thompson) escapes the final siege leaving the ones he calls family to their fate. In “Green Room” you take on that situation in the final reel as the final conflict plays out. Talk about Gabe’s situation in the film being neutral (including your costuming) and having him survive the night possibly escaping not only the life he has led but escaping the consequences for the actions that Gabe help orchestrate?
MB: Did you notice David was back as Tad in the beginning of “Green Room”? The kid with the mohawk? He’s so good. Anyways…Jeremy talked to me about how one of the ideas he was playing with was the need to shed a strict ideology in order to survive. Because Gabe was never as invested in the “movement” as much as some of the other soldiers, or because he wasn’t cut out for violence like they were, he was able to turn his back on it and walk away, alive.
JK: How much does the connection of love, violence and revenge play into the narrative of “Green Room” and your character?
MB: As far as how those play into the narrative of the movie, that’s probably a better question for Jeremy. But for Gabe, I think he’s the type of person in need of a family, in need of some kind of validation and in a backwards way that’s what Darcy offered. It was more about belonging to a group than it was about the politics of that group except that when the politics or criminality of that group start to include violence, Gabe’s out of his depth and can’t deal with it.
JK: You said a very powerful line in the film, “There doing something you don’t want to see.” It was simple and may be one of the scariest lines because of the way you perform it as cautionary. With all that your character has seen, experienced and participated in, did the ideas, events, emotions and themes of this film scare you for real during the process?
MB: We did a lot of research into hate groups which was hugely depressing and infuriating.
JK: As a producer on this film, where was the greatest challenge in getting “Green Room” made? What was the film process like minus the successful fan funding? Did the successful fan funding on “Blue Ruin” help if any getting “Green Room” made?
MB: The fan funding on “Blue Ruin” equaled about 10% of the budget and was crucial to getting the movie made, and that movie allowed Jeremy to make Green Room, so in that sense I guess you could say the Kickstarter did indirectly lead to “Green Room” being made. Being funded by a private company gave Jeremy a much larger toolbox with which to work but there was a bit of an adjustment because he was so accustomed to small crews and a much happier way of working. My biggest challenge as a producer was doing damage control after Jeremy continued to throw boiling liquids at his DP.
JK: What is it about your performance and Jeremy’s filmmaking that captivates and ignites audiences?
MB: Assuming in the first place that people are indeed captivated by a performance of mine, which is at best debatable, I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea why. Probably my gigantic head, if I had to guess. As far as Jeremy’s filmmaking goes, I believe people are captivated by it because he’s smart as fuck and uncompromising with his work and unable to invest less than one-hundred percent of himself in anything he commits to.
JK: What is going on with you now? Where can we find out more about the projects you have coming up?
MB: I directed a movie earlier this year, we’re editing that now. Jeremy’s got a new movie he’s lining up that I wrote, hopefully it’ll shoot in early 2017. Trying to get into yoga. Taking my kid to the pool a lot, he’s really into his new goggles. Waking up in sweaty terror at the thought of a Trump presidency. Y’know.
JK: Thank you so much Macon!
MB: Thanks Jay for taking the time…
Pick up “Green Room” right now on DVD, Blu-Ray and watch it on VOD!
Interview conducted by Jay Kay @HorrorHappensFF
(Images found on Google and Yahoo)