What ingredient of ‘Lawless’ initially grabbed you? And how did you find it working with Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke as these three Bondurant brothers?
Jessica Chastain: I thought the script was dynamic and shocking and great. What really drew me to the character was the love story between Maggie and Forrest. I liked the idea that they were two damaged people who have one shot at happiness. That was very moving. The casting for ‘Lawless’ is amazing. The three of them look like brothers to me and even act like them. They play, fought and joked – really stupid ‘guy’ jokes – and it was wonderful to see their dynamic together (laughs). Shia was so prepared all the time, such a professional, it was really exciting to see him in this role. I worked with Jason before and he is fantastic as Howard. It’s such a huge metamorphosis, I’ve never seen him do anything like this. And Tom Hardy, who I have most of my scenes with, for me, it was just another level of acting.
What is it about John Hillcoat’s movies that really spark your interest?
Shia LaBeouf: I’m a fan, I would show up to do anything with John. John’s films are all very visceral and honest. He is a truth-seeker, incredibly intelligent and has a great visual style. He lets shots breathe; it’s old-school, John Ford vista-type stuff. He knows how to tell the story in one frame and he lets that frame do the work. It’s a style of working I hadn’t experienced before, and I was very excited by it. There’s so much to chew on with his movies, I love that. There’s a lot of integrity and a lot of heart in his movies.
How was it building the brotherly relationships with Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke – and even with Dane DeHaan as this almost honorary fourth brother, Cricket?
Shia LaBeouf: We built them from scratch and they were real. With me and Dane, we didn’t know each other. A month before we shipped out we took a road trip from Los Angeles to Louisiana, then from Louisiana to Virginia – we did that one Valentines day, which was kind of strange (laughs). We had a great time. And then with me and Tom Hardy, it was very brotherly, in every way. And Jason Clarke was my drinking buddy the whole time on ‘Lawless,’ I was drinking my ass off the whole time I was making this movie and Jason was with me. Tom always kept his distance, this loving distance….it was so real, I never had to conjure a damn thing, everything was happening. It was amazing, every time you were out of it you just had to look around and you were back, it was so wild.
How did you approach Maggie? I really enjoyed the dynamic between her and Tom Hardy’s Forrest, in particular how he’s the power player in everything except when he’s around Maggie….
Jessica Chastain: I approached Maggie as this woman who came from a very difficult situation, and she finds herself with these three brothers. She’s a woman in this house which is not used to having a female presence at all. Also, because she comes from having a lot of “experience“, she has a way about her that is more the, I guess, she becomes the aggressor towards the male position….which is something the woman typically wouldn’t take in that time. It was interesting for me to see the relationship between Maggie and Forrest. Forrest is so great with violence and aggression, and yet he’s almost feminine in his reaction to her. So in that way their roles are reversed, she takes the power position in their relationship. Maggie’s used to men preying upon her, she’s used to that kind of relationship with men, and then when she meets Forrest, he sits back and he doesn’t know how to handle Maggie.
In the film, Jack is enterprising and eager, he’s trying to find his way, not only as a resourceful young bootlegger but also within the Bondurant clan. He really experiences a spectrum of emotions throughout the course of ‘Lawless’….
Shia LaBeouf: Yeah. I had never played a part like this before. This is a boy becoming a man in many ways. He has his first drink of moonshine, his first kiss. The film is also about a family going through combustion. They’re dealing with many problems all at once; meanwhile, the power balance is shifting from Forrest and Howard to Jack. When you first meet Jack, he’s full of empathy; he lives on a farm and he can’t watch his brothers kill a pig. That empathy is hindering his criminal career, and this is a family of criminals. During that time, bootlegging was the only avenue available to many poor and disenfranchised people. All they had was their skills. For the Bondurant family, their talent was for making liquor.
And he’s fascinated with bootleggers, specifically the Chicago-style gangsters like Gary Oldman’s Floyd Banner. That adds to his drive and ambition….?
Shia LaBeouf: Jack comes from a new generation. He was seeing these Robin Hood-type characters fighting against the government, specifically Prohibition, and succeeding. These were the new Americans. Guys who came from the bottom of the barrel and were able to muscle their way into some kind of foundation where they could not only support their families but their entire communities. This family was spearheading this revolution at the time. The bootlegger was the superhero of that period, especially to someone in his twenties, like Jack.
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