By Mark Walters
Earlier this year, the Texas Film Awards honored Richardson native David Gordon Green for his achievements as a director. The 38-year-old writer and director launched his film career with the indie flick George Washington in 2000 and followed that with more independent work, as well as mainstream fare, like the big budget Pineapple Express. His latest effort, Joe, screens at the Dallas International Film Festival, with a compelling story and a strong cast featuring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan (Mud).
Based on the Larry Brown's novel of the same name, Joe is a character piece in about a man a man on the run whose encounter with a young boy forces him to face his past. The story is set in the South and to give it a Western Noir mood, Green knew early on that he'd want to shoot the entire film in and around Austin, where he currently resides.
"I really wanted it to have a raw 'Southern' authenticity and not necessarily a Hollywood polish," Green says. "[I] wanted to make sure these characters felt like they were of the real world."
Last month the film premiered at South By Southwest where Sheridan's performance left critics impressed. The young boy Joe (Cage) meets on the run, Sheridan's Gary is an abused son who bottles up his home rage until he can't take it anymore. The characters find redemption in one another, which leads the film to its climax.
One of the biggest challenges Green faced in bringing this story to the screen was approaching the world of the story with a certain veracity. With the dramatic muscle of Cage and Sheridan at the forefront, casting the supporting characters proved to be a challenge. When it came to finding actor to play Sheridan's father, he auditioned quite a few well-known actors before casting Gary Poulter, a homeless man.
"I didn't want the cynical Hollywood villain. I wanted a somebody that felt sad in a way, and had a depth and darkness behind his eyes, rather than just a guy who was gonna roll up his sleeves and chew on a bad guy role," Green says.
Why Green was drawn to Poulter is evident when he is on screen. His presence is strong and haunting, easily matching the gravitas of many notable Silver Screen veterans. Poulter passed away just two months after filming, his real-life fate tragically mirroring the story of his onscreen persona.
"I think Gary is one of those guys who when you're watching, your eyes are always drawn to him, no matter how much dialogue he has, he has a certain energy about him," Sheridan says. "He really set a tone and stayed that way through the whole shoot."
Joe screens at the Angelika Film Center in Mockingbird Station, 7 p.m. Friday, April 4 as part of the Dallas International Film Festival. Sheridan and Green will participate in a Q&A directly following the film.
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