YEAR: 2009

ROLE:  Hank Cahill

DIRECTOR:  Jim Sheridan


Plot Summary

When a decorated Marine goes missing overseas, his black-sheep younger brother cares for his wife and children at home—with consequences that will shake the foundation of the entire family. BROTHERS tells the powerful story of two siblings, thirtysomething Captain Sam Cahill and younger brother Tommy Cahill, who are polar opposites. A Marine about to embark on his fourth tour of duty, Sam is a steadfast family man married to his high school sweetheart, the aptly named Grace, with whom he has two young daughters. Tommy, his charismatic younger brother, is a drifter just out of jail who’s always gotten by on wit and charm. He slides easily into his role as family provocateur on his first night out of prison, at Sam’s farewell dinner with their parents, Elsie and Hank Cahill, a retired Marine.

Film Details
Tobey MAGUIRE.........................Sam Cahill
Jake GYLLENHAAL...............Tommy Cahill
Natalie PORTMAN....................Grace Cahill
Sam SHEPARD..........................Hank Cahilll
Mare WINNINGHAM.................Elsie Cahill

Screenplay..............................Dennis Benioff,
Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen
Length.........................................110 minutes
DVD release.........................March 23, 2010

Publicity Stills
Interview with Sam

Why he chose to work on this film:
It was all around wanting to work with a director like that. The script in itself was very interesting and powerful. It was mainly Jim who was the inspiration for me wanting to do it.

On the movie:
I think it's very classic in its orientation. It's very biblical but an interesting thing is that Jim approaches it in such a deeply personal way that given the circumstances of the story, he makes it extraordinarily personal. And you're never quite sure where he's digging this stuff up but you know it's from experience which is very interesting. He always seems so perplexed about it. He's in a dilemma all the time which is great. I mean he's in the right kind of dilemma, questioning the essence of the story. Where the human factor is.

On the atmosphere the director creates:
I don't know if you're always comfortable. Sometimes you're very uncomfortable but you're inspired because of his dilemma. You almost feel like you have to take care of him (laughing). It's an interesting situation. I never quite felt like that with any other director... He's walking this line between truth and falsehood. It's amazing to work with someone like that. You know That's the way I feel about writing. There's something deeply at stake in it and you don't always feel like that working in film.

On the relationship between Sam and Hank:
I grew up in a military family myself. My dad was in the Air Force and I find it bizarre... this thing... First of all, the brainwashing. That part of it is very bizarre to me. It actually conspires to take the humanity out of an individual, that you're no longer an individual. You're a fighting machine and you no longer have emotions. You no longer have feelings. And yet it's considered a brotherhood and it obviously is. These guys don't leave anybody behind. They're courageous. They have a code of ethics and yet, at the same time, there's this underside of it which is, I feel, a kind of brainwashing where the humanity is sucked out of you in order for you to become a weapon and a number. It has this incredible dichotomy to it, which is part of the dilemma these characters find themselves in.

On co-star Mare Winningham:
Oh, she's wonderful. She's my wife. She's not the actual physical mother of these boys. She's their stepmom. I don't know if it's a needless complication or not but it's kind of interesting because the boys relate to her in a slightly different way than they would if she were their natural mother, and then my relationship. It just throws a kink into the situation which makes it interesting. And Mare, of course, is such a wonderful actress. She just makes the thing happen without a lot of tags on it. She's just there.

On Jim Sheridan:
He's far more patient than I am. He has incredible patience and he's extremely good-natured. I don't think he has a mean bone in his body although he pretends sometimes to have one. As a person, he's quite different than me. I don't have that kind of patience. In fact, I have hardly any patience. (laughing). Consequently, I'm not a very good director. I do it and I force myself to have patience but I think it's either part of your character or it isn't. I think he's endowed with a lot of patience.


Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune:
The film is gripping - an honorable and beautifully acted addition to the tradition of homefront war stories... Sam Shepard, at his intuitive and subtle finest, plays their taciturn father, a retired Marine himself. Typical of the small moments in "Brothers" that make it special: In the cramped kitchen, when Tommy sees his father for the first time in a long while, the muttered words between them speak volumes, quietly.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
Sheridan and his screenplay sources make “Brothers” much more than a drama about war and marriage. It is about what we can forgive ourselves for — and that, too, has been a theme running through Sheridan's films... The principal actors, with Shepard's well-timed and not overacted appearances, make this a specific story about particular people, and it avoids temptations toward melodrama.

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel:
The cast is fascinating, young actors now possessing the dramatic heft to pull something like this off. Maguire, as Sam, comes unhinged in subtle, realistic ways and Gyllenhaal and Portman react to him with a convincing blend of fear and pity. Putting them all at a table with Shepard and veteran character actress Mare Winningham makes for intimate, beautifully played drama.

Film critic James Berardinelli:
Brothers is arguably the most successful remake of a foreign film since Martin Scorsese reworked Infernal Affairs into The Departed and won the Oscar...  Excellent support is provided by Sam Shepard as the military Dad whose past has laid the seeds for the present.

Stephen Whitty, NJ Star Ledger:
Sam Shepard is wonderful in an underwritten part.

Film critic Brian Orndorf:
Shepard is uncharacteristically superlative here as the pained patriarch.

David Edelstein, New York Magazine:
The crosscurrents keep you scanning the frame, from Shepard’s subtly vibrating features (he’s never been better) to the lovely girls, each with her own distinct reaction.

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon:
"When Shepard and Gyllenhaal appear in a scene together, the air around them is charged -  it's as if the searching, vulnerable quality in Tommy's eyes registers as a taunt in the manly-man world of his father.
Sam Shepard as Hank Cahill, the Vietnam vet, who carries his own set of emotional war wounds, delivers an understated and believable performance as a father who overtly favors one son over the other.

Jonathan Kiefer, The Faster Times:
With Sam Shepard in its cast, we’re not wrong to hope for something more poetic and philosophical... I mentioned Shepard not just because he’s written great plays involving manly, ghostly, family drama, but because his presence is what’s best about “Brothers.” Yes, Gyllenhaal has some nice moments of drunken desperation and amends-making; and Maguire acts his heart out, or at least bugs his eyes out, during imperative breakdown scenes; and Portman sharpens the blade of her beauty into recognizable signifiers of maternal inclination and grief; but Shepard’s portrayal of the young men’s father, a favorite-playing combat-veteran Marine himself, is the movie’s anchor. He’s the faded patriarch, at once burrowed into old grudges and woundedly aloof, and this marvelously coiled-up performance precludes all the potential cliches. Mare Winningham, underused, plays the brothers’ mother, but it’s in Shepard’s face and testy manner that the full family backstory is

Betty Jo Tucker, Reel Talk Reviews:
Supporting cast members Sam Shepard and Mare Winningham are excellent as Sam and Tommy’s parents. Shepard’s unsympathetic turn helps us see how wrong it is to love one child more than another and to constantly compare them.

Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Sam Shepard is fine as the brothers' dad, a temperamental Vietnam vet.

Jase Howell, Chicago Reporter:
Sam Shepard also turns in a finely-tuned performance he predicates on facial features and soft tones that convey everything he is thinking and saying, with minimal dialogue.
Both Sam Shepard and Mare Winningham are terrific and very believable. Shepard is especially good as the dad who plays favorites and drinks too much.
The principal actors, with Shepard's well-timed and not overacted appearances, make this a specific story about particular people, and it avoids temptations toward melodrama.

Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Brothers" is a heartbreaking film that speaks to the lifelong aftershocks of war, and to the powerful bonds of family and of love... Sam Shepard is this bitter, taciturn man, and it's a fine portrayal.

Frank Swietek, One Guy's Opinion:
The performances are solid and sincere across the board, with Maguire in particular showing a real change of pace as an initially good-natured man who returns from the horror of combat with a frighteningly steely exterior cloaking the simmering rage within. The other outstanding contributions come from Shepard as the father who must come to terms with the fact that his sternness might have ruined each of his sons in different ways, and Madison, whose ability to convey the emotional shifts in the older daughter is quite remarkable for a child.

Ann Nicholson, IE Weekly:
Sam's dad (a great Sam Shepard) takes to drink...

Peter Sobczynski,
Sam Shepard is effective as the emotionally taciturn father.

National Public Radio:
The crosscurrents keep you scanning the frame — to watch the subtly vibrating face of Shepard, who has never been better, or the two wonderful girls. Actors in Sheridan’s movies are fully engaged, thinking hard in character, and you feel as if you’re inside their heads. For this great director, empathy seems to come as naturally as breathing.

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Shepard's ramrod old soldier is as abrasive as 40-grit sandpaper; he deserves more time onscreen.

Jeffery M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid:
The performances are fine, including Sam Shepard as the boys' alcoholic dad.

Diana Saenger, Review Express:
Shepard, an amazing actor, can make us think he’s a billboard.

Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post:
Sam Shepard, by the way, turns in a fine performance as Sam and Tommy's emotionally distant, Vietnam-veteran father.