YEAR: 2013

ROLE:  Tom Blankenship

DIRECTOR:  Jeff Nichols

US PREMIERE:  Sundance Film Festival 2013

Plot Summary

A pair of inquisitive adolescents encounter a charismatic drifter with an incredible story.  Ellis and Neckbone  are exploring along the mighty Mississippi when they stumble upon a small island inhabited by Mud, a desperado who claims to be on the run from brutal bounty hunters after killing a man in Texas. According to Mud, his true love Juniper  is awaiting his arrival in town, and together they plan to make a daring escape. Fascinated, the two boys agree to help Mud slip past his pursuers, despite the potential dangers of doing so.

Film Details
Matthew MCCONAUGHEY................ Mud
Sarah PAULSON...........................Mary Lee
Tye SHERIDAN.....................................Ellis
Michael SHANNON............................Galen
Reese WITHERSPOON.....................Juniper
Ray MCKINNON..............................Senior

Written by..............Jeff Nichols

DVD Release
Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View on August 6, 2013.

Blu-ray/DVD Special Features:
Audio commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Nichols
"A Very Personal Tale: Writing and Directing Mud" featurette
"The Arkansas Ensemble: The Distinctive Characters and Cast of Mud" featurette
"Southern Authenticity: Shooting the Real Arkansas" featurette
"The Snake Pit: The Slithering Costars of Mud" featurette

Production Notes:

Film Production began in Arkansas on September 26, 2011, with an eight-week shoot ending on November 19. Filmed in various locations in southeast Arkansas including Dumas, Dewitt, Lake Village, Crocketts Bluff and Stuttgart, it is the largest production ever to be filmed in the state. About half of the 100-plus cast and crew working on the film were Arkansas residents, and the filmmakers hired more than 400 locals as extras. Nichols admitted that he was a huge fan of Matthew McConaughey and enjoyed working with him immensely. He called Reese Witherspoon “a character actor in a movie star’s body”, but singled out Sam Shepard as “an American Legend”, enthusing about his skills and experience. Here are a couple photos showing Jeff Nichols directing his stars.

Publicity Stills & Posters



Mondo poster



Cameron McAllister, Reel Georgia:
"Structurally similar and overflowing with character, the film would fit right in alongside the works of Elia Kazan from the 1950's and 60's. The visual elegance achieved through harnessing the sunkissed Americana is reminiscent of 'The Tree of Life,' despite Malick's broader scale and sprawling esotericism. Director of photography Adam Stone, having worked with Nichols on all previous films, gives us his best work yet - capturing the tree crowns, sand dunes and swift currents of the river with a colorful sophistication. The oxbows and islands of the Mighty Mississippi comprise as exotic a location as any American film could hope for, rivaling 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' in visual novelty... It's nice to see Sam Shepard aging into these kinds of roles - perfectly tailored but showcasing a finespun range."

Matthew Odam, Austin Statesman:
"Can you imagine a better actor to portray a charming ex-con with stars in his eyes and poetry in his heart than Matthew McConaughey? Or a better actor to play a fresh-faced teen confronted with the difficulties of marriage and the pain of first rejection than Tye Sheridan? And who could play a grizzled ol’ cuss and father figure better than Sam Shepard?"

Joel D. Amos, Movie Fanatic:
"Writer-director Jeff Nichols astounds us again after his stellar work on his last film, the Michael Shannon starring 'Take Shelter'... Shepard, as usual, gives us his steely grace -- why isn’t this guy working more?!"

A.A. Dowd, Time Out Chicago:
"The movie works best when just quietly tracing the rhythms of its richly sketched milieu... fine turns by Sam Shepard as an aged sharpshooter, Nichols regular Michael Shannon doing his usual oddball thing, and the good-in-everything-these-days McConaughey."

Erlingur Gretar, Filmophilia:
"The story is a simple one, some would say cliched, others classic, but it is filled with fleshed out, intriguing and empathetic characters... Sam Shepard pops up and delights as Tom Blankenship, a man with a complicated connection to Mud."

Tom Basham, Potomac Local News
"Sam Shepard shines as Tom Blankenship, the guy who raised Mud and sees him as a train wreck. He does not know whether to help or run in the other direction."

Dan O'Neill, Delco News:
"Nichols assembled a fine cast which includes Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon. But the one who really steals the spotlight away from them all is Sam Shepard."

David Denby, New Yorker:
"The movie is formally plotted, with many symmetries and variations; children without parents is the dominant structural device. But it also has its rough and scraggly look, and actors with the worn faces of hard-working country people - especially Sam Shepard as a mysterious old man living on the other side of the river from Ellis, and Sarah Paulson as Ellis’s mother. Nichols has developed a talent for intimacy and for continuous tension—he could be developing into one of the great movie storytellers."

Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
"It is a boys’ adventure story graced with magical realism and touched up with some gritty Southern naturalism. It is indisputably one of the best films of its rare type, a thoughtful and accessible movie that might be enjoyed (and even cherished) by all ages... Sam Shepard shows up as yet another complicated father figure, and he gives the part his full attention."

Jason Solomons, The Guardian:
"The boys are beautifully played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. The teenagers' thrill and adventure in secretly aiding Mud gives the film a Huckleberry Finn-ish flavour that blends with something akin to Rob Reiner's 1986 classic Stand By Me and Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter... Writer-director Nichols, working with cinematographer Adam Stone, succeeds in capturing the life and the geography of his locale, its beauty and its dangers...Mud is a very fine film about innocence, father figures and love, a work that manages to be thrilling, unsentimental and emotionally rewarding."

Ned Lannamann, Portland Mercury
"The best parts of Mud all involve the two kids, but there are some terrific supporting performances, too: a steely Sam Shepard as the creepy old man who lives across the river, and a hilarious Michael Shannon as Neckbone's philandering uncle."

Ann Hornaday, Daily Herald
"The film is drenched in the humidity and salty air of a Delta summer, often recalling the musical, aphoristic cadences of Sam Shepard, who happens to appear in a supporting role."

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph:
"There is much to admire here. McConaughey invests the title role with a gravelly drawl and quaggy charisma and both of the youngsters are excellent. Nichols also seasons his script with a generous shaking of good ol’, down-home, Southern-fried symbolism... Adam Stone, Nichols’ regular cinematographer, shoots the delta in anamorphic 35mm, and draws out the timeless beauty of the landscape with its hazy light and soil the colour of rust and oxidised copper."

Roger Moore, Movie Nation: 
The cinema’s leading purveyor of Southern Gothic, Jeff Nichols, hands Matthew McConaughey his latest tour de force turn in 'Mud', a down and dirty melodrama... Nichols has cooked up an exotic stew that includes obsessive love, a woman unworthy of it, a criminal on the run and coming of age tale set against a dying way of life in backwaters Arkansas. Great performances by McConaughey, a Britney-trashy Reese Witherspoon, a couple of kids, Sam Shepard and Ray McKinnon mark this as one not to miss."

James Mottram, The List:
"Benefitting from McConaughey on a hot streak, Nichols also draws fine naturalistic turns from his two spirited teenagers. There are small but vital contributions from Sam Shepard and Nichols regular Michael Shannon, while Witherspoon brings understated poignancy to her role. By Nichols’ already high standards, this feels a minor work – but it’s been made with love."

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:
"Nichols gets winning performances from everybody, including Sam Shepard, as a mysterious old man with secrets and hidden talents, and Michael Shannon, who is odd and funny in his brief appearances."

Film critic Susan Granger:
"After starring in four films last year, Matthew McConaughey continues to ooze irresistible charm, explaining how he had to murder his girlfriend’s abusive ex-boyfriend. Sam Shepard appears briefly but convincingly, offering support for Mud, yet it’s a shame that Reese Witherspoon’s fickle, trampy part is so underwritten."

"Sam Shepard also gives a standout performance as Ellis’ neighbor, Tom Blankenship, who has a mysterious past with Mud. Shepard plays the part with just the right amount of stoicism and pain."

Peter Debruge, Variety:
"One part The Night of the Hunter, two parts Huckleberry Finn, Mud may be born of the same rustic sensibility that fueled everyone from Andrew Wyeth to Terrence Malick, but Nichols expresses this outlook in a decidedly personal way."

Kristopher Tapley, HitFix:
"Nichols, truly gifted with actors, gets stellar performances across the board. Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson all shine, and even fleeting work from Michael Shannon and the great Joe Don Baker leaves you wanting more... This one found a place inside me and it's staying there. I can just tell. And I hope when it comes around your way, you feel similarly."

Matt Goldberg, Collider:
"Jeff Nichols‘ 'Mud' almost has it all. It’s a sweet coming-of-age story, an adventure, a crime-thriller, and a romance. Lead actors Tye Sheridan and Matthew McConaughey give outstanding performances as a boy and a man, respectively, who bristle when the world won’t conform to the mythic journey they’ve envisioned. Nichols gives the movie a sweet, soft, and loving tone that takes the best of identity of the Deep South (i.e. avoids racism), and uses it as a rich backdrop for a captivating tale."

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice:
"McConaughey is credible as Mud, the romantic dreamer, and Sam Shepard puts in a notable performance as a tough old man who provides needed support for the fugitive when he needs it most."

Chris Bumbray, JoBlo:
"As usual for a Nichols movie, MUD is stunningly photographed, having been shot by Adam Stone, in a way that's more stylized than TAKE SHELTER. The casting is also pitch-perfect, with Witherspoon having a meatier part than she's had in years, even though she probably only has about fifteen minutes of screen-time. Nichols' usual leading man, Michael Shannon has a welcome, extended cameo as Neckbone's neer'do well, but kindly uncle- who works as a pearl diver when not seducing the local gals by playing “Help Me Rhonda” by The Beach Boys, or playing hilariously bad on his electric guitar. Meanwhile, Sam Shepard comes along and steals every scene he's in as Mud's pseudo father figure- who Mud claims is an ex-C.I.A assassin- and just may in fact be that."

Film critic Anthony Marcusa:
"Mud is a marked departure for McConaughey, and though he does take off his shirt, the character is tender, yet powerful, and you can’t but help to root for him. Director Jeff Nichols brings out the best in his characters, expertly balancing innocence and guilt, charming the audiences here and there. Winning performances, a compelling yet simple story that is dramatic but not overdramatic, and endearing characters make for a stellar combination."

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
"Sam Shepard puts far more than his recent norm into his acute characterization of a man who may or may not be Mud’s real father and may or may not have been a government hit man."

Hillary Weston, Black Book:
"In their Cannes review, The Film Stage claimed that  'imperfect as it may be, it marks a step forward for Nichols as a filmmaker capable of making big entertainment that retains some intelligence and a palpable message as well.' And if you aren't sold already, Sam Shepard is also in the film and, let's face it, that's reason enough."

Robert Bell, Exclaim, ca:
"Shot with a classical eye that frames each shot beautifully, but without any distracting or imposing viewpoint, there is a timeless nature to 'Mud' that matches the overriding, universal themes perfectly. As characters repeat cycles of damaging behaviour, or acknowledge their need to escape the unbalanced and emotionally abusive relationships they've trapped themselves in, similarly believing in the myth of romantic love, there is a pained observation that not all things in life are worth fighting for... there is a powerful unifying worldly understanding and tone here that demonstrates Nichols' implicit talent and strong voice."