Interview on location for "Out of the Furnace"

Are you shooting today?

Sam: Yep. I have shot already.

Were you in the scene with Willem and Casey that we saw? Or were you in a separate location?

No, I was with Christian and Tom [Bower] in the bar.

Can you tell us whatís happening in that scene?

Shepard: [laughs] Very boring. Very, very boring. Just information. Itís really just an information scene that motivates us to go to the Ramapo Mountains to look for the younger brother when we find out that heís in debt from gambling.

And you play their uncle?


Are you from the steel mill background as well?

I think everybody is, yeah. I donít work in it directly in the film. Iím sort of retired.

Were you at the steel mill that closed? Is that part of your backstory?

Possibly, yeah, but thatís not part of the story.

What was it about this film that drew you to the project?

The script, it was a good script.

As a director in your own right, whatís it been like working with Scott Cooper and are you impressed with him?

I mainly direct theater, plays and stuff. I couldnít put myself in the same category as him being a filmmaker. My whole approach to acting is through theater, so itís a quite different take, so itís hard to compare.

How is he with working with the actors?

Oh, very good. Heís full of enthusiasm, for sure. He has tons of enthusiasm. Heís always very helpful and he knows the script inside and out, which always helps. He knows the storyline, he knows the characters, he wrote the damn thing, so he really knows it very well. Itís always useful to talk with him prior to shooting so you understand the sequence and where youíre going, which I have a hard time keeping track sometimes.

As a writer, what spoke to you about the script?

I love the script. Itís very original. The characters are well-drawn. The situation, the predicament of it, having to deal with bare-knuckle fighting Ö I donít know how much of it you want to give away. Itís a unique script. I see a lot of scripts and very few of them leap off the page at you.

And this did?

Oh yeah. Itís full of very well-defined characters. Consequently, with fantastic actors to play the role.

For this role, did you have to do a lot of research?

I think we did make a stab at trying some of the colloquialisms, trying some of the vernacular. Itís a strange little neck of the woods. I donít know if you all are from Pittsburgh or not, but there are some words that are very Southern and almost Irish, for example ďflourĒ, and stuff like that. ďYinzĒ for ďyíallĒ like in the deeper South theyíd say, ďyíallĒ, here they say ďyinzĒ. Things like that that are useful in organizing the way you speak and itís not simply for authenticity, itís also the rhythm and the structure that gives a different feel.

How would you describe your relationship with both Casey and Christian, and their characters?

Well Iíve done a film with Casey, the Jesse James film, so I know him pretty well, I mean I know him better than most of the other actors. Iíve never worked with Christian before, but heís very easy to work with and heís very single-minded, you might say. Caseyís a little harder to pin down.

Is that good, as an actor? Single-minded?

I really admire his forthrightness in the way he approaches the character. Iím not a method actor, so I sometimes have a hard time manipulating around that thing. I donít even know if heís a method actor or not, but I know that his approach is quite different than mine.

How much improv have you guys been doing?

Very little. And thatís another token of the script being good. You sometimes improvise because there isnít anything on the page, or whatís on the page doesnít really work. Itís not the case with this.

Given the setting of this and the fact that it deals with a war veteran, it seems like thereís a sense of ďAmerican-nessĒ to this story, in that middle-of-America story that doesnít get told a lot. Does that resonate with you in any way?

Oh yes, itís an extremely American movie. I canít think of it being done Ö I suppose there are some similarities in Ireland or northern England, the industrialized areas that have collapsed, but itís extremely American.

Is that part of the appeal for you?

Yeah, I love doing American movies. [laughs]

But there are some American movies that arenít about real Americans. This feels much more honest.

Yeah, theyíre American Hollywood movies. Theyíre cartoon characters.

You say thereís not a lot of improv. We saw a scene with Casey and Willem earlierÖ

Casey loves to improv.

We heard Scott saying that he wanted Casey to try different things.

Yeah, Caseyís very clever at that. Iím not so good at that. Heís very good at that.

Has he been doing that in scenes with you and Casey?

I think Iíve only had one scene with Casey when we were actually in the same scene.

This takes place over quite a few years. Itís something Iíve had a hard time [visualizing].

Well, itís fairly condensed. There are generations that come and go, but itís not like Doctor Zhivago or anything. [laughs]

How would you describe the relationship between your character and Christianís character?

Iím his uncle, Iím kinda like an older brother to him. Heís the real responsible character in the story. Heís trying to clean up around his brother.