Scott Cooper Out of the Furnace Interview
Scott Cooper Out of the Furnace Interview
Out of the Furnace is a film starring Christian Bale as a man recently on release from prison, whose Iraq War veteran younger brother, played by Casey Affleck, has disappeared, forcing him to take revenge on the man he suspects has killed him. Directed by Scott Cooper, he talks here to View’s Matthew Turner about his personal experiences influencing his work, how much he admires his actors and how is influenced by European flimmakers most of all.
Where did the idea come from?

Scott Cooper

A very personal experience. I lost a sibling at a young age, have been touched by tragedy and loss, as many people have. And I thought it was important to wrap some of those things into a very personal narrative. And that could be painful, but also ultimately cathartic - the process of writing and filming things that have happened in your life.
At what point did [co-writer] Brad Ingelsby come on board?

Scott Cooper

There was an existing script that I was offered that Brad had written. I thought it was a well-written piece but I had politely declined. Then [Leonardo] DiCaprio and Ridley Scott came back and said, 'Why don't you tell a story about a man who gets out of prison and avenges the law for a loved one?', and that was the seed for Brad's script. I said I know people who've been in prison, and having lost a sibling myself, if I can write a very personal narrative I'll do that. And they said yes. At that point, Mr Ingelsby's script was set aside, never to be referred to again.
So it's not like you wrote it together, it's more that you approached it separately?

Scott Cooper

Yeah, it doesn't even resemble the first script.
You have a fantastic cast, how did you come to cast Christian Bale?

Scott Cooper

I wrote it for Christian, having never met him. But I admired his work and thought that I wanted to see a side of Christian that I hadn't seen in his work. A deep sense of vulnerability, a gentleness, a very paternalistic quality, combined with the courage and strength that I'd seen from him. I sent him the screenplay and a letter, much like I wrote Crazy Heart for Jeff Bridges. I was fortunate enough to get them both.
And Casey Affleck?

Scott Cooper

Casey is one of our most underused and underrated actors. Once I had Christian we discussed whom to cast as his brother - it was critical that we got Casey. Casey is very high-pitched, I wanted someone that could play that torment. Without playing it on the nose. And someone who could act a great deal non-verbally. Christian and Casey are wonderful at that.
That really comes across.

Scott Cooper

I don't ever want the film to be a message film. I want the audience to be engaged and fill in the ellipses. Some people like it, some people don't.
And Woody Harrelson?

Scott Cooper

Woody, one of our great actors who we typically see in kind or humorous or gentle roles. I wanted to see him access the psychopathy that we all have deep in the crevices of our heart. I wanted to subvert expectations by showing Woody in a completely different manner. His wife didn't want him to play the part at first. She'd have to live with that headspace for two months. But he goes in head first. It was a very thrilling performance.
Given that the script is so personal to you, did you insist that the actors stuck to the script as it was written?

Scott Cooper

Yeah, you also allow actors the freedom to improvise if it's going to help them unlock something that what I've written doesn't. They would do several takes when they were improvising, but then ultimately they would come back to what was written on the page. You want to give actors as much free rein as you can. You want them to feel a sense of trust, allow them to take big risks and fail if need be. When you're working with actors that are this talented, you try to give them a lot of leeway. When they get in trouble, you try to direct them in ways that you think would be helpful.
What was the hardest thing to get right in the whole process?

Scott Cooper

Sticking to the tone. It's a grim film, there's a certain bleakness to the world. Not falling prey to wanting to please people. Most audiences prefer to be uplifted and entertained. This is a film that is searingly realistic. Being able to stick to exactly what I told the actors I was going for, that's never easy when you know that a film like this could be pulverising, when you're making it. Fortunately a great deal of people who I admire greatly really have embraced the film.
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Content updated: 17/10/2019 14:53

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