The lines between indie and studio films are blurring further and further each year as independent movies are brought to the Sundance Film Festival and immediately picked up by studios in hopes they can break out and become mainstream hits.
One filmmaker who has remained almost fiercely independent is So Yong Kim, whose first two films In Between Days and Treeless Mountain featured unknown non-actors and dealt with small stories of people in other cultures. (Kim also produced and helped edit her husband Bradley Rust Gray’s movies The Exploding Girl and the upcoming Jack and Diane.)
For her third film For Ellen, she has brought established actors into her style of filmmaking, most notably actor (and the film’s executive producer) Paul Dano, who plays Joby Taylor, a rocker who returns to his hometown in the Midwest to finalize the divorce with his ex-wife (Margareta Levieva), but has misgivings when he realizes he’ll never have a chance to connect with his daughter Ellen (newcomer Shaylena Mandingo).
Dano gives a performance that’s funny at times, poignant at others and many will agree that it’s possibly the best role he’s played, maybe because Joby is so different from his own personality and he goes through such a complex and powerful character arc. What’s really amazing is seeing Dano playing a father and his scenes opposite newcomer Shaylena Mandigo as his daughter Ellen, which are incredibly powerful. The movie also stars an unrecognizable Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as Joby’s young and inexperienced lawyer.
ComingSoon.net sat down with director and actor a couple weeks back and in the video interview below, we discussed:
* Why So Yong Kim wanted to do a movie with established actors
* How Paul first met So and read the script as a friend before pitching himself to play the role, which was written for an older actor
* If they modeled Joby after any specific musician
* How Kim approached telling a story that’s from a male perspective
* Whether this was more scripted than her previous films
* How they found young actress Shaylena Mandingo and how they worked with her on the tough material
* Paul talks about playing a father for the first time
* Casting Jon Heder in a very different role from what we’ve expected from him
* Talking about Paul’s impressive dance moves and getting a Whitesnake song for it
* Paul talks a bit about Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, saying it’s a much bigger scale than his last two movies
* Paul talks about making a movie where you don’t know how it’s going to end up after editing
* So Yong talks about the VOD aspect of the film’s release
For Ellen opens on Wednesday at the Film Forum in New York City.