A Father’s Legacy is out today in theaters and stars Tobin Bell and Jason Mac, who also directed and wrote the film’s script. The story revolves around a wanted criminal that winds up coming across a hermit in the woods. Acting as a father figure, the old man helps turn the life around of Mac’s character, but things aren’t so simple for a man on the run.
“An inspirational story of family, loyalty, and redemption,” says the official synopsis. “After years of searching for his father, a young man, on the run from the law, finds his way into the life of a secluded old man in the woods. As the days go by and secrets about their past are revealed, they realize they may not have been looking for each other but they were brought together for a reason.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with A Father’s Legacy star Tobin Bell about the film‘s meaning, what filming was like in South Carolina, and his surprising past in environmental science.
Tyler Treese: I was really impressed by A Father’s Legacy and the film revolves so much around fatherhood. As a father yourself, what really attracted you to this role?
Tobin Bell: As you know, I play a guy named Billy Ford. He’s a guy who’s lived a long life. He spends most of the film reflecting on his experiences and the choices that he’s made in his life, and he’s gone on his own for a long time. … This is not a cookie-cutter film. It’s entertaining as hell, but there are some real experiences in it that I think people can relate to. We’ve all got our problems, but recognizing the impact that our choices have on others, that can be humbling. Whether you’re a father, going to be a father, whether you’re somebody’s daughter, in some kind of a broken relationship, no matter who you are, there’s something in this film for you, I think, and that’s why I did it the first place.
I just thought it was a special kind of message, especially after this whole year that we’ve been living through. We all experience different kinds of tragedies and crises in our lives, but it’s about how we get up. Nick, played by Jason Mac has taken a fall, and it’s a tough situation for him. So What goes on between Billy and Nick, this old guy who has lived in this cabin for a long time, and all of a sudden this young guy who’s on the run, busts into his cabin. It’s about how their relationship develops over the next week or 10 days.
Very true that it is relatable. There’s a lot in the film. I didn’t really have my father in my life. So a lot of it hit home from that perspective too. This was obviously a very personal film for Jason and he puts on a great performance as well. Can you just speak to getting to work with him and the story that he created?
He’s a very dedicated guy. I don’t know how much you know about the film business, but it’s getting something from a script to getting produced is not an easy thing to do. You’ve got a guy in Jason Mac who’s very organized, and you gotta be when you’re juggling multiple balls like he was. Jason wrote it, he was the director, and he produced it. Then he played Nick, the main character in the story. So I give him a lot of credit and particularly I’d have to say as a writer because it came out of his heart. It came out of his experience and there’s a lot of value in it.
The fact that he was able to juggle all those balls and ride herd on a crew of 20 people in 100-degree weather surrounded by swarms of gnats. We were in Sumter, South Carolina in gnat season. So you’d be in the middle of a take and they’d be flying into your mouth then into your eyes. One of the scenes took place digging a spillway and it was 100 degrees and we were digging this so that the pond wouldn’t flood the house. It was all part of the story, but it was an intensive environment. I give Jason a lot of credit for his dedication and the amount of work he did to get this thing done.
We really see that throughout the film. Your character and the relationship you have with Jason’s character is very unique because your character has made mistakes as a father and as a husband. It weighs on him and then this misunderstood young man that’s making his own mistakes shows up at his door. He’s a criminal. and he decides to take him in. Well, not really by choice, but they develop a relationship and they really touch each other’s lives. Can you speak to that relationship? Two characters finding that unlikely bond.
You never know where something’s going to lead. Sometimes it has to do with time and place. AIn this instance, I remember at the beginning of the film, Billy says something, he’s standing there drinking a cup of coffee on the porch, and he is praying. He says, “You can take me anytime you want, I’m ready to go.” I think he means it. He’s pretty much at the end of his life. Then when he thinks it’s all over, boom. Some of the threads that are out there hanging and dangling. His own mistakes, his own inadequacies, his own lack of communication with his own kids.
This young guy comes into his house and he pulls those threads together in some way and finds some sort of resolution to the things. So I feel like the development of his character is very rewarding in many ways. I think the film is beautifully shot and amidst all of the fare that is out there these days. I think it’s a great value. I showed the script to my elderly mother who was 99 and a half in Massachusetts when I first received it and talked to her about it a little bit. I knew that it was something that she would want to watch and I think it’s a good form for you if you’re 14 or if you’re a father or a daughter or whatever. I think there’s a lot of texture to it that I think is important.
That’s incredible and I agree with your points. It’s such a great film. You’re so well known for playing villainous characters and here you’re such a caring, emotional role. As an actor, what challenges come with showing such vulnerability and how did you approach that?
I approach every role that I play, whether he’s as you call it a villainous character or this one the same way, You want to know who am I? Aware of what do I want, when do I want it, how am I going to get it? I ask a lot of questions and I start answering those questions, and then those open up more questions. You never have answered all the questions by the time the camera rolls, but hopefully, you’ve answered enough of them so that you can play the character without going completely insane and feeling like a fake actor. I always want to be as grounded and believable, credible as if it were happening for the first time, every scene, when in fact it might be the 30th take whatever. Actors portray the human condition and no matter what the situation is, whether they’re in jeopardy or whether they’re causing jeopardy, whether they’re on the run, whether they’re loving or supporting, it’s all a question of doing your homework.
I really love the analogy that fishing plays in the film and about how your father is supposed to teach you to fish and ultimately your character does teach Jason’s character how to fish. Do you fish yourself or are you much of a fisherman?
You know, I don’t now, but I have spent a lot of time in my life when I was young, maybe around, 12-13 in upstate New York, fishing in ponds and lakes and reservoirs. I took a master’s degree at a certain point in time in environmental science and I conducted some educational programs for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in New York. So we would collect fish from the Hudson River to show to students and that there was life in the river that needed to be protected. So I’ve spent a huge amount of time fishing in various ways, not always with a rod and reel. When I was working on the Hudson, we used large fish tanks, seine nets, and eel traps and all kinds of things. Of course, we put them all back after we had shown them to the kids. Our finned friends have been a large part of my life.
That’s amazing. I had no clue about that. Finally, I just wanted to ask if you saw Spiral and what, what your thoughts are on the Saw series continuing?
I have not seen Spiral, but I know I know what a talented and imaginative guy that Chris Rock is. So I can’t imagine that it doesn’t open a sort of a window into another kind of window. My understanding is it’s not really a Saw film it’s kind of in the Saw universe. Having not seen it, I can’t really comment on it, except that anything that keeps Saw in the minds of people, and God knows the fans out there are incredibly dedicated to that franchise, will only focus attention on it. So Spiral is in the rearview now and we’ll see what happens moving forward.