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Cannes: Shia Labeouf Talks The "Messy, Dirty, Realistic" Violence Of 'Lawless' & John Hillcoat Explains How Guy Pearce Scared Nick Cave's Kids

The Playlist By Benjamin Wright | The Playlist May 25, 2012 at 2:24PM

For fans of Australian helmer John Hillcoat, it’s been a long wait since his last film, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel “The Road” in 2009. However, it looks like patience has paid off with his latest film, “Lawless,” which tells the tale of the Depression-era Bondurant brothers whose successful bootlegging operation in Franklin County, Virginia is soon threatened by authorities who are looking to cut their profits. Based on the novel “The Wettest County In the World” (which the film was originally titled), written by Matt Bondurant—grandson of one of the main characters in the novel—"Lawless," penned by famed musician and screenwriter Nick Cave, had its world premiere at Cannes last weekend. The film was received with a significant amount of praise, with our own writer saying “as far as top-tier storytelling goes, it doesn't get much better than this.”
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Lawless Press Conference

For fans of Australian helmer John Hillcoat, it’s been a long wait since his last film, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel “The Road” in 2009. However, it looks like patience has paid off with his latest film, “Lawless,” which tells the tale of the Depression-era Bondurant brothers whose successful bootlegging operation in Franklin County, Virginia is soon threatened by authorities who are looking to cut their profits. Based on the novel “The Wettest County In the World” (which the film was originally titled), written by Matt Bondurant—grandson of one of the main characters in the novel—"Lawless," penned by famed musician and screenwriter Nick Cave, had its world premiere at Cannes last weekend. The film was received with a significant amount of praise, with our own writer saying “as far as top-tier storytelling goes, it doesn't get much better than this.” 

The cast and crew—including John Hillcoat, Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Guy Pearce—assembled before the eager Cannes press to chat about the film following its first public screening; and below are five highlights from that press conference. "Lawless" is set for release by The Weinstein Company on August 29th.

1. While Hillcoat is certainly no stranger to the kind of gritty violence Cave was attracted to, the screenwriter and actors were particularly impressed with his approach
Lead actor Shia LaBeouf detailed the extent of the training for the film’s fight scenes and gunplay, simply stating, “There wasn’t a lot of fight training, the fight scene I did with Guy [Pearce], that was really organic, and it happened really fast. That’s the way that Hillcoat does his violence, it’s messy, it’s dirty, and it’s realistic – so it’s not rehearsed like a ballet, it’s rough around the edges.” Sounds like a far cry from the calculated insanity of his work with Michael Bay on the “Transformers” films, but Nick Cave agreed with LaBeouf’s sentiments. “I’m not that interested in violence per se in films, a lot of it is very tedious and boring, but there’s something about the way John Hillcoat deals with violence that I find really exciting right from the start,” said Cave. He added that Hillcoat’s relationship with violence is “so exciting and refreshing” because “it’s very brutal, very quick, it’s all over very fast, but it leaves a huge mess behind.” 

2. While they deal illicit alcohol in the film, Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf demurred when asked directly about their thoughts on the subject
When posed a question regarding their thoughts on prohibition apart from the film, Hardy led the discussion by musing, “As the professional—in retirement—I’m not sure about the drugs and drinks stance, I wouldn’t want to make any political statements or anything. There’s a good argument to be said to legalize drugs, and there’s also a not-so-great argument to do the opposite.” Both Hardy and LaBeouf have a checkered past with substance abuse that thankfully seems to be behind them, with Hardy ending the awkward questioning by simply saying “whatever floats your boat, just don’t get caught.” Labeouf was less humorous about the matter, choosing instead to go with the classic “Next question.”

3. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska revealed they were attracted to the outsider nature of their characters
Chastain assumes the role of Maggie, who she saw as “this woman who came from a very difficult situation, and she’s finds herself with these three brothers. She’s a woman all of a sudden in this house where they aren’t used to having a female presence. Also, because she comes from a lot of experience, she has a way about her that’s more the aggressor—the male position—that typically the women wouldn’t take.” Wasikowska spoke to the sort of roles that typically attract her, from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Lawless,” saying, “I always find myself drawn to characters that feel a little bit at odds with the time they live in. Particularly female characters that are fighting society or the time period they live in is always interesting to me.”

4. Chastain was excited to be back in Cannes in 2012, an event which marks an incredible journey for the actress over the past year
With both “Lawless” and summer blockbuster “Madagascar 3” (where she lends her voice talents) debuting at Cannes this year, Chastain says, “It’s amazing to be back. It’s kind of the marker on the last 12 months. Cannes is very special to me because it was like my introduction to the business in a way. You know when ‘The Tree of Life’ premiered at that premiere with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, it was the beginning of those 12 months. To be back again with another film that I love so much—and ‘Madagascar,’ which I also love—is great.” Though Chastain did showcase a bit of her humbleness, which seems refreshing coming from a talent who’s quickly becoming a precious Hollywood commodity, “I can’t imagine every year I’ll be back here with two films, I’m just happy to be back.”

5. A picture of Guy Pearce's menacing Charlie Rakes frightened Nick Cave's kids 
The striking image of Pearce with buzzed hair and eyebrows gave many viewers the creeps as they checked out the trailer for “Lawless.” While screenwriter Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat credit Pearce for the campy hair styling, Pearce explains, “Something was on the page that inspired the haircut. There was just a quality to this character where, I felt he was just so caught up in his own judgment of the world—and his own distaste and disgust about everything around him—and his vanity played a big part in that. I felt he had a really obscure view of the world through that, and John and I talked [about that], and there was some things I wanted do to express this absurd vanity that this guy had.”

Hillcoat added, “I have to add that there was a photo of Guy when he first had his hair done, that was sent to Nick, and he showed it to his two gorgeous boys and they couldn’t eat for – two days?” 

This article is related to: John Hillcoat, Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Lawless, Cannes Film Festival


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