Last night, IFC Films presented the New York premiere of the native film “Wolves.”
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich and starring Michael Shannon and Carla Gugino; the film chronicles the life of 18-year-old, Anthony Keller a high school basketball star played by newbie Taylor John Smith. Now in his senior year, Anthony is being recruited by the prestigious Cornell University to play. With troubled gambling alcoholic father, Anthony’s mother has made it her mission to keep the family afloat despite the struggles and hurdles the father’s addiction has on Anthony’s successful future. Faced to adversity from all sides, Anthony must create his own path to manhood, absence of his father’s love and support of what is and what is not morally just both on and off the court.
Set on the famous courts of West 4th of Greenwich Village, Wolves paints a gritty and authentic portrait of a young man coming of age in New York City. The music is pumping, the stakes are high and as an audience we want the protagonist to win on and off the courts.
Check out our exclusive interviews with the actors and director on the red carpet:
Q: How did you discover the script?
Michael Shannon: Bart approached me. I had worked with Bart’s wife, Julianne in Freeheld. We’d gotten along real well and she reached out to me and said Bart is going to be making this film. He wanted to meet with me and that was it. I went and met with him and we had lunch and talked about the project and that’s how it started.
Q: How did you prepare for the role?
Michael Shannon: There’s really not that much to it. I rely on my own imagination and my own life experience. It’s not like I went out and gambled or something. I just replied on my experience of the world, you know?
Q: Do you feel like you can relate to the character’s addiction?
Michael Shannon: I just try to relate to people no matter what they do or who they are. I live in New York City. I run across all types of people. You are always keeping a kind of journal the experiences you have; it’s a very subconscious thing- it’s not something you can put into words really.
Q: What drew you to this particular project?
Carla Gugino: I got an email from Bart saying Mike and I are doing this film, we’d love you to be a part of it. I’m a big fan of Bart and a big fan of Michael Shannon. I’ve been wanting to do a movie with Bart for so long so I read the script. I was really taken by this woman who couldn’t love her child more and yet has been making a lot of the wrong decisions trying to protect her family and kind of comes to a place where she realizes that she’s going to have to be willing to lose everything to stand up for her son. One of the things I like about small movies is that, you can tell a truer story- Bart’s vision. We don’t have a bunch of cooks in the kitchen and we made a movie that I’m really proud of.
Q: How is this character unique from the other roles you have taken on?
Carla Gugino: You know she’s a completely different character than I’ve ever played and it’s hard for me to articulate in what way. She comes from a very different center than I do. She is someone who has sort of stood in the shadows for a very long time and ultimately realises one day she can’t do that any longer and I found that very interesting to explore.
Q: Are you a New York native?
Bart Freundlich: I am. I grew up on 30th street and 1st avenue, Kips Bay. And I’d actually hang on the fence of the basketball court in the film.
Q: Did you play yourself? Did you ever get to the college level?
Bart Freundlich: I do. I still play. I’ll be playing this Saturday and my Monday game. I never got to the college level though but my son plays college ball at Davidson though. Basketball is a huge part of my life. If i’m not playing it, I’m watching it. At 47, the knees don’t want me to play in the same way I used to but I love it.
Q: When did you start writing the script?
Bart Freundlich: It’s an usual story because I started writing in the 10th grade and wrote a short story for this then. About one scene of a young basketball player who was kind of funneling all of his childhood coming of age emotions into his basketball. And that sat there and sat there into my 20s, 30s and 40s and in between my other projects I picked it back up and then finally I understood what I wanted it to be as a whole and here it is.
IFC Films’ WOLVES is now in Theaters and On Demand.