The late Harry Dean Stanton was nominated for best actor for his performance in Lucky released by Magnolia Pictures. We spoke the film’s director John Carroll Lynch on the red carpet at the IFP Gotham Awards 2017.
How did you get involved with the film?
John Carroll Lynch: The truth of the matter is it came about because I did a short film with one of the writers. That’s how it happened. About 14 years after that he called me up and said would I mind being in this movie that he’d written, Harry Dean Stanton is going to be in it. I read it, I though it was great, I said sure, four days with Harry Dean sounds fantastic to me. Then two months later he called and said would you mind directing it. I said oh wow, two years with Harry Dean, sure that sounds great.
Was it two years?
John Carroll Lynch: It’s been two years since we started the project. I got a script in June of 2015 so we started working in August of 2015. So it’s been about two years, yeah.
This is his last film.
John Carroll Lynch: Yes it is poignant and it’s a moving tribute to him. But, I think his performance would have been celebrated regardless of that because every time he had a chance to carry the ball, every time he had a chance to really do something with a role of any substance he nailed it. I think a lot of the times people with the kind of ambition he had, which was only to do the things he wanted to do and not the things he didn’t. Which he stuck to through his entire life. Two years before this he was offered leads and he said no, I don’t think so. It’s too much work. Yeah, he was 89 when he did our film. So when he read the script there was something about it that he wanted to do it. So I was happy he said yes.
Did you always want to direct?
John Carroll Lynch: I mean I’ve been wanting to direct for about 15 years, it was just a matter of trying to figure out how to leverage yourself into the chair. This came in a way that I never expected and someone else’s material with actors already attached. When you’re going to make your first feature just note to self, try to find somebody whose number one on the call sheet who is as good as Harry Dean Stanton.
How thrilling for you was it to take the directors chair after being an actor for so many years?
John Carroll Lynch: Well it was a real challenge and it was a real joy to be able to help create the world of a movie. So often actors benefit from the storytelling abilities of art directors and cinematographers and costume designers, and sound designers and never get a chance to work with them for more than five or ten minutes or maybe a couple of hours if you’re talking about a costume designer. So, it was really great to have those long conversations with these wonderful artists and to come up with something that really supported the film.
Is there another directing project?
John Carroll Lynch: I’m trying to employ the Robert Altman advice, which is producing is like cooking, just keep the stove full and wait until something boils.