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With your background, how did you prepare for this man-against-nature role?
I love the outdoors and I love Montana, so I went up early with Alex Smith, one of the twin brother directors of the film, and we did some outdoor activities with some real Montanans. People who were living the life or a reasonable facsimile of the life that Cal lived. So we fished, I went on a hunting trip with them and we talked. I tried to get inside their heads a little bit.
Other than that, it was really an experiential shoot. This was something that everyone did for the love of the piece. There were no trailers; there were no cast chairs. You came in, you got ready, and you stood in the snow on the mountain in Montana in between takes while the snow fell.
What was it like to work in all that snow?
I really liked it. I was really grateful that I was healthy. I didn’t want to get sick on such a short shoot but we had great set costumers taking care of us with heating pads strapped to our bodies when it got really cold. The rest of the time, you wanted it to be in that immersive experience. You want to be that cold. It is one less thing you have to think about as an actor in a scene where the character is experiencing a similar circumstance.
The activity in the film is this father/son hunting trip, so it seems to be more about forging a father/son bond or maybe connecting in general, putting down your phone and having human connections than actually hunting.
Yes, it is absolutely about connections. Both the characters in the film have preconceived notions of how they are going to connect. David is more reticent about it but Cal really feels that he has to instill these values and principles in his son; he has to pass them on. What they realize during the course of the film is that a lot of real bonding happens under the most dire circumstances. When everything you presuppose and everything you try to project on an event goes out the window, you really are left with your most raw self.
As a father of three, what did you take away from this particular relationship between father and son?
I drew from my father a lot for this in an interesting way, particularly because our sons are a bit younger than David’s character in the film. So a lot of it was what I drew from my relationship from my father. I think what I took from it was Josh Wiggins is one of my favorite people I have ever worked with. We had a blast together.
My favorite nature scene is when the deer comes up to Cal. That really got me.
That was just one of those magic moments that you pray for and you hope that the gods come through. We were out on this property and they said, “We have this tame deer. She is very curious. She may or may not come up to you.” So, I had to sit at the bottom of this tree while they rolled the cameras and hope that this deer would approach me. For whatever reason, miraculously, she did. That was the take we got. It was a really spiritual experience. It was towards the end of the shoot and I had a pretty good experience of what my character was and you hope that you can avail yourself in that moment.
It was sad that The Last Tycoon was canceled but it actually ended in a good place.
It had always been a dream to do a [F. Scott] Fitzgerald piece and the fact that I got to do it with a bucket list of professionals that I always wanted to work with across the board — behind the camera and in front of the camera; above the line, below the line — so I am incredibly grateful for that experience. The fact that we had nine hours of Fitzgerald, how many people can say that they did that?
How have you been preparing for your directorial debut?
I am in my directing office right now and I am going to start tomorrow. I poured over thousands of pages of books, I shadowed some really talented, generous, wonderful directors, and I am in the world of Ryan Murphy, so you have some of the most incredible professionals you could have working with you. I am excited and terrified and I haven’t really been this thrilled about anything in this industry for awhile, so it’s been a great way to shake up my creative spirit.
I’ve heard that Ryan is good about giving opportunities to first-time directors. How did it come about that this was yours?
He is just one of those people who is so generous of spirit. Truly. I think he knew I had been in this medium of episodic for 20 years, and he knew that I really extensively prepare for everything that I do, and for whatever reason, he saw qualities in me that he felt would work well as an episodic director.
He called me out of the blue and said, “What do you think about directing it?” I was flabbergasted and blown away and I just very humbly said, “I can’t thank you enough. I will do my best to be prepared and come through. Obviously, he’s been a very big influence in my life and, in large part, he’s been an architect of my career in many ways.
What about the murder of Gianni Versace will make people want to watch?
There is so much I didn’t know. There are so many reasons people are going to watch. There are so many incredible performances going on and the writing is unparalleled. But there is so much about the story that I didn’t understand the specifics of it in the larger context of what was going on in the time period. I am excited for people to see it.
It also has sex, money and fashion.
All the things that excites and titillates but it also has some real substance and nuance to it that will keep people coming back for more.