Friday 15th February 2019
Welcome to Kehoe, it's -10 degrees and counting at this glitzy ski resort in the Rocky Mountains. The local police aren't used to much action until the son of unassuming town snowplough driver, Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson), is murdered at the order of Viking (Tom Bateman), a flamboyant drug lord.
Fueled by rage and armed with heavy machinery, Nels sets out to dismantle the cartel one man at a time, but his understanding of murder comes mainly from what he read in a crime novel. As the bodies pile up, his actions ignite a turf war between Viking and his long-standing rival White Bull (Tom Jackson), a soulful Native-American mafia boss, that will quickly escalate and turn the small town's bright white slopes blood-red.
Director Hans Petter Moland and Liam Neeson team up for a dramatic thriller that mixes icy revenge and dark humour
"It's a whirlwind of vengeance, violence and dark humour."Liam Neeson
"A whole can of worms." That's how Liam Neeson describes what his character opens in Hans Petter Moland's blisteringly violent and bitingly hilarious Cold Pursuit. "My character goes out on a path of vengeance, but doesn't realise what he's getting himself into," says Neeson. "He thinks he's going after one guy who killed his son. In actual fact, it all escalates into a whirlwind of vengeance and violence. And it all has this grain of dark humour running through it, if you can imagine that!"
This twisted revenge story swirls around Neeson's Nels Coxman, a snowplough driver in the colourado ski resort of Kehoe. Just named Citizen of the Year for his services in keeping the roads open to the remote town, Coxman's life swiftly spirals into amateur retribution and an escalating pile of corpses when his son (played by Micheál Richardson) is mistakenly killed by local gangsters over a stash of missing drugs. All he knows about killing people is what he read in a crime novel, but Coxman sets off with a sawn-off hunting rifle, and unwittingly begins a chain of events that will include a snowbound turf war, kidnapping, two rival crime lords and a host of hoodlums with colourful nicknames like Maverick, Mustang, and Smoke.
Comparisons to classic Coen brothers movies - Fargo, in particular - greeted Hans Petter Moland's original Norwegian film, In Order Of Disappearance, when it came out to rave reviews, stunning global box office and starring Stellan Skarsgård in the lead in 2014. Other fans drew parallels to the depth and wit of dialogue of early Quentin Tarantino. But while Moland is "obviously delighted" to have his work placed in those two ballparks, for him, he has his own unique style with his inspiration going back further to a classic Hollywood great. "I grew up loving Billy Wilder movies," says the director. "I loved their darkness and their gallows humour, that great balance between the two. So when I was offered the chance to remake In Order Of Disappearance, this time in English [as opposed to his native Norwegian of the original], I took it."
The idea to have Moland personally remake his own original came from producer Michael Shamberg, a man who, having produced the likes of Pulp Fiction, Out Of Sight and Get Shorty, knows a fresh crime movie when he sees one. "The best part of my career has been working with singularly talented people," says Shamberg. "When I saw In Order Of Disappearance, it had everything. And Cold Pursuit is the same. Audiences will be emotionally invested in the characters, satisfied with it as an action film, and also be surprised by how funny it is. It's a film where that balance has to be just right, and that's why Hans Petter had to be the one to do it. And in the center of it all is the wonderful Liam Neeson who brings his classic man of action persona and then delightfully goes in a new direction with it."
It's also a story about multiple other twistedly complex characters, not least the two other fathers that Nels' journey will slam him into. The first is Viking, the psychotic local drug lord played delightfully unhingededly by Tom Bateman. The second is White Bull, played by Canada's legendary actor and folk singer Tom Jackson, who brings a soulful gravitas to his rival gang leader, who runs his gang of tough Native Americans - who are as deadpan as they are deadly - with a dignity that will be tested to its very limits. "These are all bad guys. There are no good guys in this movie. So you have to start there, and then decipher, 'Well, how bad is that guy?'" says Jackson of a conflict that will end with gallons of blood spilled across bright white snow. "Remember The Wild Bunch? Remember those movies? I think this is one of those. It's as entertaing as any other movie I've been in."
For his remake, Moland brought along much of his key original crew, but also enlisted a new screenwriter, Frank Baldwin, and a supporting cast including Laura Dern, as Coxman's wife Grace, Emmy Rossum, as smart small-town cop Kim, and Julia Jones, as the long-suffering wife of Tom Bateman's ridiculously unhinged cartel chief, Viking. "In the movie, the female characters are the ones who are smart enough to distance themselves from the actions of the men, or their stupidity" laughs Moland. "The men in the movie are domineering, self-important and oblivious to the humour. They are deadly serious. Or dead."
Baldwin's screenplay has particular fun with its cast of richly drawn, bickering bad guys - "The stakes are deadly," says the screenwriter, "but the men are massively self-important, and that's where the humour comes from" - but Moland's original inspiration was a serious one. "The original idea came from me thinking, 'If my son died in this way, would I just sit back and accept that happened? Or would I do something about it? And would it just lead to an endless escalation of violence?' It's kind of a heavy theme, well suited for a dark comedy," Moland says. "There was a desire to not be restrained by genre, to allow different genres to happily live next to each other, to be genuinely horrifying and tragic, but also worth laughing at - like life is."
The result is something genuinely unique, a movie with incredible action, shot through with an undercurrent of knowing humour and played out by one of the most brilliantly drawn, sprawling supporting casts in recent memory.
"And that's why this remake had to have Hans Petter directing it," says Shamberg. "That tone is such a fine balance that I think only he could do it. This isn't your typical revenge movie. It's a movie about the futility of vengeance. It's an anti-violence, violent film. Which is a little bit of an oxymoron, because you get to have your cake, and eat it too!"
In a story filled with complexity, the inclusion of Native American characters was essential - even as Cold Pursuit puts absolutely everybody in the crosshairs
"I liked the idea that those who some view as 'strangers' are, in fact, on their own land."Hans Petter Moland
Vengence knows no boundaries: In Cold Pursuit, that notion extends from the quiet man, Nels Coxman, who thought he had escaped his family's blood legacy to the descendants of indigenous people butchered and betrayed.
Yet even among this tapestry, the character of White Bull - played with steely soulfulness by Tom Jackson, the esteemed Canadian actor, artist, and educator whose mother was Cree and who grew up on the One Arrow Reserve in Saskatchewan - stands apart. White Bull's protection of his family and his territory is in direct relation to his values and his history. He is a man who was offered a chance when he was younger to stand close to the same playing field as those who long looked down on tribal people. Now, at age 70, White Bull is a criminal force to be reckoned with - though in keeping with the business he runs, he has attained his stature by unethical, and illegal, means.
"Film history is full of Westerns where Native Americans are merely used for plot purposes, or used as adversaries based on preconceived notions - they've been seen either as savages, ruthless warriors, victims, or just something else that serves the white point of view," says director Hans Petter Moland. "In my original film, the Serbians - or 'Albanians,' as they are often mis-called in that film by other criminals - were the classic strangers in a strange land, who then discover hidden aspects of Norway as the fiIm progresses. For Cold Pursuit, I wanted to explore the idea that those who some view as 'strangers' are, in fact, on their own land."
Says screenwriter Frank Baldwin, "When we did the table read in Vancouver before principal shooting began, I spoke with Tom Jackson and a number of the other First Nation actors that Hans Petter had cast in the film, and they said it was so much fun to have actual dialogue in a movie. Because they were used to having one line and then their character would get shot."
Moland says a number of factors went into his desire to have one corner of the criminal triangle in Cold Pursuit be a Native American syndicate.
"I had a great interest prior to this in American history in general and the plight of American indigenous people, and how they were pushed off of their own land and had to suffer as a nation," Moland says. "I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert in the issues and history of indigenous people. That would be wrong, and Frank did research prior to the writing stage. But what I did do was during rehearsals, I
learned a lot from the actors. They carry with them a lot of their history, or knowledge about their own history, and that was invaluable because it informed me and the film about what possibily their characters might spring out of."
Unlike in the original Norweigian film, having this crime gang be Native Americans on land their ancestors lived on creates another kind of tension with Viking, who audiences see develop another level of awfulness and villainy as he denigrates White Bull's people's history on the land.
"Viking thinks this piece of colourado around Denver and Kehoe is all his territory because his father, Bullet, was here before him," explains Baldwin. "It's another level of his myopia of course, since Viking has no understanding of anything larger than that. Yet Viking's ex-wife, Aya, is Native American too, so there's that complication. Plus, from a screenwriting standpoint, it also felt like this was the type of gang that hasn't been very often in movies, if at all. As compared to the original, in which Albanians, or Serbians, had been done a lot. They show up as villainous gangs in a lot of movies. And for this film, it was interesting and fun to show White Bull's team of gangsters having quirky conversations, and expand their personalities and show they had their own peccadilloes, just as Viking's men have, if not more so."
There is also, of course, more than a grain of truth in terms of the issues facing the Native American population that - while fictionalised and sensationalized for the purpose of a thriller - have echoes in Cold Pursuit.
But of course, another major factor in Cold Pursuit is its irreverence, and the way it props all of its characters, no matter who they are, up for a bit of puncturing and humour. And though White Bull is always a man of dignity, there are moments when Viking or other characters show their ignorance by using stereotypes - or even when some of White Bull's own gang get the upper hand in a situation or two by exploiting the sensitivity around them.
Overall, there is a universal sort of eyebrow-raising at the ridiculousness and folly that is a human existence, whether it's lived as a criminal or as a "citizen of the year."
Says Moland, "This is a film that takes an irreverent jab at everyone. That's the satirical element of it." Adds Baldwin, "Part of that is Viking - he is who he is, and he disparages everybody and uses derogratory labelling, which is very telling in regards to figuring him out. He gets his licks in no matter who he's dealing with, or who his adversary is at the moment."
The notion of Viking taking aim at a group that is so "other" is illuminating, the director says.
"It's this idea that it's convenient to have an enemy - somebody Viking can degrade by putting a label on them and perhaps call by a derogatory name. That mechanism is certainly part of the less-favorable aspects of being human. Here, Viking feels entitled and superior to everyone, whether they're black or gay or Native American or whatever, and being able to belittle somebody by putting a derogatory name onto them is part of that mechanism for him."
What none of that does is take away the enjoyment White Bull and his gang have in their day-to-day life, the warmth they feel or the quirkiness with which they view their jobs.
"White Bull is the leader of a criminal gang and is ruthless and has the potential for violence, but there seems to be a lot more fun to White Bull's gang, which says something about his capacities for leadership. He's not threatened by people being individuals. His guys are not afraid of enjoying their lives - even when they're on a boring stakeout, their individuality shows. You know, they're smoking pot, poking fun at each other by throwing snowballs."
And, in a pair of memorable scenes that involve hang-gliding, there are subtle meanings - and a memorable send-off for one character in the film.
"To me, that hang-gliding scene is the Native American gang simply enjoying the greatness of the landscape they are in," says Moland. "White Bull is enjoying the playful grace of the young skiers, and for his men I think it's simply the joy of seeing one of their own soar like an eagle. There's something elementary about wanting to fly. Seeing it done so successfully by someone they know, who's clearly not a pro, but who just reaches for the experience out of childish desire, brings joy to their hearts....And yet even the one man that momentarily defied gravity eventually comes crashing down."
"Although tongue-in cheek, this film can also be viewed as a cautionary tale about revenge. Pursuing it catches up with you eventually, no matter how nice you are."
The modern American West provides a chillingly perfect setting: a snowed-in ski resort town with a dwindling population
"Because this location is so remote, the story seems to take place out of time, in a way."Frank Baldwin
"Mother Nature never ceases to amaze, does it," marvels Liam Neeson of the showstopping location of Cold Pursuit. "There were a few times when we were filming up in the mountains that I thought, 'The audience aren't even going to be looking at me on screen, they're going to be looking at these billions of years-old mountains behind me.'"
But even though he is somewhat underestimating the power of his performance, it's easy to understand what Neeson means. Doubling as Cold Pursuit's small colourado ski resort of Kehoe - a place where, as Emmy Rossum's local cop, Kim, has it, "Folks come here to ski, have sex and get high" - this Alberta location is a character in its own right in Cold Pursuit, and key to its chilling power.
The production spent the first four weeks of shooting up in the Mount Fortress mountains, battling extremely hazardous conditions at 2,000 feet above sea level to deliver something truly spectacular on screen. "There were some days," laughs Moland, "where you would ask yourself, 'What am I doing dragging everyone all the way up here?' But then you'd watch the dailies back and realise that it was 100 percent worth it."
On screen, the result is a startling juxtaposition. On the surface, Kehoe is a tranquil destination, designed for fun and sporty relaxation. But, under its smooth, white powdery surface runs a blood-red river of murder and mayhem. Frankly, as a holiday spot it's about as safe as taking a moonlit skinny-dip off Amity Island.
On set and at that altitude, shoot days would start off relatively calm. "And then suddenly you'd get into these blizzards and heavy, heavy snowfalls and stuff," says Neeson. "It was very, very dramatic and beautiful, and cold, which was necessary for our film. It was lovely getting up there, and it was equally lovely, at the end of the day, to get back down again."
For Moland, aside from the extreme weather fluctuations, the constant changing of the light made continuity a struggle, and for the rest of the cast multiple layers were a daily necessity. But for Neeson, who used to drive forklifts and trucks for Guinness back in the day, the snowbound locale also brought with it some nice added bonuses.
"For this movie I had to drive three different snowploughs," he says with a smile. "We had a wonderful guy, who showed us how to drive them. My gosh, they're extraordinary machines. When you're in them you're just aware of this power, this metallic power you have underneath you. These things can gobble up snow and shoot it 50 metres away! They are beautiful machines. And I had the privilege of driving them, just for short periods of time. It gave me a newfound respect for these guys that clear these roads. Those locations may look pretty, but there's a real harshness at play here too."
"One of the strongest impressions I had from watching Hans Petter's original is that, because this location is so remote, this story seems to take place out of time, in a way," says Baldwin. "I wanted to preserve that sense that this place isn't really governed by all the normal rules because it's so far out. It makes it easier to go with what's happening in the sense that these people are getting away with this stuff because it's so remote and so snowy and there's so many long stretches with no people around. The remoteness is really important to this story, both in the feel it gives you and in the sense of, 'You've got to make your own rules out here.' And that's kind of a classic American theme of the West."
Liam Neeson is no stranger to reinvention. But even by his standards, COLD PURSUIT represents a surprising gear-shift into wicked new territory
"It's about fathers and sons, and how complicated that relationship can be."Liam Neeson
There aren't many actors whose CV include everything from an Oscar-nominated turn in Schindler's List to a Jedi, a Batman villain, a shady cop made out of Lego and a talking Lion. But then, Liam Neeson isn't like many other actors.
With an astonishing 126 credits to his name, the 66-year-old famously saw himself unwittingly reinvented as an action star a decade ago, with his starring role as Bryan Mills in the huge global smash that was Taken. But while that movie's plot, of a father out for revenge against the men who have put his offspring in danger, may sound like it shares some DNA with that of Cold Pursuit, the latter sees him deliver a performance unlike any in his already storied career.
"On the one level, Cold Pursuit is a great, classic revenge thriller," says Neeson. "But what was really appealing to me was the dark undercurrent of humour that runs through it." Or, as his director, Hans Petter Moland puts it: "Basically, this is Liam Neeson like you've never seen him before. It's a very special, unique performance."
Between its mash-up of genre, and the fact that it's an English-language remake from the original Norwegian director, this movie is a real one-off. How did you first come into its orbit?
"I was sent a script, and... No, I tell a lie. I say that all the time. It's absolute bullshit! It was Michael Shamberg. I'd worked with him before, and he's a wonderful producer. He asked me to go and see a screening of a Norwegian film called In Order Of Disappearance. And I saw it, and I thought it was good. And he said they were going to adapt it for the American market, put it in colourado, and would I be interested? And I said yes. You know, this is a very good, character-driven revenge thriller, with very, very interesting bad guys and a very dark undercurrent, with an element of humour that runs through it that's really appealing."
What can you tell us about your character?
"I play a guy called Nels Coxman. He's just a regular guy. Happily married, one child - a boy of 21. He lives on the side of a mountain outside this little ski resort called Kehoe. And his job during the winter months is to keep a section of the road open, because they get incredible amounts of snow. So he has his own little industry, his own little workshop where he keeps a snow-blower, snowplough, various machines like that, to keep these roads open. That's his job. And as he says in the script, he keeps a strip of civilisation open through the wilderness for people. That's his life. That's what he enjoys. And as a consequence of that, he gets voted Kehoe Citizen of the Year. It's an annual award, and this year he's the proud recipient."
As a man, he has taken a very different path to his family, hasn't he?
"Yes. His father was heavily involved in underground crime, in his younger days. And Nels' elder brother, beautifully played by Bill Forsythe, is also in his father's trade, let's put it that way. But Nels, for some reason, has chosen the righteous path of keeping to the straight and narrow and not being involved in any crime, until something happens that sends everything spiralling. Before that, Nels is happily married to a wonderful lady called Grace, played by the magnificent Laura Dern, who I'm so thrilled that we got for this film. To all intents and purposes, they're very happily, contentedly married. They have one son, a 21-year-old called Kyle. I wouldn't say their relationship is hot and heavy at this stage, but they're very content with each other. And then the S.H.I.T. hits the fan, and the relationship breaks down."
Did you know Laura well before this movie?
"I didn't. I had dinner with her and an ex-boyfriend of hers years and years ago. Her, her boyfriend, me and my wife, Natasha [Richardson]. Laura and Natasha had been in a film together, Fat Man And Little Boy, a Roland Joffe film that Paul Newman starred in, back in 1986/87, I think. So they were friends, but I didn't know Laura terribly well. But I've been a huge fan of hers for many, many years. So it's something I can tick off my bucket list, you know? I got to work with the great Laura Dern. She's a wonderful lady, too."
That's good. Because she says a lot of nice things about you too...
"She got my cheque, then? Good."
The tipping point for Nels in this movie is, of course, the death of his son. What can you tell us about him?
"They're pretty close, Nels and Kyle. I guess it's like a classic father and son. There's a bond between them that's kind of unspoken. Kyle is a big American football fan, Broncos to be precise. And Nels isn't quite as big a fan. And Kyle's job is to handle baggage at Kehoe airport, the ski resort's little airport. And everything is normal. Until my son meets a horrible death at the hands of these drug dealers, and it completely makes my relationship with Grace disintegrate. She can't handle it at all and goes inward and eventually leaves. So Nels suffers a kind of a double-death - the death of his son, and the death of this very special relationship. And it prompts him to contemplate his own life, and also contemplate a path of vengeance. And that's what he sets out to do, to avenge, in some way, his son's death. And get some form of justice."
Yours and Kyle's father/son dynamic isn't the only one in the movie, is it?
"No, there are three sons, and three fathers. There's me and my boy. There's [cartel chief] White Bull's [played by Tom Jackson] kid, who works for his father so is a criminal as well. And then there's Viking's [played by Tom Bateman] son, who's this very sweet, quite intellectual kid of 11 or 12 years of age who's really not a chip off his father's block. He's very, very bright, very astute. Likes listening to classical music, and likes playing FIFA, which every other kid in the world does, I know. But he's quite an unusual child. And so - without giving the game away - Nels kind of befriends him, and sort of takes him captive. So the script does touch on the relationships between fathers and sons, and how complicated they can be."
You've starred in revenge thrillers before, but is it fair to describe this as unlike any of them?
"Definitely, yes. Nels isn't prepared for any of this. It doesn't come naturally to him at all. When Nels goes out on his path of vengeance, he doesn't realise that he's opening a whole can of worms, especially with the drug industry. He thinks he's going after one guy that killed his son, and in actual fact this guy works for these other guys, who then work for this other incredibly vicious young criminal called Viking. He runs one drug cartel and White Bull runs another drug cartel. And Nels gets caught in between all this. So this whole vengeance thing escalates into a kind of a whirlwind of vengeance and violence, while still having this grain of dark humour running through it, if you can imagine that! It's a classic revenge movie, but with a deep thread of dark humour running through it, with some very, very interesting, well-drawn, three dimensional bad guys who give the film its humour ballast."
How did you find working with Hans Petter Moland, remaking his own original movie?
"He's terrific. I want to say he's got a European sensibility, which he does, because he's European! And there's something very laid-back, very calm about him. He is also very, very prepared. He's an ex-actor himself, he's directed in the theatre, and he just knows the actor's process, as well as how to tell a story on film. He mines the script for the little subtleties that we as actors can bring out to enhance the story, to enhance the humour, enhance the pathos. He makes some very, very interesting choices, and he's not a taskmaster at all. I'd work with him again in a second."
Why Hans Petter Moland, AKA "the Ridley Scott of Norway," remade his own gangster noir
With Cold Pursuit, Hans Petter Moland joins a short but superb list of directors - a group who have deliberately flown in the face of accepted movie wisdom and come out the other side, triumphant. "They always say you should never remake your own film," Moland notes wryly. "But when I thought about it, I thought, 'Why not?'"
Like Michael Haneke with Funny Games, Takashi Shimizu with The Grudge and George Sluizer with The Vanishing before him, Moland's Cold Pursuit - his brilliantly bloody and darkly hilarious roaring rampage of revenge - sees him remake his acclaimed Norwegian original, 2014's In Order of Disappearance, and this time in the English language. "It's not that I wasn't happy with the original," says Moland. "But I looked at it as if I was, say, a theatre director who had made a successful production in Oslo, and now had the chance to make a new production on Broadway, for a new audience and with a cast of amazing new actors. It was such an opportunity that I couldn't say no."
Here, the director who respected British film historian Peter Cowie once described as "the Ridley Scott of Norway" for his array of award-winning commercials and impeccable eye, talks escaping your past, cheating on Stellan Skarsgård and the nuances of Norwegian versus American humour.
You once described the process of making movies as "one long journey through a valley of compromises". Given that, why on Earth would you go back and remake one that you've already survived once?
"Yes, I guess I did say that. [Laughs] That being said, I also think that allowing yourself to be challenged by things you previously haven't mastered is another part of that equation. When
Michael Shamberg [Cold Pursuit's producer] got the rights to this remake he said he wanted me to do it. And that forced me to re-examine the accepted wisdom that you should always get someone else to remake a film. I started to look at why I really wouldn't want to do it. It's not that I wasn't happy with the original, but I tried to look at it the same way as if you had made a successful theatre production - in Oslo, say. And then somebody asked if you wanted to make a new production of the same play on Broadway, for a new audience. And that's an interesting proposition, to speak to a different audience, to make it with different actors, amazing actors. When I thought about it like that I couldn't not do it."
The list of people who have remade their own "foreign-language" movies in English is very short. Did you look at any of those movies, to see what those directors did?
"I deliberately didn't look at them. Because I think most directors who remake their own movies aren't necessarily happy with the outcome, or the process. There are many reasons for that. I focussed more on two things: one, finding a process that could work for me and, two: retaining that tone from the original. And that meant being allowed to make the film in the way I know how to make a film. There are many other ways to make a film, but if you're hamstrung by the process you're not at your best game. And with this I was very much encouraged and allowed to make the film the best way I know how to. And because I lived in the United States for many years, I feel comfortable and at home in American culture. So it was a landscape that I wasn't foreign to."
Having lived in the US for 11 years and being from Norway, what would you say are the differences between American and Norwegian humour?
"There are cultural differences, obviously. And there are great similarities, too. But when people talk about my films being typically 'Scandinavian' in humour, I don't neccesarily agree. [In Norway] we jokingly say that Danish people don't know how to make comedies. So, being lumped together with them is not necessarily a compliment. But, more than anything, my humour is also influenced a great deal by American filmmakers - Billy Wilder, for instance. And living in New York in the 70's and 80s, that deadpan, grotesque, dark humour was always very prevalent for me. So whatever is typically 'Scandinavian' about me is also very heavily influenced by that."
Billy Wilder is a great reference point for Cold Pursuit. The Apartment in particular has that astonishing mix of darkness and light...
"Yes, absolutely. I'm a huge fan of Wilder's, and his ability to blend those two things. It's no great mystery that none of us live in a vacuum, that we absorb things and we respond to them in our lives and work. My upbringing certainly had a lot of gallows humour to it, that was part of my upbringing, so I really connected with his movies, when I was in the States."
The casting of Liam Neeson in Cold Pursuit is a masterstroke, because on paper you might think that you've seen him do revenge movies before, but this is very different. Was that deliberate, playing with that expectation?
"I relished the enormous expectation that Liam carries with him - because he's such a fabulous actor. And that's a great expectation to bring to the table. And the humour in Cold Pursuit was something he really responded to and said he would like to do. I'm delighted I got to work with him. Basically, this is Liam Neeson unlike you've ever seen him before. It's a really special, unique performance. Not only has he always broken the norm with the films he's made before, he's also still a curious and hard-working actor. And the big difference, between this and the revenge movies he's made before is that this isn't about him saving his daughter. There's no son to be saved here. He's already dead. So it's the rage and the mourning of loss, more than anything else."
It's also a movie about fathers and sons, isn't it, and the futility of revenge?
"Yes, it is. It's focussed on revenge as being not a very viable strategy for a fruitful life, for the men and for their families. It's just not a very good idea, even though it's fun to see people do it."
You've talked about having your cake and eating it, about making a violent film that is ultimately anti-violence. Were you conscious of that dichotomy?
"I was very conscious of that dichotomy, because if you're doing anything satirical then the dichotomy is a very big portion of the satire. That incongruity of motive and action. This is a movie inhabited by a lot of people who are short on insight, in particular [cartel kingpin] Viking. One way to look at it is that all the people in this film are either dead serious, or dead. They are oblivious to the humour that surrounds them and the result of their actions."
The exception to that being the female characters, of course...
"Yes, those three characters [played by Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum and Julia Jones] are the only ones who are really smart. It was deliberate that it's the women who aren't domineering in the film but they dominate in the way that they distance themselves from the actions of the male characters. They're too smart. And that goes for Viking's son as well. He's much smarter than his father. He's also someone you think, by the end of the film, 'He's going to be okay. He's got a future. And he's probably better off without the baggage of his father, who is such a stupid and destructive guy.'"
A lot of the actors have said that when they first read the script there came a point where they started to ask themselves, 'Am I supposed to be laughing here?' Do you enjoy that, playing with the preconceived notions of the audience?
"That was definitely one of the challenges, to make this unusual and different. Obviously, losing a child is a very serious and tragic event, but this is also a humourous film. But that humour has to unveil itself, along with the characters and the story. The film has a very serious departure point and then it unfolds and expands into these new arenas. The absurdity has to grow. It has to spring out of that source instead of splatting it all up on the wall, saying, 'It's a comedy!' You have to allow people to discover it for themselves and laugh when they want. There's a moment in the scene in the morgue where a large part of the audience start to suspect there's something fishy about this film. People tend to realise then that it is permissible to laugh."
What was that departure point?
"It was me thinking about what would happen if I was subjected to something like that - if, let's say, and we're speaking hypothetically here- one of my sons died of an overdose. It was during a period when there were a lot of overdose deaths in Oslo. Heroin flowed in from Balkan during the war, blind-siding a culture where heroin had been non-existant. Would I just accept that it happened, accept a non-conclusive police report, or would I want to find out what happened? Would my sorrow and pain be tinged with rage? And how would I make and effort find out? And where would I start? I'd probably go to one of the boys friends, find out what he knew, perhaps get a name of somebody who had sold the drugs. Then from the low-level drug dealer you'd most likely not get an eager response about where the drugs came from, so then you'd probably have to beat the crap out of the guy in order to get a name of someone higer up. And once you did that, you'd either have enemies or you'd have to cover your tracks. So I was toying with, 'Would it ultimately be successful, or would it just be an escalation of violence?' I realised that eventually it would just lead to mayhem, like most wars do. Each revengeful action would create a response. Then you'd up the ante... And eventually you'd just have a misery on your hands. And something potentially very humerous. I thought, 'What would tilt the tables for anybody in such a circumstance?' Clearly being an outsider, newcomer or an amateur gives you an advantage. For instance, you could have beginner's luck, or odd behaviour modes that are unrecognisable to your opponent. Most criminals have rivals and enemies who are already in their mind to begin with when they have been slighted. So their normal instincts would be to go and blame somebody they already knew, somebody they hate. Which is, of course, exactly what these guys do [in the movie]. They jump to a conclusion, a wrong one, and the situation escalates to a stage of warfare where it's out of hand and unpredictable. So that's the nature of revenge, and where it leads to."
In the movie, Nels has long ago chosen a different path from his dodgy father and brother. He's a good man, who nonetheless gets sucked into this violence. What are you saying with that? That you can't escape your past?
"No, I don't think the film is trying to say that. That detail is there to at least give Nels the possibility to access some tools that a complete outsider wouldn't have access to. And also it offers an insight into his character and into his choices in life. Unlike his father and brother he's chosen an honest life, as snow-plow driver. The real irony is that he's named Citizen of the Year, and then the first thing he does is go out and kill people. [Laughs] It says something about how civilised he is at heart. I think Nels considers himself a more upstanding or more civilised man than he really is, which I think actually goes for most of us. It's easy to have high thoughts of yourself until you're really put to the test."
Obviously your original version of this starred Stellan Skarsgård, who you are now directing in your next movie, Out Stealing Horses. Did you talk to him about remaking this with Liam Neeson? Was he jealous? Does it feel like you're cheating on him a little, or like you've gone on holiday to the same place, with a new partner?
[Laughs] No, not at all. Although Stellan is very hapy with the original, he has a very good life and has plenty to do in other films. He's very well respected among his peers as a fantastic actor - including Liam, by the way, who is a great fan of his. So I think they both respect each other's work. More than anything, the fact that the film is being remade with a terrific actor is a compliment to Stellan, because it says it needs someone of the calibre of Liam to pull it off. We did talk about it and he was quite fine with it. He just said, 'Be brave. Go make a great film.'"
Screenwriter Frank Baldwin had a killer assignment: Transfer a great Norwegian thriller into America's crime subculture - and make it feel dangerous and funny
Creating the narrative scaffolding for a collection of characters to not only face each other, but face the issues and indignities they carry inside of them, was no small task. Luckily, novelist and screenwriter Frank Baldwin had a handle on Cold Pursuit from the get-go. When producer Michael Shamberg approached Baldwin with the assignment, Baldwin's first duty was to see Hans Petter Moland's In Order of Disappearance, and then reimagine the story in the modern American West. As the pieces came together, maintaining the tone and humour of Moland's original film was crucial, as was weaving a rich, new tapestry that did justice to American characters living in complicated scenarios.
This story, and Nels Coxman's journey, has a lot going on besides a search for justice, doesn't it?
"It does. It has a lot of layers in it, all of which were baked into Hans Petter's original film. For me, it was important that you not lose those layers in its transference to an American movie. And there were all sorts of things that I thought was subtle in the story that worked - including that Nels has to kidnap the son of the villain, and has to break the cycle that he couldn't do with his own son, by essentially saving the villain's son. And that's at a point in the movie when Nels appears to be a character who's almost irredeemable, and has stooped low, and yet that is the source ultimately of his redemption, if he has it."
Nels is a man who tried to redeem himself, but after his son's death is on the precipice between the good and bad sides of life.
"What helped me conceptualize the story is when I thought of Nels as a guy who has violence in his blood. His father was a gangster, his brother is a gangster, and he turned his back on that road. He shoved that down inside of him and has lived a peaceful life out in the wilderness, working his honest job and doing his simple task. He's kind of a simple guy. And so the journey for Nels is he has to take the road not taken and in this late stage in his life, go into the life that he turned his back on. And it's terrifying when someone like that finds out, 'Oh, I can do this.'"
The connection to White Bull - it's almost an emotional parallel, or maybe a matter of connected but not quite similar paths - is fascinating. In the original film, this gang that opposed the main villain were Serbians. White Bull's motivations are much more complex, aren't they?
"Well, the idea of turf and territory has special meaning when it comes to Viking and White Bull. Because here's Viking thinking, 'This is my turf, my father was here before me' - and of course White Bull's gang has a special sensibility to being screwed over, and to defending what they know is theirs. If you harken back to the old, the idea of the West, White Bull's white gang is indigenous to colourado and has been for a long time. So you have this uneasy truce that's existed for a long time between White Bull and Viking due to a misunderstanding involving Nels's son that winds up making White Bull upset, and it results in total war."
Even Viking's nickname evokes a colonizing force coming into existing lands, and the violence that accompanies that. Whereas White Bull is a man of honour.
"That's right. And at the end of the day, he made a deal and he upheld it, and the deal was broken on him. And ultimately he is a criminal who sets out to do what he said to do - without giving anything away - but in a more powerful sense. One of the major points of Hans Petter's movie, here as in the original film, is that revenge is not worth it."
The way the film develops its sense of humour, which can sometimes be snide or edgy, is crucial to understanding their tension and especially how in this tough, often villainous world, there are barriers between people that rear up and are even used as a sort of bargaining chip, correct?
"Nels' intention, in Cold Pursuit as in the original film, is that it's good to 'take the piss out of everybody,' to use the British expression. Nobody in the film is exempt from being made fun of, including the Native American characters, and including Nels himself. It all serves a purpose. Like when they go to a morgue and they're raising Nels' son's body up on a gurney, and it's the worst possible moment, but while it's not being played for laughs, there is also the idea that, this is taking too long to get the body up so they can see it. Throughout the movie is a sense of nobody is exempt from the perhaps awfulness of things, the folly of human existence."
It's a terrific mix with White Bull and his gang, because for instance, in a scene at the hotel, they raise their eyebrows when a hotel employee uses the word "reservation." They're using this to get what they want. It's irreverent. And later White Bull is in the hotel gift shop, and he quietly looks at Native American clothing being sold that we see is actually made in China, and White Bull looks at some of the cheesy sculptures in the shop that turn his tribal legacy into something kitschy to be sold cheap to tourists. The line between all of that is well-handled.
"Yes, and remember, the Native Americans in the film are a crime cartel too, and while they and their history were handled respectfully, it was still important at times to see that their personalities and quirks were able to provide a bit of fun, just as with Viking's gang....The film has a balance of both real stakes and irreverent humour."
Tom Bateman is Viking. As deranged as he is dangerous, Bateman's Viking is a cinematic gangster boss for the ages. "He's a murdering creep, but then he's tender and jealous."
You've said that this story 'erupts' from your character, Viking. In what way?
"Well, Viking doesn't really operate on the same wavelength as anyone else. He's a psychopath. I read a book called THE PSYCHOPATH TEST before I started, and it looks at people who don't really function on the same wavelength as everyone else, but function in society. It's very interesting to see someone making decisions like shooting someone in the face on a whim - even if that person happens to be close to them or work with them - because the audience never knows what's going on in this guy's head."
He's a slippery character to pin down, isn't he?
"Absolutely. Just when you think he's going down one road, he flips it and goes down another. So, you might think, 'Oh, he's about to be violent', and then he might be seductive and charming. Or, 'Oh, he's about to be funny', and then he cuts off someone's head. He constantly keeps the audience guessing - and me guessing, as an actor. I rehearsed my scenes on my own in my hotel room, and I found that there were about a hundred different ways I could play this character, and each scene could be played in a hundred different ways. I could play them deadpan, as they're written, or I could play around with them and go, 'Actually, what if I make this line funny even though what I'm saying is horrible?' It's been like being in a candy store, where I can just pick and choose what I like."
What does Viking do with his days, when he's not shooting anyone in the face?
"Viking's job in this - if he has one - is that he runs a club, but really that's just a front and a bit of a vanity thing for him. He likes the idea of being a club owner, but, really, his main job is a drug dealer. He supplies cocaine for the town of Kehoe, and he's got a lot of people who work for him and do that. But he inherited that from his father, so, really, he hasn't built up an empire, he's one of those spoilt brats who's inherited something but wears it like a crown. He loves that he's seen as this powerful guy. But he hasn't done himself anything to deserve that status."
He's not the greatest family man either, is he?
"No. Viking's wife, played by Julia Jones, and Nicholas [Holmes], who plays my son, Ryan, they are a wonderful window into this. They're another dimension to this bizarre character, because you think he's this psychopath, a drug dealer, a murdering creep - which he is - but then suddenly you see him being very tender to his child and jealous of his wife, so he still has human attributes that we can all connect to. His wife has divorced him and they're in the process of fighting over the custody of their child. They both obviously want custody, but I think Viking wants it more as he sees his child a bit like a sports car, you know? So, when he gets taken from me, it's not that they've taken my son - it's that they've taken my son. And that's the difference."
Should we feel any sympathy for his predicament?
"He is still a human being underneath it all, and that's interesting to play, this idea that where most people get upset, he gets interested at why he's getting upset, or he's confused about these feelings. You know, this idea of, 'What are these feelings? I'm not supposed to feel them.' And the vanity is there as well, that his wife has left him. She's so beautiful and glamorous and she leaves him, and that dents his pride above anything else. It's not necessarily that the love of his life has left him and he's heartbroken, it's that this wife doesn't need him anymore, and she's got out from his grasp. He likes to hold everyone in the whole world in the palm of his hand and have control over them. When they exercise their own independence, he doesn't like that at all."
Is Viking the catalyst for everything that happens?
"Pretty much! The whole film spins off this catalyst moment of my guys accidentally killing Liam's son. We kill him on purpose, but kill him because we think he's done something that he hasn't. And that sets off this whole story. This world of ours [in the movie] sits on a precipice. Nel's, Liam's character, and Laura as his wife, their marriage isn't necessarily working very well, my drug ring rests on a knifepoint - everything's very tense. And there's also this tension between Tom Jackson's character, White Bull, and mine, between their rival gangs. Anything could disrupt that and set off this huge chain of dramatic events, and when it does, it comes out of something that isn't actually true. And you watch this disintegrate, watch this psychopath who should never have been in his position get taken down, you watch Liam going through the process of losing a son and then his wife leaving him, and the lengths to which he's willing to go to satisfy that pain in him. Really, Nels is doing everything he's doing because he's hurting, and he thinks that the only way to ease that is revenge. And revenge runs throughout the whole film. He wants revenge for his son, then, as soon as he starts killing my men, I want revenge on that, then I accidentally exercise that revenge on someone else and they then want revenge on me. It's this huge, big mess of a web that comes to a huge climax, and leaves everyone really screwed."
Tom Jackson is White Bull. The cartel leader going - literally, sometimes - head to head with the evil Viking "This is as entertaining as any other movie I've been in. It's no Walt Disney..."
This movie is tonally pretty unique. What was your reaction when you first read the script?
"Well, I have an agent, Alicia. She reads everything before it gets to [my wife] Alison, and Alison reads everything before it gets to me. And I was sitting one night, at my wonderful little habitat, and Alison was reading this script, and kept breaking into belly-laughs. I said, 'What are you reading?' She said, 'A script Alicia sent, called Cold Pursuit.' And I said, 'Well, am I supposed to read it?' She said, 'No. It's very funny...'"
That seems a little harsh! What did you both respond to about it?
"That it was a satirical piece, a dark piece. It was really interesting to me to play a character who is in fact 'Indian', who by and large doesn't get represented that way in the movie. It was also different, for me, to play a villain. I don't very often play bad guys in my life. Because I often think that art imitates life. So I had to consider all of that, and at the end of the day, I just thought this was a really nice challenge for me."
How did you find working with Hans?
"He's brilliant. He's a very sensitive man, and I like that. We shook hands once. Since then, we hug. We only had one handshake."
Tell us about the cartel White Bull is in charge of...
"My comrades, they aren't a tribe, they're a collective group of Native American men who come from all parts. And I once said to them [on set], 'Do I look like a homeless guy to you? Do I look like an addict to you? Well, 30 years ago, I lived in a hole in the ground, and the guy who dealt me drugs lived in the house above the hole that I lived in. And that man came to me one day and he stuck out his hand and he made me a deal. And it was a good deal. Not a great deal, but a good deal.' That's a conversation I had with my fellow actors, we shared stories about our backgrounds. You should have been in that room. That built the character of the group. You know, we're actors, but we still believe in each other as a group, and I think that's what you'll sense when you'll watch this movie, that there's something different about this group of people."
You have a fascinating relationship with your rival, Viking. What was that built on?
"In the movie, the guy my character shook hands with was Viking's dad. So, I made a deal with his dad [establishing which cartel had control of what]. And White Bull doesn't know much about Viking, other than he's maintained the flow. But he's not like his dad. So, I don't really have any affinity for him until he takes something from me, and I want something in return."
Even though you're not on screen much together, your character and Liam's share an understanding. How was that process, building that rapport?
"I only have one scene with Mr. Neeson, but I dare say it's the best scene in the movie. We didn't spend much time together, but one night we worked together until 2:30am. And the conversations that we had outside the scene, you would like very much to have been in that room. I was going on, as I have a tendency to do, about certain journeys I've had in my life, and he shared some of his, and talked a little about fly fishing - that I knew nothing about but know a lot more about now. We talked a lot about this inherent ability for Native American people to live closer to the land than others, and to understand what that actually is. And how do you find all that out if somebody doesn't tell you? You have to go looking for it, but where do you start, right? How do you find out that the planet is alive? So, we explored that together. You know, you wonder if people sit around, drink coffee, and Martinis or whatever... or if they change the world. Well, I can say we changed each other's. And I wish I had more time. Maybe we will one day."
Do you see similarities between White Bull and Nels?
"I don't know that the characters are dissimilar... It's like, my cat had a stand-off with a coyote [recently]. Now, if that coyote that my cat had a stand-off with had got my cat, I'd be feeling different about my cat and that coyote. I think when there's a gap created in your world, a gap that is founded in love that is removed from you, vengeance is maybe not the proper instinct to go and find, but it may be the only instinct that brings comfort."
This movie also has some great action. How did you feel about shooting that?
"I like the shoot-em-up part! I mean, I always wanted to be The Lone Ranger. Okay, maybe the other guy... So, as much as I philosophise about this, the reality is that this is as entertaining a movie as any other I've been in."
Should we feel empathy for these characters, do you think?
"These are all bad guys. There are no good guys in this movie. So you have to start there, and then decipher, 'Well, how bad is that guy?' Remember THE WILD BUNCH? Remember those movies? I think throughout there's this thread - not honour amongst thieves exactly, but this thread that does definitely give you a hero's perspective in the midst of all these bad guys. You feel for them. And that's bizarre!"
Laura Dern is Grace. Nels' wife talks her lost hopes and dreams, her love of pot, and her fears for her husband. "Liam's a nightmare, but somebody's got to do it. Somebody's got to kiss him."
How did you find working with Liam?
"He's a nightmare. It's not easy, but somebody's got to do it. Somebody's got to sit there and kiss Liam Neeson. I said, 'Really? If I must, I'll show up.' It's like the greatest thing in the world. I adore him as a human, and he's the greatest storyteller. And he makes me laugh so hard that we barely got through our last scene. We started telling each other stories, then we just kept the stories going and kind of in turn got them into the scene somehow. I was laughing out loud, and it wasn't supposed to be funny! I had the best time with him."
Was he the draw for you, or the script?
"Well, first and foremost, I've always wanted to work with Liam Neeson, who's a dear friend, and the gift of us working together came to me via text, with Liam seeing if it could work out if that we could be together on this. I was thrilled because I have dreamt of that for many, many years. And he introduced me, really, to Hans Petter [Moland]. Before, I just knew his work a little bit, and have a great kinship toward it because I'm of Norwegian descent, my grandmother's family. So I've always dreamt of being in Norway and I love his films, and his actors, so it was a dream to come together with this Norwegian crew and work with this filmmaker, who's beautifully irreverent and, you know, a great visionary. So both things were really intriguing to me."
Had you seen the original when Liam's text came in?
"I hadn't until I was asked by Liam about doing it. And what really struck me about that film, that I feel like he's [Hans Petter] held true to - which is so important - is that the film feels so dark and desolate, and the loneliness of this man you feel so completely, and perhaps his inability to communicate what he's walking through. And you're immersed in that, and then suddenly this really black, irreverent comedy takes over, amidst all the mayhem. And I love the theme of what can go wrong when revenge is your destiny. Or the path you choose. And in reinventing this, Hans gave room to the new actors to make it their own. For Liam and I, and Hans, we wanted to develop further the relationship between this husband and wife, to deepen what was at stake."
What happens to your relationship in the movie?
"There's a chemistry and intimacy and friendship between two people, but when a tragedy occurs, and two people handle it so completely differently, they can lose each other, not only themselves, in it. Grace needs to process it, and Nels needs to completely shut off. So there's no conversation, no healing, no dialogue - and the intimacy is lost. And he has a way that he's going to manage his agony. And not only is it entirely opposed to how I'm dealing with it, but also I'm left removed from it because he's on this mission. He's lost himself in this drive for revenge."
How would you describe Grace?
"Grace is, I think, a rebel, but in a very different way than Nels. She's probably into punk and deeply invested in music, and was a hippy of sorts. And as she was taking off towards what she was expecting to be, to live this sort of wild, free life, she fell in love, and ended up choosing to stay for this man. And then they had a family. So, as has happened for many women, you have this very driven passion, but make a choice. So there's a longing she may have always had. And somewhere in the back of her head it was like, 'Well, maybe when my son's grown I'll continue that.' So it gives a seed to some place for her to go in her pain. She wanted to travel the world, and maybe, for her, [smoking] pot sort of takes the edge off the fact that she's stuck - literally - in the middle of the wilderness, without many people to talk to, even her own husband, because he's out all day."
Beneath the surface narrative, what's this movie actually about?
"It's about what happens when you don't consider what you're feeling, and you take, oddly, what you think is the path of least resistance, which is revenge. As a way to deal with your feelings, you're just going to create hell, and end up far worse off than when you started. I find that heart-breaking, terrifying and ultimately kind of hilarious, in its brokenness, because so many people get into so much trouble with that agenda. I think through grief - which we all understand and have experienced in some area of our life - we all want revenge. And we play it out in a daydream, many of us, or seek it in subtler forms, emotional revenge on people who have hurt us, which is still potentially damaging. So any character taking on our wildest contempt and acting it out is delicious and can be quite funny, and horrifying. Perhaps it'll make us see the mess we could make, if we actually stayed true to the shadow of what we're feeling. It's a cautionary tale, but a very irreverent one."
Emmy Rossum is Kim. Meet the female cop rising to the surface in a sea of male stupidity. "Everyone feels like a secret weirdo"
After your acclaimed run on Shameless, you could have picked anything for your first feature in four years. What made Cold Pursuit the one?
"What intrigued me was seeing a young woman fight for herself and what she believes in in a male-dominated world. Not just within a criminal world but within her own workplace in the police force, too. That's just a really interesting picture to draw. In the end, it doesn't really matter if she solves the case or gets the bad guys. It's really that she sticks to her ideals and to her guns - no pun intended - throughout her journey. And I was really impressed by the tone [of the script], the bizarre, slightly surreal dark comedy set against really intense violence. That's not something which I'm usually too keen on, but this was handled in a very kind of comic and strange way that really got my attention. I'd heard that the characters were drawn in unique ways that I hadn't seen before: bad guys that weren't all bad, good guys that weren't all good. And then I read the script, and wasn't quite sure that I was reading it correctly because I found myself laughing at things that I wasn't sure I was supposed to be thinking were funny. And that had me sold. It's a movie about how strange life is, and how bizarre people can be."
What can you tell us about Kim?
"She's an eager young rookie cop, idealistic and highly moral but shaded too, being shown the ropes by an older officer - played by John Doman, who I loved in THE WIRE - who's a little bit jaded, and she's very idealistic about right and wrong. And the town she's in is one where there doesn't seem to be a lot of crime. And when all these dead bodies start piling up, it's kind of exciting for her because suddenly she has something to do. She's living in a slightly misogynistic world where her partner, who's kind of like your stereotypical white male, is very interested in her dating life. And not that interested in doing the right thing. So it's a great role. I felt that I had kind of a weird, bold take on the character that they were either going to like or not, and I guess they did!"
You've worked with Liam Neeson before. How did he compare on this?
"Well, l love Liam. He is tall and handsome and kind and funny. And annoyingly professional. He cares about the little people on set. He's really just everything that you could imagine him to be. He can go in and out of character completely seamlessly. He's not the kind of person that needs 30 seconds before the camera rolls to get into character. Working with him is very organic. And obviously I've been such an admirer of his work for so long that I was really looking forward to doing scenes with him. My character is initially intrigued by, and very empathetic to, his struggle and the loss of his child, so they have some kind of connection, until the bodies start piling up. And that's interesting, because we're all the heroes in our story. He is a hero in his story. Kim is the hero in her story. Nothing is black and white."
Did you do any preparation to play a cop?
"I did get a ride along in Brooklyn with NYPD and that was really, really fun. It was really surprising to me because I always think of the police force as being older than me because they're authority figures and what I found was that the people I did the ride along with were younger than me. It was so incredible to be with people who were armed and arresting people and in their quest for justice and right and wrong who were 27 and 24 years old. It was fascinating because I think we naturally have kind of like a fear of the police, you know, just in terms of getting in trouble or being on the wrong side of things or in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so getting to see the other side of that was really fascinating. The woman [police officer] reminded me a lot of Kim. She was 27, and had just taken the Sergeant's test as she wanted to move up the ranks. She was a fierce driver. I'm a terrible driver which was definitely one of my challenges because I actually have to drive a vehicle in this picture, which is never advisable. And just getting to see how powerful she was behind the wheel, it was just very inspiring and eye-opening."
Cold Pursuit is such a unique movie when it comes to tone. How do you describe it to people?
"I think all of these characters are strange in their own way. I don't think they're normal, everyday people. They're surprising and bizarre. They're weird, and I think everyone feels like a secret weirdo. In this movie there's a gangster who only wants his kid to be macrobiotic and super-healthy, and a family man who becomes a murderer, and a young cop who's eager to see a dead body because that means something to do. These are all strange things that we wouldn't necessarily admit about ourselves. It has something really tangibly bizarre that feels weirdly familiar in its specificity."
John Doman is Gip. Kim is less than ably abetted by Gip, her police partner who would just like to live and let live. "His idea of community policing is to the let the locals do what they want"
What kind of cop is Gip?
"He's a pretty laid-back character. I mean, this is the town [Kehoe] that he grew up in, and it's a ski town. And his idea is live and let live. His idea of community policing is to let the locals do what they want to do, and try to stay out of their way."
And his partner, Kim, is quite the opposite, right?
"Yeah, my partner, Kim - played Emmy Rossum - is this hard-charging, aggressive young police officer, and she wants to make her mark. She's dying to pull out her gun and shoot somebody, I think. And it kind of makes my character a little nervous. He's constantly trying to put her back in her box. And Emmy is a terrific actress. She has a great sense of humour."
What appealed to you about the role of Gip?
"What I liked about the Gip character was that he provided a little bit of comic relief, I think, in the midst of a lot of murderous things going on. I don't get a chance to play comic relief very often, so I thought this would be a wonderful chance to do just that. Also, the first thing that appealed to me about it was the fact that Liam Neeson was going to be the lead guy. I had never met Liam and never worked with him, but I admired his work and I've heard through people who do know him, what a great guy he is. So that right off the bat made me very interested in doing it. And the script was really well written, the characters are very well drawn. And there's a lot of action, and I really hadn't done a movie that had that kind of action in it before. So that was interesting to me as well."
Your fellow cast members have said how much they loved being directed by Hans Petter Moland. Was that your experience, too?
"Very much. Hans has a very light touch as a director, which is wonderful, really. You know, there's no shouting or yelling or screaming, he just comes over and gives little touches here and there. And he knows what he wants. I mean, he's made this movie before. So he has a lot of insight into the characters, which is very helpful!"
Would you describe Liam's character, Nels, as a hero?
"Well, it depends on how you define hero. But Nels is certainly a sympathetic character. I mean, he's lost his son. And his wife. So yeah, I mean, depending on how you define hero, he is the hero of the story. And he's getting rid of a lot of bad guys! My character doesn't really know Nels all that well. We've grown up in this town, but we're not buddies. We know each other. He is a very - in my eyes - a very strong, upstanding kind of guy. I know his background, and I know that he didn't follow the same path as his brother and his father did. And I respect him for that. And the way he handled the death of his son - at least my first impression of that - was that he's kind of amazing, the way he handled it. He went right back to work and, of course, I don't know that he's actually out there killing the drug dealers. You know, he's the last man you would suspect. He's an upstanding citizen..."
What's Gip's take on all the bad guys in town? Does he care?
"I'm aware of the criminal element in town. In fact, I'm also aware that Nels' father and grandfather, I believe, were both involved with the crime in town. But it's always been a very low key, behind the scenes, nobody gets hurt, kind of crime. Basically dealing with the drug trade, and servicing people who come there to ski, to have sex and get high. And my philosophy has always been to let them do what they want to do, and now the bodies are starting to pile up, and I'm still trying to not deal with this. And, of course, my partner is hot to trot and get out and get the bad guys, and I'm trying to keep her in the squad car."
How did you find shooting on location? Cold, we're guessing?
"Well, yeah! I mean, we'd leave the resort area where we were staying, the ski resort area, and we'd drive for maybe, I don't know, a half hour or so to the base camp, where we had all the trailers set up. We'd do hair and make-up, and get changed there, and then we'd get into a snow cat, and go for another half hour, up into the Rockies, up over the ridge line - we were at the top of the world up there. It was very impressive. It was enjoyable, too. And we were well protected from the elements. I was wearing a rubber suit under the costume, which cut down on the effects of the wind, so I was comfortable up there the whole time. It was great. A real highlight was a scene I had in a ski lift, which was a lot of fun. Just going up, shooting on the way up, shooting on the way down. We did quite a few runs at that, and it made me want to get on skis again, being up there. I haven't skied in 25 years, but being up in that atmosphere really got me wanting to get out there again. But of course, I couldn't ski [while we were shooting] because the contract says you can't!"
Julia Jones is Aya. One of the few people not scared by Viking his Aya, the woman who married him, and survived. "Viking is a raging lunatic. His house is like the lion's den. But she won't let him win."
How would you describe your relationship with Viking, your ex-husband?
"Right, well, Viking is a lunatic. I mean, Viking is a raging lunatic. And they had a relationship, they were married, they were together. So when, at a certain point, she wanted to get out, everything just went to hell. And now she still has to deal with him because they have a kid together, Ryan. Her whole objective is trying to get full custody of Ryan. And it's a challenge because with her and Viking it's almost like a tennis match, the power goes back and forth. But she wins all the time, and that's her whole point - every time she sees him, she goes in to try and win a battle. She starts a fight, and then she needs to win it. And each one makes Viking get more and more and more angry, until he just goes over the top and does something so horrible that she will be able to get full custody. That's her goal. But it's hard, because he's a nightmare. Going to see him is like going into the lion's den, and it takes a toll. So, for me, it was a challenge to show the toll that it takes, but also be in control and win the battle at the same time. It's like two very different things going on at the same time, in every scene."
What do you make of Viking, as a character?
"You really want me to answer that? I mean, Viking's a mobster, Viking's a psychopath. Viking kills people, Viking is a drug dealer, Viking is, you know, he's a very, very bad man. He does whatever he needs to do, he doesn't think twice about it. In fact, he doesn't think once about it."
Does he love his son?
"I don't know. I don't think he knows what love is. I think with Viking, everything revolves around Viking - the worth of things is determined by how they make him feel, or how valuable they are to him that they are his. And Ryan is one of those things. It's a completely different way of looking at relationships or parenting, or anything!"
He does care about his son's diet, though, doesn't he? He's got an obsession with his diet being super-healthy...
"I don't know if Viking has this healthy obsession [for his son] as a way to consciously make up for the fact that he's such a terrible person, or if it's just random and he's... I don't know. I mean, I could diagnose him with literally five different disorders, but I would say he's just compulsively, obsessively into what he's into and everybody has to just march according to that tune."
In the movie, pretty much everyone seems to be scared of him, except you.
"It's interesting, because I do think that the two characters that are not afraid of Viking are Mustang [his most long-standing henchman] and Aya. And I think we've just been around him for so long that we've seen through it. We know we're like, 'I have already hit my breaking point, I'm out.' And I think that Mustang's journey is to get out too, and that he helped me get out. That sort of feels right to me."
How about your character? How would you describe her, as a person and as a mother?
"I think Ryan and her are really close. I think she's a very conscious, loving, attentive mother. And I think she's trying to be smart, and that dropping Ryan off every week at Viking's house is something that she can only think about to a point, because there are points where Viking is in one room shooting somebody, and Ryan is literally 12 feet away, watching his iPad. Like, that's the reality, that's how horrible it is. You can't think about stuff like that. So that's what drives her to be as crafty as she is; the pain of having to go into that house and deal with that psychopath every day. And I think there's an element of shame or guilt that she carries with her, because she was involved with Viking, and she was a part of that for a long time. So in a way, as a mother, it's sort of partly her fault. It must be terrible to not be able to protect your child. Like, that's like the keenest maternal instinct, or instinct on the whole planet even - a mother's instinct to protect their children. Her battling with Viking throughout this film is a manifestation of that."
How would you describe this film?
"It has so many different worlds and different characters. And what makes it unique is when those worlds - White Bull's gang and Viking's gang and Nels' world - collide outrageously. They're just totally different, they would never in the real world have the amount of interaction that they do. So there are so many crazy variables. There's a lot of mayhem. And it all leads to this sort of wonderful, ambiguous, comedic, serious ending. It's like everything at once."
Would you describe Liam's character, Nels, as a hero in this story?
"No, I don't think he's a hero. I think he's an everyman. He is very human, very universal, and I guess in that way he is a hero, but not in our conventional sense. He doesn't save the day, he just is true to himself; he does what he needs to do. And I think that's all you can do. I think you probably go wrong when you do something else, even if it's supposed to be the right thing, you know?
Liam Neeson (Nels Coxman) in is an internationally recognized actor. He has appeared in over 70 films, including Schindler's List, Michael Collins, The Grey, Kinsey, The Taken Trilogy, Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins, Love Actually and Gangs Of New York. Over the course of his career, Neeson's films have grossed over $7 billion worldwide.
He a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a proud father of two sons.
Tom Bateman (Viking) most recently starred as 'Rawdon Crawley' in ITV and Amazon's adaptation of the literary classic 1848 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, opposite Olivia Cooke, Johnny Flynn and Claudia Jessie. He was also previously seen as 'Wilkes' in the premiere episode of Hulu's anthology horror series from Blumhouse TV, Into the Dark. His episode, "The Body" also starred Dermot Mulroney and Rebecca Rittenhouse and aired on October 5, 2018. Additionally, Bateman recently received the Breakthrough Actor award at GQ's 2018 Men of the Year Awards.
Next, Bateman will star in the Hans Petter Moland revenge thriller Cold Pursuit, opposite Liam Neeson, Laura Dern and Emmy Rossum, which is based on the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance. Premiering in February 2019, the film centres around a snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers he thinks killed his son.
Additionally, Bateman recently began production on ITV's upcoming period drama Beecham House, where he'll play the title role, 'John Beecham.' Written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, the series is set in late 18th century India and looks at the lives of residents living in a Delhi mansion and explores intrigue, murder and greed but also love and loyalty between a British family and their Indian relationships.
Bateman also recently played the role of 'Bouc' in Kenneth Branagh's star-studded remake of the classic Agatha Christie classic, Murder On The Orient Express. Also starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Judy Dench, the film released in November 2017. He previously made his US feature film debut in Jonathan Levine's Snatched opposite Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer.
On television, Bateman has played the title roles in ITV's Jekyll & Hyde and has also appeared in Hugo Blick's BBC series The Honourable Woman, Dominik Moll's The Tunnel, David Goyer's Da Vinci's Demons and Susanna White's Parade's End, amongst several others.
Previously Bateman, as a member of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, collaborated with Director Branagh on his theatre productions of 'The Winter's Tale' and 'Harlequinade' in the West End's Garrick Theatre. Amongst numerous other theatre credits are the role of Will Shakespeare in Declan Donnellan's production of 'Shakespeare in Love' at The Noel Coward Theatre, and productions of 'Lizzie Siddal', 'The Duchess of Malfi', 'The Lion in Winter' and 'Much Ado About Nothing'.
Bateman trained at LAMDA in London where he was awarded The Leverhulme Scholarship 2009-2011.
Laura Dern (Grace) has received two Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award in addition to six nominations proving herself to be a power woman in entertainment. In addition, out of appreciation and respect for the extraordinary gift the Dern family has brought to the big and small screen, The Hollywood Entertainment Museum honored Bruce, Diane and Laura with the Hollywood Legacy Award. In 2016, she was also selected to serve on The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Board of Governors. Dern recently wrapped production on the second season of Big Little Lies, and is currently working on Greta Gerwig's production of Little Women. for Sony. It was recently announced that Dern will star in and produce The Dolls, a limited series for HBO, alongside Issa Rae. Upcoming, Dern will star opposite Allison Janney in Tate Taylor's comedy Breaking News in Yuba County. In 2018, Dern completed JT LeRoy and Ed Zwick's Trial by Fire.
On the small screen, she was most recently seen starring in HBO's The Tale, which earned Dern a Golden Globe nomination and her seventh Emmy nomination, and on Big Little Lies which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe award for her role as Renata.
In addition to her extensive film and television credits, Dern has been prolific in her producing career. In 2017 she established Jaywalker Pictures, a Los Angeles-based production company founded with partner Jayme Lemons with emphasis on great storytelling in film and television. They have a first look TV Deal with Platform One Media which they have an hour long series Mr. and Mrs American Pie in development. Among the projects in development are the films Candy & Mel, which they are producing alongside Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger. Candy & Mel is based on the true story of an outrageous and sensational murder trial that gripped the nation. The Dog of the South, written by Graham Gordy and Jay Jennings, based on the novel by Charles Portis; and a half-hour comedy from writers Arabella Anderson and Wendy West, based on Anderson's life growing up homeless, producing alongside Sarah Condon and Alon Aranya. Jaywalker Pictures is represented by CAA.
Tom Jackson (White Bull) completed shooting Season 3 of the highly acclaimed CTV series Cardinal, opposite Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse. Previously he played one of the leads opposite Louis Gossett Jr in Sidney Furie's feature The Dependables, Lionsgate's action feature Skinwalkers and John Henderson's Mee-Shee: The Water Giant. Jackson is best known to Canadian audiences for 6 seasons as 'Chief Peter Kenidi' in CBC's inspired view into the lives of a First Nation community, North of 60, for which he still receives fan accolades, his guest star turn on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and "Billy Twofeathers" in PBS series Shining Time Station. Upcoming is Season 2 of APTN's Red Earth Uncovered.
Whether one links Jackson to 'The Huron Carole' - the song or the national concert tour - 'Singing for Supper' or 'Swinging for Supper', the evidence of his earning and staying power in the fundraising circle is without question and one of infamy for this country's food banks. When there's trouble or trauma, he steps up with ideas to alleviate and compensate those devastated by floods, typhoons, fires, drought, terrorism, youth suicide, homelessness, environmental disaster and economic disadvantage, earning him some of Canada's highest honours.
Among Jackson's many awards are the Officer of the Order of Canada, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canadian Red Cross Ambassador, two Queen's Jubilee Medals 2002 & 2012 and an Honorary Degree recipient at 10 universities - 1998 to 20
Emmy Rossum (Kim) has been captivating audiences with her diverse, extraordinary talents for over a decade. Rossum's performance in Songcatcher earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination in the category of "Best Debut Performance." Four years later in 2004, her starring performance as "Christine" in The Phantom Of The Opera earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination, as well as the National Board of Review's "Best Female Breakthrough Performance" Award and the Broadcast Film Critics Association's "Best Young Actress" Award in 2005.
Rossum can currently be seen starring in Showtime's dark comedy series, Shameless, which will begin its ninth season in January. Based on the long-running British series of the same title, Shameless, from Warner Bros. TV and John Wells Productions, revolves around the Gallaghers, a working-class Chicago clan dealing with the recession. The mother is not present, and the alcoholic patriarch (William H. Macy) usually ends up passed out on the living-room floor, so their smart but unpredictable 18-year-old daughter, Fiona (Rossum), is tasked with keeping her five younger brothers and sisters on the straight and narrow. Rossum made her directorial debut on the series in the seventh season for the episode I Am a Storm, and directed on the series for the second time for the eighth season episode Frank's Northern Shuttle Express. Rossum also had the opportunity to direct an episode on another John Wells series, TNT's Animal Kingdom. Additionally, Rossum recently directed an episode of Amazon's new Modern Love series, based on The New York Times column of the same name, that is set to air in 2019.
In 2018, Rossum appeared opposite Will Forte in the Netflix original film A Futile And Stupid Gesture. The film follows the success of National Lampoon in the 1970's and 80's. Rossum's other film credits include COMET opposite Justin Long and Shawn Christensen's Before I Disappear, based on the 2012 Oscar-winning short 'Curfew,' which won the prestigious "Audience Award" at SXSW. Other film credits include Warner Bros.' Beautiful Creatures, Dare alongside Zach Gilford, Dragonball, Poseidon, The Day After Tomorrow with Jake Gyllenhaal, and the Clint Eastwood-directed drama Mystic River. In 2019, Rossum can be seen starring as Angelyne in an untitled miniseries about the woman behind LA's mysterious billboards.
In 2007, Rossum recorded her first album for Geffen records, "Inside Out," which showcased her classically trained voice as the primary instrument. She wrote and recorded all her own songs. She released her second album, "Sentimental Journey"-a collection of 1940s standards-in January 2013.
Rossum began her theatrical career at the age of seven when she began singing the children's roles at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. Between the ages of seven and twelve she was trained there in stagecraft and classical vocal technique and performed in five languages in 20 different operas.
Rossum is the Youth Ambassador for the international organisation Youth AIDS, which works to educate young people in sixty countries on the prevention and treatment of AIDS. Rossum travels internationally raising awareness of the pandemic by speaking at schools, universities and government forums.
Rossum was born in New York City in 1986 and attended the Spence School until 1996. She earned her high school degree through Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) and Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development (CTD).
Julia Jones (Aya) is quickly emerging as one of the entertainment industry's brightest talents.
Julia recurred as 'Kohana' in Season 2 of HBO's critically acclaimed drama Westworld. Julia co-starred as Jeremy Renner's ex-wife in Taylor Sheridan's (SICARIO) directorial debut, Wind River. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Official Selection and won the Cannes Film Festival 2017 Un Certain Regard-Best Director award. She will also star in the upcoming Lionsgate/STUDIOCANAL feature Cold Pursuit with Liam Neeson and Laura Dern. Jones starred opposite James Franco in the independent film High School Lover. Previously, Julia was the female lead opposite Adam Sandler in the Netflix feature The Ridiculous Six directed by Frank Coraci.
She had a breakout performance in The Twilight Saga franchise as Leah Clearwater. Her other credits include Warner Brothers. Pictures Jonah Hex opposite Josh Brolin, Quentin Tarantino's Hell Ride, Winter In The Blood, Missed Connections, Black Cloud, and Three Priests. Jones' television credits include recurring roles as 'Gabriella Langton' on the Netflix series Longmire and 'Dr. Kaya Montoya' on ER in its final two seasons.
A native of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Julia began working in commercials and community theatre at a young age. She also performed regularly in Boston Ballet's production of 'The Nutcracker.' After high school, Jones moved to New York to attend Columbia University, where she graduated with a degree in English. While in college, she began modeling internationally appearing in ads for such companies as Levi's, Esprit, and Polo Ralph Lauren.
John Doman (Gip) has recently starred in Lynne Ramsay's feature You Were Never Really Here opposite Joaquin Phoenix, which premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. He can currently be seen as a regular in the Epix series Berlin Station and in a recurring role in the Showtime series The Affair.
Perhaps best known for playing William A. Rawls in HBO's brilliant series The Wire, he has also starred in the Fox series Gotham as 'Don Falcone', the Canal+/Netflix 1-hour drama Borgia created by Tom Fontana and the AMC series Feed the Beast opposite David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess. Other television credits include Person of Interest, The Good Wife, Burn Notice, Rizzoli & Isles, Damages, Law & Order, CSI, The Practice, and ER among many others.
Doman's numerous film credits include Blue Valentine, The Company Men, Lonely Hearts, Mystic River, City By The Sea, Mercury Rising, and Die Hard With A Vengeance.
John has worked extensively on stage as well, most recently appearing in 'The Other Thing' at the Second Stage Theatre. His other off-Broadway credits include 'The Book of Grace', 'Unconditional', 'Robbers', 'True West' and 'Fool for Love'.
Micheál Richardson (Kyle) is a young actor on the rise. On the big screen, he can most recently be seen in Brady Corbet's Vox Lux which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early 2018. Richardson appears alongside Natalie Portman and Jude Law. On the small screen, he stars in the upcoming series Big Dogs created by Adam Dunn opposite Louis Carbonneau & Brett Cullen.
Richardson has also recently completed several short films such as Sophie Lane Curtis's 'On Our Way', and Denise Chang's 'Paradise'.
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