Hell or High Water
Thursday 8th September 2016
Texas brothers -- Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), come together after years divided to rob branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. For them, the hold-ups are just part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that seemed to have been stolen from under them. Vengeance seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the values of the Old and New West murderously collide.
CBS Films, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Oddlot Entertainment present a Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Film 44/LBI Entertainment/Oddlot Entertainment production of a David Mackenzie Film. The producers are Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn. The executive producers are Gigi Pritzker, Bill Lischak, Michael Nathanson, Rachel Shane, John Penotti and Bruce Toll; and the co-producers are Kathryn Dean, Dylan Tarason and Mark Mikutowicz. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Giles Nuttgens, production designer Tom Duffield, editor Jake Roberts, costume designer Malgosia Turzanska and casting director Richard Hicks, with an original score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis.
The gripping heist thriller has a storied history that hurtles way back to 1903's The Great Train Robbery - and since then, it seems every generation has produced its own revealing visions of the often coolly atmospheric genre. Like many of its predecessors, Hell or High Water builds to a showdown between lawmen and outlaws in the desolate borderlands of America's extreme Southwest. But that's where the comparisons end. For this is not your father's bank-robbing saga of black-hatted bad guys and upstanding sheriffs. This is the Western re-jiggered as morally complex, bitingly humorous and set in a new West where the very banks getting raided are now the most degenerate and cruel of villains themselves.
The film is the 9th feature from award-winning UK filmmaker David Mackenzie - whose body of work also encompasses Starred Up, Hallam Foe, Asylum and Young Adam - and one that has taken him new places, geographically and cinematically. Working deftly with a high-powered cast playing down-to-earth Texans, he brings his own distinctive POV into the American badlands - visceral, muscular and emotionally raw, yet deeply compassionate towards characters who are each facing either a crossroads or the end of the road. Echoing the story's haunting landscape, Mackenzie plays with both grand scope and stark intimacy to merge the lyricism of a mood piece with the tension of a robbing spree on a collision course with the law.
Says Mackenzie: "As a filmmaker I'm always drawn to stories which are not black and white in terms of their moral shades ... so one of the elements I was interested in of this film was this thing that I call 'redemptive criminality' where good people do bad things for good reasons. I think there's something really interesting about that balance, and that is definitely an area of attraction for me as a filmmaker, and in particular in this film".
As a director who has repeatedly shifted into different kinds of stories, Mackenzie was also drawn to the idea of blending genres - genres that each are a form of Americana, but are rarely combined- into a story that defies surface expectations. "The film is a lovely kind of mix of everything - you know there aren't too many Western, comedic, bank robbery road movies", Mackenzie observes.
Mackenzie brings Hell or High Water to life as far more than a renegade 21st Century robbing spree. It is an ode to brotherhood and family loyalty, an elegy for lost dreams and stolen land, a portrait of small town values in their fading twilight and a probing of how people get trapped by expectations of who they're supposed to be. In a time of rapid change even at the edges of America, the film cuts deep into questions of legacy and what people yearn to leave behind as their own personal legends.
The film's dark wit, desperate characters and contemporary themes drew an extraordinary quartet of actors who bring to life two pairs of men committed to each other to the end. Chris Pine and Ben Foster portray yin-and-yang brothers who, despite taking drastically different paths, are drawn together to set things right for the future. And Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play disparate Texas Ranger partners whose racially charged ribbing belies a neverspoken depth of connection.
For producer Carla Hacken, President of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, the film felt both exhilaratingly timeless and part of our times - tackling ideas as ancient as robbing Peter to pay Paul and as current as bank foreclosures. "This is a bank-robbing story, but it is also unusually relevant to our times with its theme of a family losing their home to the bank". she describes. "At the same time, the brothers Toby and Tanner bring in a kind of Cain and Abel angle as well. It has all the visceral elements of a heist thriller, but you are hit with the emotions of a family fighting for one another".
Producer Julie Yorn, who oversees production at LBI Entertainment, says a lot of elements all came together to make Hell or High Water such a rich mix of emotion and intrigue. "You have the voice of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the directorial magic of David Mackenzie and these fantastic performances from Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham - all of which seem to work together in balance and complement each other", Yorn observes. "At heart, the movie is about brothers reclaiming their land and their heritage - which is such a deeply American concept. It's very much a movie about last hurrahs and last stands".
The story of Hell or High Water is, at first glance, a simple one: two hard-luck brothers go on a small-town bank-robbing spree, only to be doggedly pursued by a legendary Texas Ranger on the eve of his unwanted retirement. But underneath its two interlocking plot strands lie currents that delve into family, masculinity, loyalty, family and historical cycles, and the way a new world of faceless greed is colliding with an Old West of rugged individualists.
All of this came to the fore in a screenplay rife with humour and humanity written by Taylor Sheridan, who is known both for portraying Deputy Chief David Hale in the hit series Brothers of Anarchy and as the writer of the critically acclaimed and Oscar®-nominated Sicario.
Sheridan, who himself hails from Texas, wrote Hell or High Water just after Sicario as part of an intended trilogy about the New West. The taut script soon won the so-called Blacklist of the year's hottest unproduced screenplay - but it did not go unproduced for long as Sidney Kimmel Entertainment soon acquired it with Peter Berg's Film 44.
David Mackenzie became the choice for director after they saw his previous feature Starred Up, which was acclaimed for its distinctive mix of raw-edged realism, high-wire tension and emotional sensitivity.
"It was when we saw 'Starred Up' that we were completely blown away", recalls Carla Hacken. "Like this story, it was raw and gritty, yet it had heart and a moving father-son story. It was beautiful yet edgy -- and we wanted all of that for 'Hell or High Water'. David proved to be a great choice. He captures the scope of the action, the emotions and the landscape in mesmerising ways".
Adds Julie Yorn: "'Starred Up' had so much muscle to it - David's style felt right for this story. And we all though it was really interesting to have this very talented European director tackle such an American story".
Mackenzie welcomed the chance to bring his own gritty, modernist vision to a story that may carry all the standard components of the traditional American Western - lawmen, robbers, shootouts and chases -- but is actually a portrait of something happening right now: a portrait of old ways and social structures breaking apart into something new and unpredictable, with people and families struggling to come to terms with it. Mackenzie's past films have flirted with genre - Young Adam, for example, carried the intense mood of a classic film noir and Hallam Foe took the coming-of-age tradition into the territory of a dark fable. But it was really with Starred Up, Mackenzie's prison drama that shook up the category with its gut-punch emotions, that he began experimenting with how he could take a pure genre story and reconstruct into it something authentic and emotionally real.
"In the past I was uncomfortable with the notion of genre as I was trying to make films I thought were original and different, films that would only find themselves on the outer edges of a genre box by default categorisation", he says. "But my last film 'Starred Up' was inescapably a genre movie and it was the first where I tried to embrace the genre completely -- even though I also tried to smuggle a family drama into the center of it", he notes. "But while 'Hell or High Water' is a Western in many ways - an idea which we embrace completely and pay homage to past Westerns -- it also has the DNA of a heist movie, a buddy movie and a road movie, as well as a family drama".
Within that mix-mastering of styles, Mackenzie had another aim: to bring out the story's evocation of American life in the early 21st Century, with all its familial, economic and racial tensions.
"To me, what makes this film so exciting is that between all the genre elements there is a reflection on themes of contemporary American life: on race, guns, the abuses of banks, the loss of the Old West and its values, the break up of families and society, the urge to take things into ones own hands. As an outsider, it was a privilege to try to somehow take a snapshot of the nation in this election year", says Mackenzie. "I tried hard to make a film which feels as American as possible, and felt an obligation to be as respectful to the feeling of the country as I could".
Mackenzie goes on: "Even if I am engaging in a genre, it's not that in itself that excites me. It's the power of the story, the world, the themes and the characters of the piece. This was a very special script from Taylor Sheridan, one that had all this in a very fresh way, but also had a very clear sense of great movies from the past, particularly from the golden age of the 60s and 70s. To me, it recalled flavours of two of my favourite American filmmakers of that time: Don Siegel -- in particular, the great 'Charley Varrick,' one of the few films he made set in the Midwest -- and Hal Ashby, whose humanistic freewheeling style of filmmaking I often try to follow. It also put me in mind of three great films that Jeff Bridges was in as a young man: 'Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,' 'Fat City' and 'The Last Picture Show'".
Mackenzie was especially keen to bring to the fore the often tricky bonds of brothers, whether blood brothers or brothers on the job. Wary as Toby and Tanner or Marcus and Alberto can be of each other, they are utterly devoted to one another's survival.
"One of the hearts of the movie is the relationship between brothers, which is a very strong thing. I have a great relationship with my brother, and I was very drawn to that relationship between brothers - and what brothers are prepared to do to help each other". Mackenzie says. "As I said, Toby is prepared to do bad things, but he's essentially doing it for his family. It's not a justification but it feels like it's a moral weight against some of the amoral stuff that he's doing".
The easy, wisecracking but racially fraught rapport between Marcus and Alberto becomes a mirror image to Toby and Tanner's different approaches to survival. "Marcus and Alberto have a funny double act in how they deal with the antagonism between them", Mackenzie observes. "As well as being serious as Texas Rangers, there's lightness in there, too".
Some of the more intense moments in "Hell Or High Water" are, paradoxically, moments of nearly wordless confrontations that Mackenzie excavates to their emotional depths. Toby's humble porch, in particular, becomes the setting of high drama. This was important to Mackenzie's take on the film.
"I never really thought of this film as a thriller", says the director. "It had to be about a balance between the genre bank robbery elements and the deeper exploration of land and space and people lost in the erosion of change. These are people who don't have easy articulacy; they communicate as much in their silences as their sentences. The 'porch moments' feel to me absolutely essential to the film and we felt instinctively drawn to them whenever the opportunity arrived. When you spend time in that huge very hot empty landscape the porch is such a place of sanctuary and just looking out into that endless horizon feels like second nature -- scanning for potential threats".
The aliveness of the film's porch scenes emerges in part out of Mackenzie's directorial style, which is modern, minimalist and immersive, eschewing typical film set machinery like playback monitors. He prefers to shoot in long, organic takes, waiting to instinctively discover the truest moments as they happen.
"I like the idea of us feeling like the cameras are almost running all the time, so if you're in the moment, you're kept in the mood", he says. "It feels to me like modern filmmaking. It is kind of my method ... The way I like to shoot, we get a lot more done in our day and we can build up the performances. Everything's more fluid and more energized and more time is spent doing the work".
On "Hell or High Water", Mackenzie works with a veritable icon in Jeff Bridges and a rising leading man in Chris Pine, but all of his characters are equally stripped down from bravado to vulnerability. The palpable masculine energy of the film is at times interrupted by women - but it is clear, Mackenzie notes, that these are men who don't allow women deeply into their worlds.
"It's hard to imagine the narrative working with these men grounded by successful relationships with women - apart from Alberto who hints at being in a stable relationship", Mackenzie observes. "It is quite consciously a masculine story. I was very keen to make sure that the women in the story -- almost all of whom are passing encounters -- were well drawn and sympathetic, but like 'Starred Up,' it is essentially a film of men without women".
Hell Or High Water has taken Mackenzie's work to a new level. "I feel I have gotten closer to a more commercial, accessible style of filmmaking in a way which hasn't compromised the integrity of my work", he says. "I now feel ready to tackle films of bigger ambition and scale and comfortable that I can bring humanity and my individual sensibilities to these projects".
Taylor Sheridan was thrilled to see how Mackenzie transported his script to the screen with so much visual power and feeling. "I think David's a very gifted director", says the screenwriter. "He has that rare ability to keep the big picture of the storytelling at the forefront while hammering in on the finer details that make everything come alive. I found him completely ego-less and collaborative ... until we got on set and then he knew exactly what he wanted and where to draw the lines, which is as it should be. In the end, I felt the film was beautifully filmed and orchestrated".
Hailing from West Texas himself, from a long line of law enforcement as well, Sheridan says he always hoped Hell or High Water would be "a love poem to my home state". He explains: "People in Texas are such fighters, and one way or another, they have been fighting for land, for right or for wrong, for centuries. The history of Texas has been a repeating pattern of conquest and assimilation. Being from there, I've seen it and I've also seen that one thing no can ever seem to beat is the bank. So the bank has become an umbrella symbol for all the ways that West Texas has become a way of life that is now largely for the wealthy, and for all the ways in which it has become nearly impossible for some people to carve out a future there".
Sheridan was gratified by Mackenzie's willingness to grapple with the film's emotional and social complexities. "The film is about a state of affairs", Sheridan says. "It's about cycles of poverty and their consequences; it's about the destruction of the nuclear family; it's also about how men show love to other men. You see the reality of a family like Toby and Tanner trying to make a living off 100 cattle and bad land - and you realize along with them that the only way they can truly change this cycle that's ravaged their family is with money".
The meeting of Jeff Bridges with the character of Marcus Hamilton seemed to be one of those casting moments written in the stars. The aging but unbowed Texas Ranger met his match in the Oscar®-winner and six-time Academy Award® nominee whose roles have spanned a vast human range -- from a down-and-out country singer in Crazy Heart to reprising Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers' retelling of True Grit; from a video game programmer in the influential Tron and Tron: Legacy to the survivor of a major plane crash in Fearless to the culturally iconic The Dude in The Big Lebowski. His career has been so full that he is both one of the youngest actors to be nominated for an Academy Award® - for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich's cinema classic The Last Picture Show -- and one of the oldest to win one for Crazy Heart.
Bridges was drawn to Hell or High Water for its sly, modern twists on the classic faceoff of good and evil. "I enjoy that what motivates each of these characters is complex", he says. "You are never quite sure who are the bad guys, who are the good guys, or who you're rooting for. We all tend to judge each other's motives in life, but in this story, it's a matter of point of view as to who's right and who's wrong - and maybe every character is a bit of both and that is always intriguing".
The filmmakers were hugely motivated by Bridges' interest in the role. Says Julie Yorn: "Jeff has always been one of my favourite actors and he had such a great read into this character. His Marcus is fresh and funny, but I think it's also really moving watching a guy like Marcus facing down the realities of age. His performance is so authentic".
David Mackenzie had only ever imagined Bridges taking the role. "I think Jeff puts in an amazing performance as the dogged done-in hunter. I adored working with him and found him to be enormously creative, incredibly engaged with the material and a lot of fun to be around. I am a big fan of his huge body of work and feel very privileged to have worked with him", says the director.
They started by digging into the history and camaraderie of the Rangers. "We talked a lot about the reality of being a Texas Ranger, about the codes, ethics and honor of being a Ranger", recalls Mackenzie. "A lot of it was about getting these details right and then once they had been found we were able to relax into humanizing the character. Jeff is a great improviser and we had a playful approach to the material which really helped us inhabit the moment of it".
The chance to embody both the hard-forged physicality and opinionated persona of Marcus interested Bridges, especially because Rangers are so woven into the West's mythological fabric, but Marcus knows that myth is fading. The fact that Marcus hears the clock ticking - and has no intention of going quietly into the good night -- added an extra layer of both drive and tragedy to the character.
"Texas Rangers are kind of the cream of the crop as far as law enforcement goes", says Bridges. "But Marcus has reached the end of the line. As the movie begins, he just got a letter from the higher ups telling him it's time to shut it down and retire. He's spent his whole life doing this -- getting the bad guys and solving crimes - and now it's come down to this: one last hunt. I think a lot of people can relate to that idea - having to leave behind the thing they've done all their lives".
Bridges conducted his own research into life as a Ranger. He picked the brains of Taylor Sheridan's uncle, former Texas-based U.S. Marshall Parnell McNamara, and also spent time with Joaquin Jackson, the famed Texas Ranger who became a symbol of Texas law enforcement after appearing on the cover of Texas Monthly for a story entitled "Twilight of the Texas Rangers". "They both helped a lot in making every detail as authentic as possible", Bridges explains.
From the get go, Marcus's honed instincts tell him that the duo holding up Texas Midlands bank branches are not the usual junkies or lowlifes after fast cash. He knows this is a different breed. "These kinds of veteran law enforcement guys are pretty in synch with the criminal mind", Bridges observes, "so he gets that this is the work of some pretty smart fellows with a very specific goal".
Marcus' many colours came bristling to life in his rapport with his partner Alberto, played by Gil Birmingham. Their repartee was a highlight for Bridges. "Alberto is half Comanche, half Mexican -- and Marcus enjoys teasing him on both accounts. I found Gil just wonderful to work with, not only as an actor, but he picks a mean guitar, so we had a lot of fun between setups", he notes.
For Mackenzie, Bridges nailed the ways that bias seeps into our relationships, often casually, even unconsciously. "The casual racism was one of the elements of Taylor's script that makes it come alive", he points out. "We sometimes felt awkward with it, but I was very keen not to soften it. What is interesting for me there is an arc to it where what starts as offensive becomes increasingly affectionate and the way that Alberto takes it on the chin and tries to get his own back becomes central to the tough love of their relationship".
Adds Taylor Sheridan: "I watched Jeff truly become another person as Marcus. He embraced all of the character, warts and all, and he shows us not only who this man is but he lets us into the moment when he realises his own mistakes - and he does it so cathartically and movingly".
The role also took Bridges into an intensive shoot-out sequence in 110-degree heat. "That's the fun part of a role like this - getting to learn skills that you never thought you'd do", he muses.
But most of all, Bridges says that the film allowed the cast to dig deep into the light and dark sides of loss and vengeance. Bridges says it makes sense that the film's sympathies don't come down on one side or the other. "When it comes down to us humans, we're a pretty ruthless bunch. When somebody else is harming you and yours, it looks like they're the bad guys. But when you do it to them, you feel like you're the good guy, doing right. That's the human condition", he summarizes.
For Chris Pine, who has one unforgettable scene with Bridges, Marcus is the heart of the film. "This is a story about things coming to an end. Toby sets out to sacrifice his life for his family. And Marcus is watching this vast wasteland of retirement approach. Toby becomes Marcus' purpose, something to live for, and that's beautiful and sad at the same time".
Says Pine of working with Bridges as a fellow actor: "Boy, is he a special animal. He's just very, very giving and very open. He has a real presence but he doesn't come in bellowing just because he's won an Academy Award. He's a gentleman, and ... actually, he reminds me a lot of my father. As Marcus, he has the quality of a man who's seen a lot in life".
If Jeff Bridges' Texas Ranger, Marcus, is the heart of Hell or High Water, his quarry - the quiet-living, unlikely outlaw Toby Howard - is the film's moral underpinning. For Toby is no ordinary bank robber. He's not in it for the rush of the heist. He's not in it to roll in piles of money. He's been driven to the most quintessentially Western crime as a very personal form of redemption.
For Chris Pine, the urge to play Toby in all his charcoal shadings began with a conversation with Taylor Sheridan - and a connection to the film's themes. "Taylor told me about his background, where he came from, what inspired him and his interest in the death of the West as we knew it. I just fell in love with that and I made it a priority to make this role happen", he says. "Taylor's script is all about people who are trying to connect yet are maybe incapable of doing so. Yet the beauty of these of these characters is that that at least they're trying to do the right thing. There's a lot of moral greyness, which I think is a huge part of being human".
Sheridan was equally impressed during those conversations. "Chris was acutely aware that Toby sees himself as an abject failure as a father, that he is broken and frayed, and the way he utilized that to cut to the core of his character is a real testament to his talent. There's also something about him that makes me think of a modern-day Gary Cooper. Few people have that kind of quality anymore, but there's a stillness to Toby that Chris manages to make very compelling".
Pine, renown for playing the strident young Captain Kirk in J.J. Abram's Star Trek series, saw a chance to make a rather significant departure with Toby, whose emotions are not so much explicit as they are slowly burning him up on the inside. "Toby is a quieter person than I've ever played before and I loved that about him", Pine explains. "And I love the way the film depicts so honestly the way men interact with each other. One of the interesting things about male relationships is you can sit together and not say anything, and it's just as good as saying something. Maybe even better. I loved exploring those kinds of moments Toby and Tanner and Toby and his son".
David Mackenzie enjoyed working closely with Pine to dig into the character's layers, which emerge in the quietest moments. "Chris loved the material and the character, and he totally understood that Toby is much quieter, more emotionally locked down and less showy than his brother. As a movie star used to playing the more charismatic charming roles he was brave to hold all of these things back and let his character be worried and unable to have fun as he works to bring his plan to life".
Pine sees Toby and Tanner as trying, in spite of their own disappointing lives, to make a last stand for a family that has never been able to fulfil on the promise of safety a family should provide. "This is a story not just about crime but also about roots and legacy, and to me, Toby and Tanner feel like they are the last of a lineage of failed men and women, and it's come down to them to stop this cycle of violence and poverty and shame for good", Pine explains.
He felt an instant empathy for Toby's readiness to sacrifice himself to give his kids the chance he and Tanner never got. "Toby's had a rough go", Pine continues. "He's got an ex-wife and two kids, but he hasn't seen them in a year. He hasn't been paying child support, and he's been caring for his mother who passed way - only to find out the bank has completely screwed him over and is ready to repossess their land. The only way he can buy the house back -- and give some kind of legacy to his children -- is to rob the same bank screwing him over. It's a choice he feels he has to make in order to protect his family".
Toby might have grit, but Pine admits he's not exactly cut out to be a legendary thief. "I think Toby's an awful criminal", Pine laughs. "On the plus side, he's smart and logical and has a solid plan - but I really don't think he likes pointing guns at human beings, and that's why he has to rely on Tanner, who is fierce and fearless and perhaps capable of anything. Toby would not have been able to rob even a single bank without Tanner, and that's part of what makes the duo so interesting".
Pine greatly anticipated his reunion with Ben Foster, with whom he recently starred in the Coast Guard rescue drama The Finest Hours, as Tanner. He loved that their characters' energies are such extreme opposites, allowing them to push and pull one another. "Tanner's a bit crazy, a bit charming, a bit fun, and a lot dangerous, and Ben is wonderful at that", he says. "He's one of the most gifted, sensitive and intuitive artists I've worked with".
No matter how stark Tanner's differences are from Toby, Pine says they have an unbreakable bond. "One of my favourite moments is when Tanner says I love you to Toby, right after he shot two people. You realize that what he is saying is just as true as the violent act he just perpetrated".
The filmmakers were gratified by Pine's commitment to the role. "Chris has that old school, quiet-yet-strong, masculine presence that was needed to make all of Toby's contradictions work", notes Julie Yorn. Adds Carla Hacken: "Chris was so passionate about this role. He really honed in on Toby's inability to express himself emotionally in words, and expresses the character's emotions in his actions so powerfully".
Pine gives credit to director David Mackenzie's loose, exploratory style for giving him the space to really dig under Toby's thick skin. "David makes process the focal point of everything", Pine observes. "He's an experimenter, and the small, mobile crew made for a freeing atmosphere".
Though he's constantly in demand for studio blockbusters, Pine says Hell or High Water is the kind of film he finds enlivening. "The process of making this kind of film is the most soul and creativity stretching time you can have. And those are the kinds of things I love to do", he states.
Like Chris Pine, Ben Foster says the film's exploration of how brothers connect - and fail to connect - hit him with its authenticity. "I've rarely seen the element of brotherhood handled so elegantly and truthfully", he says, "and having a younger brother myself it was really easy to feel attached to that exploration".
Foster - known for his award-winning turn as the villain in James Mangold's remake of the classic Western 3:10 To Yuma - has most recently played a Coast Guard rescuer in The Finest Hours. He says he simply couldn't say no to playing Tanner -- though that was his first intention.
"I was actually pissed off to get this script because I was intending to take some time off", he remembers. "But then I read it and the feeling was immediate. I knew who this guy was and was ready to fight tooth and nail for it. It's a script that, every time you read it, you find another strand. There are a lot of deep values that are being challenged in this story, which is exciting to see".
As soon as he heard Chris Pine was playing Toby, the deal was fully sealed for Foster. "We had just finished doing 'The Finest Hours' for three months and that really bonded us. I knew we could find that natural rapport of brothers together. This movie lives and dies on you on believing that these two men love each other, in whatever ways that they are able to express it. So having that history already there, that care already established, was going to make it that much more powerful".
Says David Mackenzie of how Foster tackled the role: "Ben totally embraced Tanner's tragic joie de vivre and set about trying to suck as much pleasure out of life as he could. I had a lovely time working with both Chris and Ben and I'm very proud of what they've done - particularly the tough, understated brotherly love that they share".
Tanner is by far the more impulsive and belligerent of the brothers, yet he is also more than the unhinged ex-con he appears to be at first glance. Explains Hacken: "Tanner is the brother who accepted there was no way out, no way to rise above his station, and therefore he was going to do what he wanted, no matter how much trouble he gets into. And yet, there is a clear understanding that he has done and will do anything for Toby".
Though Tanner has never taken the easy or straight road, Foster sees his character as having an exuberance that's his way of grabbing onto life. "To me, he's a man who loves his life. He appreciates every moment because he knows it's going to go fast", Foster observes. "He has survived abuse, prison and a life of hardship by loosening his reins, rather than tightening them. Tanner's a guy who might lick every finger after a meal. He feels you've got to get it now, and it was interesting to lean into that and be reminded of the transience of this human experience".
As for why Tanner protects Toby so relentlessly, Foster says: "For them, love is not a negotiation. You can fight. You can curse. You can stop talking to each other. But the love is never negotiable". He notes that even in the some of the chases that comes out. "Part of being brothers is being able to say, 'we'll push it to the very edge, but I trust you", so we pushed some of the driving".
Production designer Tom Duffield was impressed by Foster's driving skills, especially in the film's climactic pursuit up a steep escarpment. "Ben was great -- he got the car up the hill farther than the stuntmen did", Duffield recalls. "I mean he was really fantastic and he did it all himself".
The intense connection between Foster and Pine was palpable to everyone on the set. Says Marin Ireland, who plays Toby's ex, Debbie: "Ben is such a livewire as Tanner and Chris is so guarded and shy as Toby and I think it's really beautiful what they've done with these roles".
Just as Tanner is the flip-side to Toby, so too is Alberto Parker the flipside to Ranger Marcus Hamilton - a mixed-race, part-Comanche Tejano who shows open affection for the man who constantly badgers him with comic insults and take-downs. Playing him is Gil Birmingham, himself of Comanche heritage, and best known for portraying Billy Black in the "Twilight" series.
As Alberto, Birmingham takes on of his richest roles to date, as a lawman with a very different perspective on American life. "Alberto and Marcus are both driven by the thrill of the chase", Birmingham notes. "But there's a difference to them beyond their love of excitement and adrenaline, and it comes down to the way they perceive injustices. I think we all relate to the idea that your idea of justice comes from the context of your world, your community's conditions and what you believe".
Alberto, who takes on the surname of the last Comanche chief, Quanah Parker, is on the side of law and order but he also is acutely aware that the loss of land and economic opportunity that the Comanche experienced in the 19th Century has come full circle in Texas towns of the 21st. "He has this beautiful little monologue about the cycles of evolution and injustice", says Birmingham.
David Mackenzie says Birmingham brought to life Alberto's POV with subtlety and candour. "Gil did an amazing job as Alberto and it was clear that he and Jeff had some real chemistry - they loved each other and have remained friends. Like the character, Gil himself is from Comanche origins and bringing that knowledge to the character was very important. What I particularly loved was the way Gil was able to bring some very subtle humour and a lot of humanity to this very stoical character who is totally dedicated to the Ranger cause and trying to fit into its ways despite the differences from his own culture".
Mackenzie adds: "I was very honoured that Gil cut his long hair - which he hadn't done for decades - in service of the character. I know it was hard for him and I appreciate it greatly". For Birmingham, working with Jeff Bridges was a constant inspiration to keep his performance contained and deeply human. "It is was a real honour to work with Jeff, a real gift", he reflects. "We kind of hit the banter off as soon as we met because we have many things in common. He's a very Zen kind of guy, and we've both been playing music our whole lives, so we jammed a lot, and that was a lot of fun. Our characters have a sarcastic relationship, but there's real emotion behind it".
He also took great pleasure in David Mackenzie's intimate production style. "It's something that I've never experienced before. It goes back to Old School filmmaking, where you sense the trust that he has in the story and the actors, and how much the director wants everyone to bring their own passion to the project".
Mackenzie's emphasis on telling a labyrinthine human story amid the flying bullets jibed with Birmingham. "With all the comic book, super hero and sci-fi movies right now, it's nice to have such a character driven thriller. This is a raw, exciting film but it's also the kind that can touch people's hearts", he sums up.
Rounding out the cast is an assembly of supporting but essential characters including Marin Ireland as Toby's ex, Katy Mixon and 88 year-old Margaret Bowman as diner waitresses and Gregory Cruz, who is also of Comanche heritage, as Bear, the poker player who introduces the idea of Comancheria and its meaning.
Bringing to life each of these characters was as essential to Mackenzie as every other element of the film - and each leaves an indelible impression.
"In many ways this is a road movie so it's inevitable there will be a series of picaresque encounters", notes Mackenzie. "It was super important to me that these characters and encounters came alive as a way of expressing the sense of place and the atmosphere of the narrative. I think the film lives or dies on the basis of these characters who are the world of the film. I know how hard it is for an actor to join the team for just one day to do a piece like this. I made a real effort to make sure everyone felt as included and supported as possible. It was great fun to do many of these scenes because they are so well written and the characters are so nicely defined".
Throughout "Hell or High Water", David Mackenzie's camera evokes the contrasts of West Texas: the searing heat and the cool alienation, the deep history and severed connections, the fading towns and persistent dreams, the broken families and the abiding love. His minimalist production style - focused intently on candid, immediate performances and organic photography - gives the world of Toby, Tanner, Marcus and Alberto an immersive quality that draws the audience into their innermost dilemmas as the chase unfolds.
For centuries, West Texas was the land of the native Comanche, who even after Texas won independence from Mexico, controlled the Texas plains. As the frontier opened up, the traditional Comanche way of life was largely destroyed, and West Texas became cattle ranching and oil prospecting territory, following the harsh cycles of feast and famine. Today, the area remains a diverse melting pot of Native American, Latino and cowboy cultures -- but while some have grown rich off oil discoveries, others have struggled with high rates of poverty, drug-related crime and a population drifting from small towns to the big cities.
"It's a boom or bust era for Texas right now", says Taylor Sheridan. "For a while oil prices rose but then there was a drought and the cattle industry was basically decimated. After that, Texas started getting big rains again, but oil prices dropped. Many young people have fled the area because the jobs are tough and don't pay that well. The people who stay are trying to carry on a legacy".
It's a region for which Mackenzie felt an immediate affinity. "The film is set in West Texas, where I spent a small amount of time a few years ago but which left a lasting impression on me - to the point where I still consider moving there", he comments.
Where others might have seen bleak inhospitability in the surroundings, Mackenzie found beauty and humanity. "As a sun-starved Scot, the opportunity to do a movie in this sunbaked environment, with all that highlight and hard shadows was something I have been dreaming of", the director reflects. "Both myself and my DP, Giles Nuttgens, who is also of Scottish origin, loved the light and graphic shapes and uncluttered landscape. To us as outsiders there was great beauty in what many Americans might think of mundane or even depressing. And as someone into sailing, I found the vast flat desert landscape like the sea - and when Jeff Bridges arrived he felt the same".
To get that oceanic desert atmosphere imprinted on the film, Mackenzie worked with a team that includes regular collaborator cinematographer Nuttgens (Water, Hallam Foe), production designer Tom Duffield (Broken City, Lone Survivior) and costume designer Malgosia Turzanska (Ain't Them Bodies Saints).
Duffield was thrilled to find New Mexico towns like Moriarty, Estancia, Tucumcari and just miles from the West Texas border Clovis and Portales to stand-in for West Texas towns. "Moriarty is amazing", says Duffield. "I can't believe we found such a perfect area. It has that beautiful tawny sea of grass, those unlimited horizons. David really wanted to capture the sense of desolation you feel in some of these small towns, towns that are getting rubbed out by the cities and the mega-stores, with downtowns that are just kind of evaporating. Moriarty is gorgeous but you get that feeling".
Nuttgens and Duffield found these New Mexico locations an incredible canvas, but Mackenzie also took them on a field trip to Texas. "Before shooting began, we took a road trip through the actual locations where Taylor based the screenplay", Nuttgens explains, "and then we went back to New Mexico and saw exactly how we could recreate that there. It was a tremendous help to absorb those details and it became a big part of the creative process".
From the start, Nuttgens was interested in capturing the way the landscape echoes and informs the characters. "This is not just a heist movie", the cinematographer notes. "It's very much the story of two sets of men who are in opposition, and who have a deep relationship to each other and to the land. The film had to recreate the pressures of this environment - the economic pressure, the social pressure, and the literally physical pressure of the desert with its heat and loneliness. But it's all very subtle. We wanted the situation of the characters to be felt rather than blatantly stated. I love that because David knows I'm the kind of guy who doesn't want to start by talking about the lighting; I want to talk about what's going on emotionally in the story".
Mackenzie and Nuttgens chose to utilize both cutting-edge digital cameras and classic Cinemascope to create a look that is at once contemporary but harkens back to the Western legacy. Pacing was also key. "We wanted to maintain a compelling rhythm, but at the same time, the focus is always on the four men. Even in the big robbery, things don't move lightning fast because for this film, it was not just about the gun battles but about watching the reactions of Toby and Tanner".
Especially intriguing to Nuttgens are the scenes pared down to two brothers or two Rangers talking - on porches, or in cars and trucks, which Taylor Sheridan says "are the modern-day horse". "Today, people are often afraid to have moments where you sit and observe characters but we were able to bring in enough fluidity and dynamism to have those moments feel energetic", says Nuttgens.
That was especially true because of the careful casting, and Nuttgens thrived on working around such mesmerising performers. "You really need the right guys to play parts like these", he offers, "and Ben and Chris and Jeff and Gil were simply fantastic by themselves and together. Jeff and Gil have this amazing rapport and Chris and Ben have this unique feeling of affection that is also very strained. I was especially struck by something Chris did at the end of a conversation he and Ben have on the porch, where Toby gets up and lightly kicks Tanner. It wasn't in the script. Chris just did it spontaneously, yet it felt so incredibly natural -- just one of those things that really says 'we are brothers'. You could explain a whole life time in that one kick".
The feeling was mutual. Says Foster of Nuttgens: "Giles is incredibly in tune with what's happening emotionally in the scene so rather than pushing the shot, he was more interested in having a kind of dance between camera and performance".
Nuttgens was excited to watch Mackenzie stretch his boundaries on this film in thrilling new ways. "David has always been a very, very fast director. But on this film he was really paring things down. He would do a scene and then he would try it again with less. He would say: 'what if we did this part without most of dialogue?' He wasn't afraid to take out the language and leave just the emotions for a take - and this also gave him a lot of flexibility in the editing".
For Mackenzie, that paring-down process, though perhaps risky, is part of the voyage of discovery of each film and the search for something magical. "For me, film-making is about getting as close to the spirit of the material as possible and liberating myself from some of the less necessary conventions of the normal film-making process", says Mackenzie. "For example I don't use clapper boards and I don't have an on set script supervisor. I also keep the edit of the film totally up to speed with the shoot - working with another long term collaborator editor Jake Roberts (Brooklyn, Starred Up), so I am able to see cut scenes the day they are shot - which feeds back into what we are doing in a very positive and encouraging way".
In keeping with the film's naturalism, Duffield utilised practical locations, which further inspired the cast and crew. "There's something irreplaceable about shooting in actual places that have got some real vibes", observes Jeff Bridges. Adds Julie Yorn: "It was amazing to see things going on around us that were also very much in the fabric of the script. For example, when we were scouting for banks, we were made very aware of just how many banks have closed their doors. And we met landowners in crisis, just as Toby and Tanner are. It was constantly reflected back to us how authentic the story was - and that it's relevance is only deepening". And in a case of life imitating art one of the banks used as a location was robbed for real a week after filming - the perpetrator was swiftly apprehended.
The sets echoed the landscape in shades of brown, beige and green. "For the palette, I went for earthy colours", says Duffield, "because Toby and Tanner are protecting the land - and the land is their only connection to a real future". Nuttgens notes: "The landscape in this film isn't just functional - it something that actually adds to what is happening in the performances".
Duffield especially enjoyed working with Bob's Burgers, a typical small-town diner that becomes a window on a bank robbery. "We found this wonderful diner with great booths and a great angle on the bank so you see Toby in the diner talking to the waitress while you see Tanner running in and out of the bank. It's one of my favourite scenes in the movie", says the designer.
For the banks that Toby and Tanner hold up, Duffield renovated several abandoned banks, but was excited to have the chance to use the operational Western Bank in Clovis, New Mexico to play one of the fictitious Texas Midlands branches. "It was so important to have real banks", Duffield notes. "A lot of banks didn't want to let us film robbery for obvious reasons but the Western Bank shut down for a day, and even let us shoot gunfire inside. It gave us something amazing".
Mackenzie was also pleased to have the chance to replicate Archer City, where the seminal West Texas drama "The Last Picture Show" was shot in 1971. "Our film's opening bank robbery is set in Archer City, the town featured in 'Picture Show'. It was one of the many privileges of making this film that I went there on the first day of scouting - it has changed very little ago and many of the landmarks of the film including the film theatre are still there. Sadly because we shot in New Mexico for budget reasons we weren't able to shoot there or bring Jeff back to revisit".
That climactic bank gunfight was shot with maximum bedlam in mind. "It looks realistic, and I love the randomness and the panic", says Duffield. "These guys aren't professionals so you get the chaos of a true, in-the-moment, anarchic shoot-out".
It's also a gunfight that leads inexorably to a very different kind of showdown between Toby and Marcus - a showdown of equally impassioned moral positions.
"One of the exciting things about this film is that it is trying to do something classic with great storytelling", observes Nuttgens. "I believe cinema has a responsibility to document our times. And though this film picks up on legends of the Old West, it's also about how people are living and relating to each other right now".
One of Hollywood's most successful actors and a six-time Academy Award® nominee, Jeff Bridges' (Marcus) performance in Crazy Heart - as Bad Blake, the down-on-hisluck, alcoholic country music singer at the center of the drama-deservedly garnered the iconic performer his first Oscar® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The performance also earned him the Golden Globe, SAG Award and the IFP/Spirit Award for Lead Actor. The film follows Blake, who, through his experiences with a female reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is able to get his career back on track while playing mentor to a hotshot contemporary country star and simultaneously struggling in his shadow. The movie, directed by Scott Cooper, is based on the debut novel by Thomas Cobb and also stars Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. Bridges' moving and multi-layered performance is one of many in a career that spans decades.
He earned his first Oscar® nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino's Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. By 1984 he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for Starman; that performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. In 2001, he was honoured with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar® nomination for his role in The Contender, Rod Lurie's political thriller, co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States.
In December 2010 his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically acclaimed western True Grit landed him his sixth Oscar® nomination. The film focuses on fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) whose father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), she sets out with him - over his objections - to hunt down Chaney.
The same month he was seen in the highly anticipated 3D action-adventure TRON: Legacy. Bridges reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film TRON. With state-of-the-art technology, TRON: Legacy featured Bridges as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.
He will next be seen in the first animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint- Exupery's iconic masterpiece The Little Prince as the Aviator for director Mark Osborne. He was last seen in the action adventure fantasy film Seventh Son, reuniting with Julianne Moore and directed by Sergey Bodrov.
In August 2014, Bridges starred in The Giver opposite Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan. Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry, the film - which he also produced - was a passion project of his for more than 2 decades and was directed by Phillip Noyce. Prior to Crazy Heart, Bridges was seen in the war comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats, playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. The Peter Straughan screenplay (based on the Jon Ronson book and directed by Grant Heslov) is based on a true story about a reporter in Iraq, who meets a former member of the US Army's First Earth Battalion, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions. He stars opposite George Clooney (also a producer), Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey.
Additionally, he starred in A Dog Year for HBO Films/ Picturehouse, based on the memoir by Jon Katz and directed by George LaVoo (who also wrote the screenplay) and garnered an Emmy nomination; as well as opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios blockbuster Iron Man, playing the character of Obadiah Stane. He starred opposite Shia LaBeouf as Geek, a cantankerous and washed-up surfer penguin, in the Academy Award®-nominated Surf's Up, from Sony Pictures Animation. Prior to that, he was in his second film for director Terry Gilliam, entitled Tideland, where he played Noah, a drug addicted, has-been, rock guitarist.
The actor's multi-faceted career has cut a wide swathe across all genres. He has starred in numerous box office hits, including Gary Ross' Seabiscuit, Terry Gilliam's offbeat comedic drama The Fisher King (co-starring Robin Williams), the multi-award-nominated The Fabulous Baker Boys (co-starring his brother Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer), The Jagged Edge (opposite Glenn Close), Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Blown Away (co-starring his late father Lloyd Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones), Peter Weir's Fearless (with Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez), and Martin Bell's American Heart (with Edward Furlong, produced by Bridges' company, AsIs Productions). That film earned Bridges an IFP/Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor.
In the summer of 2004, he appeared opposite Kim Basinger in the critically acclaimed The Door in the Floor for director Todd Williams and Focus Features, which earned him an IFP/Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor.
He played a major featured role in The Muse (an Albert Brooks comedy starring Brooks, Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell); appeared in the suspense thriller Arlington Road (co-starring Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, directed by Mark Pellington); and starred in Simpatico, the screen version of Sam Shepard's play (with Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney). In 1998, he starred in the Coen brothers' cult comedy The Big Lebowski. Before that, he starred in Ridley Scott's White Squall, Walter Hill's Wild Bill, John Huston's Fat City and Barbara Streisand's romantic comedy The Mirror Has Two Faces. Some of Bridges' other acting credits include How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, K-PAX, Masked and Anonymous, Stay Hungry, Fat City, Bad Company, Against All Odds, Cutter's Way, The Vanishing, Texasville, The Morning After, Nadine, Rancho Deluxe, See You in the Morning, Eight Million Ways to Die, TRON, The Last American Hero and Heart of the West.
In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to feeding children around the world. Jhe produced the End Hunger televent, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The televent featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action. He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America. Through his company, AsIs Productions, he produced Hidden in America, which starred his brother Beau. That television movie, produced for Showtime, received a Golden Globe nomination in 1996 for Best TV/Cable Film and garnered a Screen Actors Guild nod for Best Actor for Beau Bridges. The film was also nominated for two Emmy Awards.
One of Bridges' true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved. Bridges' photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York (at the George Eastman House), Los Angeles, London and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. In 2013, Bridges was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography, NY.
The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organisation that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.
In February 2015 Bridges released a spoken word/ambient album titled Sleeping Tapes. The collaboration was co-produced with musician Keefus Ciancia who also supplied the music. The album was released by web hosting service Squarespace as part of its Super Bowl advertising campaign, with all proceeds from the album sales going to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign.
In August 2011 Bridges released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years. The critically acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort "Be Here Soon", on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, CA label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and country-rock legend David Crosby. In 2014 he released his first live album Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live and has been touring off and on when he is not working.
Bridges and his wife Susan divide their time between their home in Santa Barbara, California, and their ranch in Montana.
Chris Pine (Toby) has emerged as one of Hollywood's hottest actors. With multiple upcoming major motion picture releases, Pine's resume is as extensive as it is versatile. In addition to Hell or High Water, he will next be seen in Star Trek Beyond, the third installment of the highly successful franchise and he is currently filming Wonder Woman. Pine's most recent credits include Disney's harrowing drama, The Finest Hours, the true story of the U.S. Coast Guard's most daring sea rescue; Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer; Z for Zachariah, which also starred Chiwetel Ejiofor and Margot Robbie and was directed by Craig Zobel; and Horrible Bosses 2, opposite Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. He also co-starred in the Rob Marshall directed musical-comedy Into the Woods alongside Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp and Anna Kendrick.
Pine had the title role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit for director Kenneth Branagh opposite Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner. Based on the Jack Ryan character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, the film is a contemporary action-thriller set in the present day which follows a young Jack as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. Pine reprised his role as James T. Kirk in Paramount's sequel to Star Trek: Star Trek into Darkness in April 2013, directed again by JJ Abrams. In 2012, Pine lent his voice to the DreamWorks animated feature Rise of the Guardians with Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law. He also starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Banks and Olivia Wilde in the drama People Like Us and co-starred with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in the 20th Century Fox action-comedy This Means War. Previously, Pine starred opposite Denzel Washington in the FOX feature film Unstoppable, directed by Tony Scott.
Additional feature credits include the Paramount Vantage film Carriers, the educational animated feature Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey, Bottle Shock for writer/director Randall Miller, the independent feature Small Town Saturday Night for writer/director Ryan Craig, Joe Carnahan's gritty ensemble drama Smokin' Aces for Working Title Films and Universal Pictures, Blind Dating, costarring Eddie Kaye Thomas and Jane Seymour, the Fox/New Regency romantic comedy Just My Luck opposite Lindsay Lohan and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement opposite Anne Hathaway.
On the stage, Pine was most recently seen starring in Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. In Bob Verini's review for Variety, he called Pine's performance "spookily, spectacularly good" and went on to remark that "'Inishmore' audiences are present at the launch of what promises to be a truly remarkable stage career." In March, 2011 he was awarded "Best Lead Performance" by the LA Drama Critics Circle for his performance.
Pine also received rave reviews and a 2009 Ovation Award nomination for his performance in the drama Farragut North starring opposite Chris Noth at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. His additional stage credits include the Neil LaBute play, Fat Pig, also at the Geffen Playhouse and The Atheist, a one man show performed off off-Broadway, in addition to multiple productions at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, among many others. In 2013, he received the prestigious Male Star of the Year award at the annual CinemaCon Awards.
Pine graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. His parents are actors Gwynne Gilford & Robert Pine and his late grandmother, Anne Gwynne, was a film actress of the '30s and '40s. Pine currently resides in Los Angeles.
Ben Foster (Tanner) most recently starred alongside Chris Pine, Eric Bana, and Casey Affleck in Craig Gillespie's The Finest Hours. Beyond Hell or High Water, he will next be seen starring alongside Dominic Cooper in Duncan Jones' Warcraft and alongside Tom Hanks in Ron Howard's Inferno.
Foster's films include Peter Berg's Lone Survivor in which he starred opposite Mark Wahlberg. Also in 2013 he starred in Ain't Them Bodies Saints alongside Rooney Mara and Kill Your Darlings in which he co-starred with Daniel Radcliffe, which both premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
In 2014, Foster made his London stage debut in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic Theatre. He starred alongside Gillian Anderson and Vanessa Kirby under the direction of Benedict Andrews. The production makes its US premiere Off Broadway at St. Ann's Warehouse in spring 2016.
Previously, in spring 2013, Foster made his Broadway debut in the revival of Lyle Kessler's Orphans opposite Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge. The production, directed by Dan Sullivan, received a Tony nomination.
In 2009, Foster starred opposite Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton in Oren Moverman's The Messenger. The film played in official selection at Sundance Film Festival as well as winning the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay and the Peace Film Award at Berlin Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the Deauville Film Festival, all in 2009. Foster reteamed with Moverman in 2011 to co-star in and produce Rampart, which also stars Woody Harrelson. The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, the AFI and the London Film Festival. In 2007, he appeared in James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma. The cast received an SAG Ensemble nomination for their work in the film.
Foster's additional credits include Stephen Frears' The Program; Fernando Meirelles' 360, Baltasar Kormakur's Contraband, Braden King's Here, The Mechanic, Nick Cassavetes' Alpha Dog, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, 30 Days of Night, Hostage and Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights, which marked his film debut.
On the small screen, Foster shared the SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast for his work in the 2003 season of HBO's critically acclaimed drama Six Feet Under, in which he portrayed Russell Corwin for three seasons. He was also a part of the Emmy nominated HBO telefilm The Laramie Project. He appeared in several episodes of the cult hit Freaks and Geeks and his lead performance in Showtime's Bang Bang You're Dead garnered him a Daytime Emmy award.
Award-winning actor Gil Birmingham (Alberto) has appeared in more than 40 film and television productions. Birmingham generated public acclaim for his portrayal as Billy Black in the blockbuster films Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, based on the best-selling books by Stephenie Meyer. He appeared in the film The Love Ranch (2010) with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, directed by Taylor Hackford. Birmingham appears as Wounded Bird in the Academy Award® winning film Rango (2011) with Johnny Depp. He also appeared in the film Crooked Arrows with Brandon Routh in 2012. Other film credits include roles in Shouting Secrets with Twilight Saga cast member Chaske Spenser, End of the Spear, Dreamkeeper, Gentle Ben, The Doe Boy and Love's Long Journey, among others. Birmingham also appears in the film The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammar.
On TV, Birmingham has guest starred in several episodes of Wilfred, alongside Elijah Wood, and has appeared on The Lying Game, Castle, The Mentalist, Nip/Tuck, Veronica Mars and Vegas. His powerful portrayal of Dogstar in Steven Spielberg's six-part TV miniseries Into the West captured the attention of audiences worldwide. He has been a recurring guest star in Banshee, House of Cards - Season 2 and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
In addition to acting, Gil is an accomplished guitar player and singer, and performs for fans in a variety of venues with his blues/rock style.
Marin Ireland (Toby's Ex) is a highly acclaimed actress of stage and screen. She stars opposite Corey Stoll in the independent feature Glass Chin a performance that earned her a nomination for a 2016 Independent Spirit Award. This year, she will star in The Family Fang opposite Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman, as well as Some Freaks with Thomas Mann and In The Radiant City. Other recent film credits include The Phenom, Bottled Up and 28 Hotel Rooms.
This past year, she starred in the NBC miniseries The Slap, written by Jon Robin Baitz and opposite Zachary Quinto, Thandie Newton, and Uma Thurman in addition to recurring roles on HBO's Girls and Showtime's Masters of Sex. She will next star in the Amazon series Sneaky Pete opposite Giovanni Ribisi and produced by Bryan Cranston. Tony Award nominated for her performance in Neil LaBute's Reasons To Be Pretty, Marin recently received rave reviews for her performance in the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater's co-production with Women's Project Theater, Ironbound. She also starred in the Lincoln Center Theater's play Kill Floor and on Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Big Knife, opposite Bobby Cannavale.
Katy Mixon (Diner Waitress) is most famously known for her role on CBS's Mike & Molly as Victoria, the lovable, dimwitted, party girl. Mike & Molly ran for six successful seasons, opposite of Melissa McCarthy. Katy has made appearances on the TV shows Psych, Wilfred, My Name Is Earl, Two and a Half Men and has starred as 'April Buchanan' opposite Danny McBride in the HBO series Eastbound and Down. Feature film credits include Take Shelter, Four Christmases, All About Steve, Drive Angry, State of Play and Soul Ties. In addition, Mixon has had a growing voiceover career in TV and film working on such projects as Robot Chicken and Minions. She is a BFA graduate from Carnegie Mellon University Conservatory of Drama in Pittsburgh, PA.
Gregory Cruz (Poker Player) was born in Hollywood and raised in Boyle Heights (East Los Angeles). He developed an interest in athletics early on and became a certified instructor in Kyokushin Karate and later, Pilates. Acting affected Cruz through theatrical productions he saw by the world renowned Teatro Campesino; eventually he moved to their homebase in San Juan Bautista, CA and became involved as an actor in their theater productions. After an impromptu audition for NBC he was cast as Timawi in his first film Ishi: Last of His Tribe, and found himself on location around Mt. Lassen, CA., film acting had found him.
Moving back to Los Angeles, Cruz pursued his acting career. He was a series regular on TNT's "Saving Grace" as Bobby Stillwater, and has appeared in Lead, guest-star, and recurring roles for television and film including The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Quickdraw, The Closer, Franklin & Bash, Criminal Minds, In Plain Sight, Backstrom, Grimm, Longmire, Scarface, Cobra, Tecumseh and now Hell or High Water. He also portrayed the truelife serial killer Richard Ramírez in Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker.
Cruz began acting in theatre. His long and strong background includes main-stage productions and lead roles with El Teatro Campesino, the Taper Too, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Denver Center Theatre Company, and the Mark Taper Forum. In New York, he created the role of Knuckles in the theatrical production of Noah's Archives at the Ohio Theatre. In Los Angeles he was a founding member and has done extensive work with the Friends & Artists Theater Ensemble, culminating in a Drama-Logue Award for his performance as Macheath in their production of The Three Penny Opera.
Margaret Bowman (T-Bone Waitress) is a native Texan, and at the age of 88 is still going strong. She is the mother of six, and grandmother of nine plus a great and great-great grandmother. At the age of 60, after finding an almost empty house wasn't to her liking, she decided to reinvent herself with a second career. Enter the acting bug.
Bowman started at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena CA and knew she had found her niche. She loves the stage and has appeared at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN, as well as off Broadway and National tours. Movies and TV then became her passion. She has a SAG Award as a member of the cast of No Country For Old Men and has appeared in The Lone Ranger, The Good Old Boys, as well as numerous other films, plays and TV series.