Macon Blair

Macon Blair

Macon Blair has grabbed everyone’s attention this year with the central role of Dwight in the critically acclaimed Blue Ruin.

Blue Ruin sees the actor team up with childhood friend Jeremy Saulnier, for what is the second feature film for the director. We caught up with Blair to chat about the film, working with Jeremy, and the response to the film.

- Blue Ruin has just been released on DVD here in the UK, so can you tell me a bit about the film?

Blue Ruin is a small, character driven, revenge thriller about a homeless man who gets a piece of information regarding his past.

This piece of information sets him off on a very ill advised and ill-fated mission of vengeance. That is probably the best way to sum up the movie in one sentence.

- You take on the role of Dwight in the film, so what was it about the character and the script that drew you to the project?

As a matter of fact, I grew up with the director Jeremy Saulnier: we have been friends since we were little kids making movies together. We had tried to get other movies off the ground.

He wrote this for me to play: it was basically to get us jobs. Jeremy wanted to jump start his career as director and I wanted to do the same as an actor and so we were working on this to try to get our foot in the door. Whatever he had written for me to play, I would have been excited to do it.

It just so happens that I think he has taken an interesting approach to something that otherwise may feel a little tired; we have seen revenge movies with tough guys kicking everyone's butt a thousand times over.

Jeremy decided to do it in a very different way where the protagonist is not very capable and isn't very tough and fearsome. I thought that was a fun way to do something that we had seen before.

- That does lead me into my next question. When I saw Blue Ruin, I thought that Dwight was not your usual anti-hero nor is he driven by bloodlust or rage that we so often seen in these characters. What did you make of his character when you read the script for the first time?

Yeah exactly. Jeremy said 'I am working on this revenge movie and I want you to play the lead,' and I thought that it was a really bad idea because I thought he was going to get me to be this Liam Neeson kind of tough guy.

I really didn't think that I would be credible playing that on screen. And he was like 'that is precisely the point. We are going to have him not be full of rage and blood lust. Instead, he is going to be a very sad guy who doesn't have the skills to complete this mission.

'He is making it up as he is going along and is trying to approach things in a realistic and grounded way.'

That really did make a lot of sense and I felt that was something that I could do and do a good job at, without being the traditional macho/action hero.

- You have mentioned that you have grown up with Jeremy, but how did you working with him as a director?

It is a treat - and I really do mean that sincerely. The reason for is because it just so happens that he is very talented and knows all of the ins and outs of moviemaking: he was a cameraman first, so his technical background is very deep. He also has this native skill with visual storytelling.

On one hand, he is this great director and on the other, he is like my brother, and we have this years long foundation of trust.

We can call each other out on things, we can have disagreements, and it is always based on trying to do the best for the other guy. It really is a mutually respectful, mutually beneficial and fun relationship.

We just have a lot of fun working on these movies: it is a real gift to be able to do this and call it out job. We are getting ready to do his next movie - I am helping him produce that - so we are going to get to do it again. I am really looking forward to it.

- It sounds like it is a very collaborative relationship between the pair of you, so how much do you like working like that as an actor and being very hands on?

I love it. I consider it my job to try to bring to life whatever it is the director has in their head.

It makes it a lot easier when you have got all of this time leading up to the production to be able to talk, pick his brain and make sure everyone is on the same page.

It's not like I am just showing up and meeting the guy for the first time on the first day that we are shooting and hoping that what I am doing is what he had in his head when he was writing the script.

It make me feel more comfortable if I feel that I am able to do as close as to what they were envisioning as possible, so having that foundation really makes that possible and makes it go down a lot easier.

- Also, there is a real lack of dialogue in this movie and yet it remains a tension filled and suspenseful film. How tricky was it for you as an actor to find other ways to communicate? And how much was that a challenge that you enjoyed?

I am much more comfortable with the physical side of things. When you get into long protracted dialogue scenes, where you have a lot of exposition to be delivered and yet you don't want it to feel like exposition, which is a little trickier for me. The physical stuff is something that I am very comfortable with.

Part of that whole decision was very practical because we knew we didn't have a long of money and so we knew we couldn't write all these parts for a big ensemble of actors: scheduling and budget wise it just wasn't possible.

It was just necessary to keep the story very streamlined and focused on one person. If he is by himself for most of the movie, he is not going to be talking to himself, so it just very naturally up like that. If he is by himself there is not going to be a lot of dialogue (laughs).

I think audiences are really smart these days and they don't need to be spoon-fed so you can do a lot with purely visual storytelling.

Generally speaking, I think that people do respond to that because nothing is being laid out for them, they can fill in the gaps on their own and they can get it.

- This is a movie that Jeremy and yourself have been wanting to make for a while and it has been a long process. Now it has made it to the big screen and been received in such a positive way, you must be thrilled? Did you have any idea that it would be received in the way that it has?

Oh my god no. We just figured that this was going to be our last chance at trying to get our foot in the door. Because the film was primarily self-funded, we just wanted to do it exactly as we wanted with no outside influence. If no one saw it of no one liked it, at least we did it exactly the way that we wanted to do it.

Honestly, we were having fun shooting it, we thought we were getting some good stuff but we figured that maybe we could sell it and get a little direct to DVD release and do a few festivals here and there.

We certainly were not expecting for it to be as warmly or widely received as it ended up being. It has been very surreal, exciting, and sometimes embarrassing. 

- The movie played quite extensively on the festival circuit, so how was your festival experience? And how have you personally been finding the response to the film?

It is amazing; it is like nothing that I have ever experienced before. We submitted to the Cannes Film Festival, we felt that we wanted to check that box but we didn't expect to get in.

It was an amazing experience to go and have this great premiere. To be able to get to travel has been great as we got the chance to go to Locarno and Sundance. It was a real whirlwind year where I got the chance to go to places I had never been before and may never get to go again.

I was really trying to soak up all of these experiences and be very grateful in that moment. The whole thing felt like a huge gift and surprise and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

- You also serve as executive producer on this film, so how much is producing and behind the camera something that interests you?

I just love working on movies in anyway that I can; my focus is on writing and acting but anytime Jeremy has got a movie going, I end up helping in any way that I can. I don’t have a lot of experience as a formal producer but I would do the music supervision and I would help with locations and casting.

I was just a lieutenant to Jeremy and that is how I ended up with that credit: it wasn’t a very defined role. Because we had such limited resources, everyone had to wear multiple hats and I would mop up whatever needed mopping up (laughs).

I don’t know that I have the producer skill set to get hired outside of being on one of Jeremy’s movies, but I do enjoy it. I am focusing on the acting and the writing at the moment, and that is probably better for everybody.

- Finally, what's next for you going forward? You have mentioned that you are reuniting with Jeremy once again.

He has just got another movie, which is very different to Blue Ruin, called Greenroom. It is going to shoot this Fall in Portland, Oregon. It is a punk-rock action thriller and I am helping him with the same sort of producing on that.

I am also writing some scripts of my own and just juggling a lot of balls at the same time and trying to keep them all up in the air.

Blue Ruin is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.  

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