William H. Macy (Shameless) attended the Virginia Film Festival last Friday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The headlining actor and director promoted a screening of his third feature film as a director, Krystal. The comedy, written by Will Aldis, focuses on a young man named Taylor Ogburn (Nick Robinson), who has a crush on a former stripper (Rosario Dawson). Taylor becomes a member of Alcoholics Anonymous so he can get to know her more, but a jealous ex-boyfriend, a pesky heart condition, and his own dysfunctional family prove to be formidable obstacles. Producer Rachel Winter (Dallas Buyers Club) and actor Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) joined Macy and moderator Mitch Levine for a Q&A.
Winter attributes her initial interest in the project to Aldis’ “singular voice” in the script, which she first picked up in 2002. Macy echoed her sentiments as he observed, “I love the story. I love the magical realism. I love that it was about addiction and approached it from a novel point-of-view.”
Robinson was picked for the role of Taylor by Winter, after she saw him in Boardwalk Empire. “Who is this kid who is stealing the scenes from Steve Buscemi and Charlie Cox?” she recalled thinking about that episode.
Taylor is not only a complex character to portray, but he also has a particular southern accent that carries the film. Robinson reflected about the difficult and theatrical nature of the speech: “It’s like reading a Faulkner novel in a script. It is this weird balancing act – to try and make it sound like a Southern person was talking and to do justice to the beautiful lyricism the script had.”
In addition to Nick Robinson, the film has a well-rounded cast with William H. Macy, Rosario Dawson, Kathy Bates, Gustin Grant, William Fitchner, and Felicity Huffman to name a few. Macy spoke about what it was like working with his wife, Huffman, who flew in having done her homework for a rehearsal. “She was so prepared and so good. The whole production got a jolt of electricity through that,” he said.
Levine also opened the Q&A up to the audience. I’ll highlight three major topics.
There’s a rather hilarious scene in the film when Taylor invites Krystal and her son (Jacob Latimore) over to meet his family, but it doesn’t go well at all. Macy elaborated more on how he approached it and kept the energy up. He had rehearsals with the cast and he looked to other sources for inspiration. “I took it more from the theater, when you see a farce onstage,” he explained. “Not just when you see a farce, but any Broadway – even Neil Simon – it goes at that pace. I think that’s what Will Aldis intended. It has to be so controlled and a lot of the chaos has to be built in the cut and the camera.”
On the topic of achieving success as a female in the film industry, Winter admitted that it’s a tough business. However, her advice to young filmmakers is encouraging. “If you see yourself telling stories more than anything else and that’s what you want to give and put out into the world, just don’t stop,” she said. “Be the last person standing! Give as much of yourself to your films, your to-be projects, anything, and put your whole heart into it because I think that’s a little bit of an extra edge that women do have.”
I asked Macy which, if any, cut scenes would be on a future DVD release.
“We did cut a bunch of scenes. That was sobering. I flatter myself that I’m pretty good at looking at a script and deciding what’s essential and what’s not. I was wrong in a lot of this,” he answered. “We didn’t cut an unusual amount but we did various cuts of this thing to figure out where to pick it up and where we needed to slow down … Compared to most films, what you see is what we shot. We didn’t get to shoot – it wasn’t Woody Allen, where he shoots three films and chooses the one he likes.”
Krystal has yet to have a release date in theaters.