Sam Elliott - The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot

You mentioned all of these great filmmakers who are producers on the film, and I know that you worked with Lucky before [Krzykowski was co-producdr of McKee’s The Woman], but how the hell did you get these names involved in your first feature?

Robert: John Sayles and I were interested in doing a project about the Rosenberg’s kids, the children of the convicted spies. I had done a mountain of research on it, and he knew the family and wanted to tell that story. So we bonded over that, and at some point, I shared the script with him and he said “You’re going to need help seeing this through so that it becomes the thing you’re trying to do.” So at every turn, John was there to steer us away from a bad course or toward a good one. He is one of the best, kindest people I will every know, and he’s been so generous and good to me. I don’t know if I could fully explain how it happened. Doug lives in Massachusetts where I live, and when this was getting put together, Doug and I had been in friendly contact, but when I brought the storyboards to him, he could see what it was and see the size and shape of it and that it was doable. The special effects aren’t meant to be big, splashy special effects; they’re supposed to be invisible, and they are all over that movie.

I was looking hard to see if I could spot them.

Robert: They are all over, but they’re little, seamless things to make it feel like World War II or 1987. There are matte paintings, miniatures, but they are hidden. And a lot of that is Richard Yuricich. Doug brought him on to supervise the visual effects, and Richard brought on one of the best matte painters of all time, Rocco Gioffre, who helped supervise visual effects on set every single day. We had the best people, but the trick was the make the effects invisible.

The search for young Calvin—talk about landing on Aidan Turner. What did you need him to embody that was also in Sam?

Robert: My earliest conversations with Aidan, he said he loved Sam and admired him and wanted to do a very respectful performance as the counterpoint to him, at a more emotionally exposed moment in his life. Aidan didn’t want to do a parody or SNL version of Sam’s voice; it was very subtle. He’d be looking for little flourishes that would tie him to Sam, without trying for something that would be seen as parody. That was a hugely respectful thing, and I think he did it very elegantly in the film. You’ve seen it, so you know.

Sam, have you seen any of what he’s done?

Sam: No. I’m very excited to see it. I brought my daughter with me to see it with me. I have seen a trailer, so I have seen a little of Aidan.

Have you had people play younger versions of you on screen before?

Sam: This is the first time, I think. And I really like Aidan; I’m a fan. We passed in the wings on this film; he was going out as I was coming in. We had a meal together, and I watched him shoot the first day, where he gets shaved. I was really happy that he was thtere.

What’s the release plan for this?

Sam: This is step one.

Robert: It’s Epic Pictures, our production company. From here, we see where it goes. This is just step one.

Sam, the last time we spoke, you were in the middle of shooting A Star Is Born.

Sam: That was just prior to my shooting this.

They’d done a couple of test screenings in Chicago, so I actually know people who have seen it, and they really seemed to like it. Talk about that experience.

Sam: I got a text last night that it was going to the Venice Film Festival. That I have seen. I have not seen the final version. I’ve actually seen it twice. I saw the first assemblage, and then I saw one six weeks later, and it wasn’t even the same film. It’s a great film. The kid [Bradley Cooper] can direct as well as act. And Lady Gaga is dumbfounding as a performer, and she’s up to the acting too, and it’s such a tale. I’m playing his manager/brother. There’s a reveal at some point that his manager is also his brother. It’s really a good version of a great tale.

Speaking of brothers, Larry Miller [who plays Sam’s brother in The Man Who Killed Hitler] is amazing in his movie. I haven’t seen his face in at least a decade.

Sam: I knew he’d be great in this. He’s wonderful in it.

Robert: And he’s the kindest, sweetest guy. He really did something special. Again, you’d expect Larry is going to be throwing jokes out—he’s a great comedian—and he’s just subtle and quiet, very in tune with what Sam is doing. And I loved watching what Larry did in this movie and cutting it together, because whenever Larry is on screen, there’s this little twinkle. And I believed them as brothers. When I was casting the movie with the casting director, Kellie Roy, I had this idea in my head of how Pixar movies found a character’s voice, and Sam was very much the Pixar character version of this person, and Larry would look like his character. They worked together visually as well as emotionally.

Best of luck with this, and have a blast tonight.

Robert: Thank you, seriously.

Sam: Great to see you again and to talk to you.

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