Stillwater director Tom McCarthy talks about his latest film, working with Matt Damon and collaborating with a French crew on his new thriller.
Still water, which opens in theaters on July 30, explores a father’s determination in the face of cultural and language barriers. Loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, it follows Bill (Matt Damon), an Oklahoma oil worker, as he attempts to exonerate his estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin) from a crime he allegedly committed in France. Bill travels to Marseille and is on a mission to free his daughter, while facing the unknown customs and laws of the country.
Screenwriter and director Tom McCarthy (Stand out) I talk to Screen rant on his inspiration for the script and his process of collaborating with the star Damon.
Screen Rant: Still water it is a brilliantly crafted human story with many layers. Where did the idea for Still water Where does it come from, Tom?
Tom McCarthy: At this point it is very anthropological for me as well because it has taken so long to do it. It’s a script that I started, wrote, revisited, the pandemic hit. I feel like I started this in 1972 to be quite frank. 10 years ago, I was talking to this other writer, Marcus Hinchey, about the Amanda Knox case. We were very fascinated by it and began to focus on the relationship of a young American student in jail for a sensational murder and the relationship with her father.
We worked on a script for the better part of a year, but at the end of that, I just wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t think it represented the kind of movie I wanted to make and I wasn’t ready to do it, so I saved it. Then 6 or 7 years later, I picked it up and read it. I still like the idea behind it, I just didn’t like the movie and looked for two new writers. These French writers whose work I really loved, Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré. I just got closer. I sent cold letters. Send a email. I’m like, “I love your work, I got this script and I’m not worth anything about it. I just like the idea. “
We started from scratch, really, and we reworked it. It was a really fun collaboration and I’m a huge fan of French cinema. Working with these guys who are so immersed in European cinema and seeing the choices they made in terms of character and story, and combining the two, kind of American movies and French movies, and finding our middle ground, and creatively, that was super. funny. If we never did the movie, it was great.
You are a master filmmaker. You have an Oscar for making movies and 90% of your team was French. Can you tell me about what you learned collaborating with your fellow French filmmakers and their style and approach to cinema?
Tom McCarthy: Well, look, there is a common language which is cinema, which is cinema, right? The French have this crazy tradition, this incredible tradition that certainly rivals and parallels ours in terms of filmmaking.
I was so honored to be there. Even working with these writers and expanding it to the team, you realize that in America it sometimes feels like an industry, right? Is big. It’s all American. In French cinema, it is still very personal. Very intimate. Very smart, and you can see that with all the people that I’ve collaborated with, my script supervisor, my sound mixer, and everyone along the way, they were very engaged with all elements of the story.
It felt very intimate and personal that way. That’s something I respond to as a filmmaker. It’s something we all learned as a team. I know Matt [Damon] I really enjoyed that. It felt like we were transported to another time by making this movie. We feel fortunate to be able to do so.
I want to ask a quick question about Matt Damon. He brings weight as a performer and at the same time disappears completely on paper. How did Matt complete the character of Bill for you?
Tom McCarthy: As writers and even as a director, you always take the work up to a certain point, and then you need an actor to come in and elevate it, right? It is like a coach with a game plan. Unless you have athletes who can run, forget it. Matt can run.
I think my biggest job as a director was really giving him permission to do what he’s capable of. He worked with Christian Bale and said, “Wow, Bale, man. It just goes deep. He does this, ”and I say,“ Matt, it’s like Kobe talking about LaBron or something ”and you say,“ Guess what, you can do that. Turns out you’re one of those special people, so go be you. ” I think that’s what I needed to hear on some level. Go get lost, man, dig deep. The ground is there, the maps are laid out in terms of the script, but now you have to get down to it and your bag full of tricks. He did and I think he enjoyed the opportunity to lose himself as you say.
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- Stillwater (2021)Release Date: Jul 30, 2021
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