Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman, but don’t expect the Lifetime Channel. Stronger invites audiences to cast aside all fear of drippy sentiment in tight closeup. This tale of an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary circumstance on the presumption of their heroism is signed by director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Manglehorn).
Green is one filmmaker who always makes himself available to the press. This is our third phone conversation together. I hope we'll get to meet in person when he brings his new version of John Carpenter's Halloween to next year's Comic Con.
Jake Gyllenhaal Biography Movie HD
Stronger official trailer #1 (2017)
Scott Marks: Had your name not been attached to Stronger, I would have passed. Certain subject are better left to documentarians rather than narrative filmmakers. I guess I’m tired of studios trying to turn acts of tragedy and/or terrorism into cash. What concerns crossed your mind when you were considering Stronger as your next project?
David Gordon Green: Every hesitation you have as an audience I would have as a filmmaker. The fear of sentimentalizing or exploiting a horrific situation for the purposes of entertainment is a very difficult thing. This story opened up a conversation about community, about support, about rehabilitation in a way that is more relevant now than ever. It’s about what happens later when you’re in the aftershock of some of these headline events. I felt not only a concern about the exploitation of the subject matter, I wanted to do something that would honor the people that we were representing. I also wanted to invite an audience to participate in this conversation about healing.
SM: Did the family object to their portrayal? After all, they’re depicted at times as a band of drunken homophobes angry at the world.
DGG: One of the things I made very clear when we started the process is I wasn’t going to make it unless they trusted me with their stories. I told them we were going to to to difficult places. You’ve opened your homes, and stories, and lives to us and I‘m going to respect that. But at times it’s going to be an unflinching portrait that’s not going to be necessarily illustrating the family in the most flattering light.
I invited them into the conversation. Actors would meet their subjects. We all became very close. We infused it with humor because a big part of these characters is how they bust balls. They use it to rebuild their relationships. I wasn’t your average Hollywood director coming in to make a movie about them. They weren’t afraid of the overly-sentimental or overly-exploitive portrait that could be painted.
SM: Let’s talk about CGI. For years Hollywood has been using special effects as an opiate to replace storytelling. It’s a new version of movie magic. How did they make Jake Gyllenhaal’s legs disappear? Did you ever stop and think that an audience could become distracted by the technology to the point that they lose sight of drama.
DGG: I did think about that. When I was putting together the crew to this movie I hired cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Byzantium, 12 Years a Slave). I said let’s make it look really raw and unmanicured. We’ve seen the spectacle of visual effects at their most imaginative before, but this time let’s let it be unassuming. Let’s not highlight it. Let’s not compose for the legs. In fact, sometime we composed as though he had legs.
There were never lights on set. We always lit through the window or from some practical source on set. We never had an actor walk over a cable while they were making their way into their creative environment. For me the real consideration was when do we show him without legs for the first time. Do we make a dramatic reveal of that? We decided not to do that. There’s no powerful swelling of the strings. His mother literally moves from the foot of his bed to the head of his bed and we see under the sheet that his legs are missing.
SM: A lot of it also has to do with Jake’s performance. Even if one is inclined to look for the digital seams, the can’t. It’s impossible to take your eyes off his face.
DGG: You can’t make a movie like this without a relentless actor. Someone who is checking their watch or looking at their bank account is not going to make a film like this.
SM: I spotted a copy of your Snow Angels atop the Bauman family DVD collection. That’s odd. They impress me more as fans of Pineapple Express or The Sitter.
DGG (Laughing): How the f*@k did you notice that?
SM: No offense, but Helen Keller in another theatre could have spotted it.
DGG: You’re supposed to be paying attention to what was on the TV! The art department did that as a joke.
SM: If what I read on IMDB is true, your next project is a sequel to [Halloween II that you will co-write with John Carpenter and direct. Why?
DGG: First let me correct a couple of things. I’ve co-written it with Danny McBride. John Carpenter is executive producing and doing the music. It’s not necessarily a sequel to Halloween II. What it is is kind of top secret, but I wouldn’t say it’s a sequel. It’s an opportunity for me to explore my childhood nightmare. It was the most disturbing and relentless movie I had ever seen as a child. It haunted me and gave me nightmares. It’s allowing Danny and I to face our fears and put our demons to be. We also get to work with one of our idols in terms of John Carpenter. I want to construct something that will be an opportunity to shift genres once again and try something I’ve never tried.