PARK CITY, Utah — One of the most talked-about films at Sundance this year is “Get Low,” a film that boasts a-list actors like Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, but has a very independent heart.
“Get Low” takes an old folk tale that everyone’s heard (an eccentric old hermit living in the mountains, shrouded in mystery and foreboding) and gives it a heart. Felix Bush (an inspired performance by Robert Duvall) has lived alone in the deep woods for forty years with no other companions besides his mule and his rifle, which gets pulled out every time a trespasser approaches. The townsfolk whisper stories of how he once murdered a man and would do so again. Bush decides to call them to the carpet by having a postmortem funeral — or “funeral party” as he calls it.
Lucas Black, a southerner through and through with an “aw, shucks” smile and a deep country lilt, plays Buddy Robinson, the young apprentice to slimy salesman Frank Quinn (Bill Murray at his best) of Quinn’s Funeral Home. While Quinn throws an elaborate party for Bush in order to turn a profit, Robinson spends the film becoming close to Bush and trying to discern the mystery of his existence.
We got a chance to sit down with Black today to talk about how he chooses his roles and what it’s like to work with such acting legends as the ones in “Get Low.” (Spoiler alert!)
What attracted you to this part?
LB: Well, I was very fortunate to get that script. It was a really quick decision. It was sent to me at 11 at night, and they had to know by the next day. I really liked my character and loved how the whole story was written. I felt really honored to be a part of it.
What attracted you to the script?
LB: The story. There’s more movies that should be made like “Get Low.” Every movie that’s made these days, it’s gotta be really over the top, nasty…sexual innuendos…to be entertaining. Me and Maggie, my fiancee, talked about that and think the only thing that might hurt “Get Low” is people these days might not think it’s that big of a deal that he (Bush) had an affair with another woman. It’s sad, but it’s true. So it’s a good moral story.
You’ve done two very different types of films — “Friday Night Lights” and then “Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” What appeals to you in each genre?
LB: Well, one is good stories and the other’s fun to do. “Tokyo Drift,” well that’s the funnest movie I’ve worked on. A 25 year old male getting to burn rubber on someone else’s expense (laughs). Can’t beat that. It was good people to work with. That was the good thing about this one, too. It was shot in Atlanta, I felt at home. I loved Aaron (Schneider, director), man. He really knew what he wanted and he was a confident director. He stuck to his guns. A lot of times producers or heads of studio will try to come on set and pressure a director, to do it this way, and it’s not really good to see, I don’t think.
How do you handle that as an actor?
LB: Well, I know what’s going on. It doesn’t really affect me that much, but I see it affect my colleagues. Aaron really knew what he wanted. All of us, when we went to work, were on the same page, because we liked this story so much and liked how it was written and we all was on the same page on what we wanted to accomplish.
Is there anything you need on set to make you more comfortable?
LB: Good food! (laughs) And usually that’s not a problem.
What was it like working with Bill Murray?
LB: Oh Bill Murray…man, he’s a character. He brings the bright side to “Get Low,” really. Cause it’s a dark movie, you know. When he was on set, he’d lighten things up. You know, he bought a juke box and he would bring it and play music, you know, just to lighten the mood if everybody was gettin’ tense.
He has a reputation for being pretty spontaneous.
LB: I like that. I don’t really like to rehearse, because I like to, hopefully, be able to do things on a whim, or if I need to change a certain way. Cause if you rehearse, I notice myself I get stuck doin’ it one particular way. I like for it Aaron tells me to try somethin’ or if Bill Murray throws me for a loop, to be able to react to it.
You’ve been acting since you were a child — did you look up to your co-stars then? If so, do you still?
LB: I really didn’t. I really didn’t. Growing up I didn’t really watch that many movies, so I really wasn’t starstruck. I guess it’s just the way I was raised. That’s not sayin’ I don’t learn from ’em. I learn from everybody. Whether it’s good or bad. I’ve been fortunate enough that the people I’ve worked with I’ve learned a lot from, and at a young age, too.
If you didn’t watch a lot of movies, what attracted you to acting?
LB: Well my mom heard about the audition on the radio and just wanted to take me. Really, at ten years old, I didn’t really know there was such a thing as acting. I had been in school plays, so I knew about that. But as far as TV…we watched sports and fishin’ shows. I just did what they told me to do when I went. It just worked out.