Blue Ruin is a hard sell that succeeds
If you want a quick sketch to describe the acclaimed revenge drama Blue Ruin it is simply this: No Country for Old Men but the protagonist is an idiot.
“That’s the way it was pitched” admits writer and director Jeremy Saulnier during a sit-down interview to promote the highly anticipated title. “It was definitely a nice angle [even if] investment didn’t come quick.”
It took over six years in fact for the Brooklyn-based filmmaker to scrounge enough savings for his followup to the well-received cult horror comedy Murder Party (which took home the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007). A passive but tension-filled film about a vagabond (Macon Blair) who returns to his Virginia hometown to carry out a mysterious act of violence Blue Ruin doesn’t exactly have the glimmer of a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster.
“Both myself and Macon to traditional financiers we were considered liabilities” says Saulnier. “We had faith in our own abilities and we wanted to showcase them but it was a hard sell and we embraced that. We probably wouldn’t have invested in this film either if we were [them].”
Instead Blair and Saulnier were forced to heavily finance the drama themselves. As it turns out that offered the pair liberty of a different kind.
“It was sort of traumatic to get it off the ground and we went to zero and below as far as our net worth” says Saulnier. “But the one great benefit was retaining total creative control throughout.”
“Jeremy and I have been working together since we were literally little kids” adds Blair. “He was telling me about this idea back when it was going to be kind of a wacky comedy and then it evolved into a much more stark pulpy revenge [film].”
“Most revenge movies start off with a terrible person doing a terrible thing and thereby justifying these terrible acts of violence to come” says Saulnier. Instead he insisted on not unravelling the puzzle of the protagonist’s actions too early. “There’s an abrupt act of violence and after that it takes a left turn. After that point we learn the back story and what propelled him and hopefully fall in love with him which is a challenge because there are some awful things that happen in this film.”
The dark plot twists aren’t the only surprises in Blue Ruin. The little indie film also features supporting roles by such recognizable faces as longtime character actor Devin Ratray (most recently seen in Nebraska ) Homeland ’s Amy Hargreaves and most notably Eve Plumb who nostalgic television fans will recognize as awkward middle child Jan Brady from ’70s sitcom The Brady Bunch . In this however the now-55-year-old actress’s character also hides a rather indignant identity.
“Eve Plumb was cast on the merits of her acting and I didn’t know who she was” admits Saulnier. “It is an added bonus that she happened to be Jan Brady. And Jan Brady firing a fully automatic machine gun was pretty mind-blowing on set. She gave it her all and she was so generous.”
“That was one of my favourite memories of shooting” adds Blair. “Laying on the floor of that house with blood and smoke and everything everywhere and I looked up and there was Jan Brady kind of standing over me with blood on her face and a machine gun saying ‘how you doing?’ A very surreal wonderful moment.”