Out Of The Furnace is the latest effort from Scott Cooper, the same man who directed Jeff Bridges to an Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart. The film tells the story of two brothers, Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck), who grew up in the Rust Belt town of Braddock, Pennsylvania. But while Russell is content to follow in his father’s footsteps as a steel mill worker, Rodney is looking for something very different in life and ends up enlisting in the Army. After serving several tours of duty in Iraq, he comes home to find that his hometown has been hit hard by the recession, and his brother is serving time in jail.
Discovering that he has few options in terms of making a living, Rodney ends up with a lot of debt after betting on the horse racing and eventually becomes a bare knuckle boxer. His skills in the ring soon find him mixed up with a vicious sociopath named Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). When Rodney goes missing after doing a fight for DeGroat, Russell goes looking for him and descends into a corrupt world that very few would ever want to enter.
Bale, Affleck, Cooper, Zoe Saldana (who plays Bale’s love interest) and Harrelson were all in attendance at the film’s recent press conference, which was held at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. Together, they talked about what it was like shooting on location in Braddock, Pennsylvania, how the setting affected their performances, how they tapped into their character and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
Taking a location like steel country out in Braddock, Pennsylvania, how did you go about picking that for your script and your setting?
Scott Cooper: Well, I grew up in a small town in Virginia along the Appalachian mountain range as the grandson of a coal miner. I have grown up with these people and have spent a lot of time in small town America. While I was touring with my first film Crazy Heart, I had been reading a great deal about Braddock, Pennsylvania and what the town had undergone in the past 5 to 7 years, dealing with economic turmoil and the loss of the steel industry. It really touched me. It was important to me to really shine a light not only on small town America like that, but also what we as Americans have undergone these past turbulent years. That blue-collar milieu was something that I really understood and it resonated with me, and I thought it was underrepresented in American cinema. It was very prevalent in the 1970s films that had very much influenced this movie and Crazy Heart, and I wanted to see that represented on screen again because I knew these people very well and knew their values and hoped that I knew about their world views. It was important to weave all those things into a narrative in a personal way.
For the actors, how did that inform your performances?
Christian Bale: It helps so much being on location if you understand what I mean by the difference between performing for the rectangle of the camera versus a world being created and then the camera finds things within that. There’s a huge difference in that because what it takes away is performance. You don’t feel like you’re performing, you’re just kind of doing it and you’re existing.
Casey Affleck: I think that he summed it up pretty well, especially a place where we were which has a real story just in the way that it looks. To see a place that was once one thing and is now something else, it has a lot of atmosphere.
Woody Harrelson: I think I would like to say ditto (laughs).
Zoe Saldana: You walk in with this fear of wanting to see something that you can imagine being so heavy. What you learn and what you take from it is this strength that you are able to kind of absorb from these people. It is very easy to leave when things go wrong, but to stick around and basically give life to a town because of everything it gave you generation after generation after generation, that to me is what defines a true American. It is sticking together when it gets really rough, and it is a town that has been hit very, very hard to an extent. I’ve been to places around the world that leave you with a big knot in your stomach, and you feel like an elephant has just sat on your chest. Braddock was definitely one of those cities, but once you sit down with the people you kind of wish you had an ounce of the strength that they possess every single day by sticking around. That was something that I really was very moved by.