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ENTERTAINMENT

by Paul Salfen

A CONVERSATION WITH tim Blake Nelson

For writer/director/producer/actor Tim Blake Nelson, Leaves of Grass was a true passion project. With his hands in just about every aspect of the film, Nelson also got a chance to return to his Oklahoma roots and even cast a few family members. The 46-year-old star of O Brother, Where Art Thou? was ready to step behind the camera for the first time in years to bring to life what’s being strangely categorized as a “stoner comedy”. He says of the tag, “I didn’t want it to be just a stoner comedy. In fact, I never even considered that genre, either as something to embrace or move away from. Ultimately, that didn’t even enter into my mind.” He shrugs and adds, “I know it’s being marketing to a degree in that way, and that’s fine.”

T

he film follows a hilarious attempt by two identical twins, one a college professor and the other a pot grower – both played by Golden Globe winner Edward Norton – who try to bring down a drug lord.

ScoreBoard: In many films, characters in the south are portrayed in a manner that is very one- dimensional, for easy laughs. This film seems to have a much more layered relationship with southern characters. As a southern filmmaker, do you seek to involve yourself with films that act to correct those stereotypes? Tim Blake Nelson: Yeah, I certainly do. I was eager to debunk southern stereotypes in this movie. I grow tired of intelligence having such a limited manifestation in movies, such as a certain level of formal education. When I wrote this, I knew immediately that the

72 APRIL 2010

wisest and smartest characters in this movie would be the ones who either remained in Oklahoma or returned there. So the smartest guy in this movie is Brady [Norton], and it’s also stated by their mother. The wisest character is Kerri Russell’s character and she chose to return to Oklahoma and write. She gives the Bill character the wisdom that allows him to begin to move forward in his life as it’s collapsing around him. ScoreBoard: In order for you to achieve the duality that you had on screen, how did you help to facilitate a suspension of disbelief in the audience? TBN: Suspension of disbelief in a story like this is pretty essential. You have to be responsible as a storyteller, to make it feasible enough. There are details peppered throughout. I didn’t want to bang the audience over the head with it. An obvious question would be “Wouldn’t people know

they were twins if they grew up together?”, but the truth is they grew up in another town, Hugo, and Brady has moved to Idabel. These stories are all far- fetched, but the antecedent material for the movie, like in Menander and Plautus, and Shakespeare. It’s a retelling of a twins genre, and the main character is a classicist. That is all intentional. It’s meant to reflect on those earlier works. The character Bill has done a translation of Platus’s play

The Menaechmi, which is

a Roman twins play. The suspension of disbelief in that whole question is part of the fun of the movie. ScoreBoard: Logistically, how did you do it as a director with your team also acting in the movie?

TBN: Remarkably there is no green screen in this movie. There is motion control. Technically there were all sorts of challenges, but really the soul of it was Edward’s talent. You write these characters and all you can hope for is that your actors will elevate the material. What is so remarkable about Edward is that he is so truthful as an actor, that the source material from within him is so gorgeously accessed that the dramatic base notes in the movie, such as when he is eulogizing his brother are just exquisitely rendered. But at the same time he is able to play the loopy comic moments. So few actors have that sort of bandwidth. To play these twins was really quite a juggling act. It takes a mind - a rare mind to be able to map out a scene as character ‘A’ to leave room so that character ‘B’ can respond. It’s almost a sort of cubist way of thinking. You’re looking at the Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84
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