by writer/director David Gordon Green
As I was taking a hike through what remained of Bastrop State Park after it was ravaged by a massive wildfire I was haunted by the beauty of its rebirth. The vibrant green seedlings of trees smiled up from beneath the blackened skeletons of their grandfathers. The hills and countryside seemed to call upon wandering souls to explore.
Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurosson's recent Icelandic film Either Way. It was a beautiful portrait that spoke to me and launched me into ideas of my own. I had never re-made a film before and in many ways often rolled my eyes as many do at the concept of taking an existing project and updating it or Americanizing it. However, with this film, I saw my ideas becoming branches of a tree. I could relocate the barren landscape of Iceland and use this moment of a reborn location in the ashes of Central Texas.
I found my mind wandering through the woods and this intimate Icelandic story started to become personal to me. The odd couple dynamic of the two lead characters splintered into weird voices of myself. The title came to me in a dream. The actors were cast because Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch were two actors I had great admiration for and I could not imagine what a film would be like with both of them. I could turn them upside down and show an audience a tender dramatic side of Paul, and I could shake up the perception of Emile and have fun with it to comedic effect.
The result of all of these unlikely considerations became a wonderfully organic project. A project where we would find ourselves deconstructing the typical Hollywood development process. The cast and crew and myself relocated to Bastrop with a 63-page script and checked into a creative summer camp. It was a short 16-day production yet we still had time to breathe. Characters that weren't in the script would suddenly emerge, the wildlife and landscape became crucial performers and the music by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo would open up the intimacy with a sense of scope that challenged the comedy and brought a balance of gravity. In an industry of executive notes and development and green-lights and high concepts, we were able to slip in below the radar with a modest budget and use the experience to contradict the expectations of the process and also the product.
Emile came up to me on the first day of shooting and asked me "Who is this movie for?" Due to the unconventional way that we had put the film together, this was something I'd never asked myself, but immediately looking at Paul standing in the vivid dust of a spectacular sunset with his absurd moustache and blue overalls wiping soot off his hands and laughing about it, I responded, "This movie is for everyone."