Billy Crudup and Guillaume Canet – Honoring Their Blood Ties
by Jay S. Jacobs
Two brothers. One is a cop. The other is a gangster just getting out of an extended stay in jail and now sliding back into his old ways. That’s going to make for some uncomfortable family holiday dinners.
That dichotomy is the story behind the new film drama Blood Ties. Billy Crudup plays the cop and Clive Owen is the con in a terrific ensemble drama about the hard life of New York in the heart of the 70s.
The movie also co-stars terrific actors such as Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard, James Caan and Lili Taylor.
The film is based on a true story which took place in France in the 1980s. Writer/director Guillaume Cantet first heard the story when working as an actor on a 2008 French film based upon the story called Les liens du sang. Canet was fascinated by the story and decided to adapt it to the US gangster milieu. Six years later, his family crime drama is finally treading the mean streets of Gotham with an all-star cast.
A few days before Blood Ties premiered in theaters and On Demand, we were one of a few websites who were invited to chat with star Crudup and writer/director Canet.
Blood Ties felt so 1970’s authentic. How difficult was it to achieve that realism? Also, the music was very reminiscent of many of Lalo Schifrin’s seventies scores. Was that a deliberate nod to him and the era he was most notable for?
Guillaume Canet: The period of time and how we tried our best to be authentic, that was one of the important things for me. [I wanted] to do homage to the cinema to the 70s American independents, because I have always been a huge fan. It was very important to me to try to do our best in making a movie as if it was a movie from this time. I am talking about the realism and not the caricature. Try to be as realistic as we could be. The production designer, the lights and how we filmed the movie. I wanted to have this washed out effect with grain on the image. That was really important to me. For the music, I was listening to a lot of music from that time and it inspired me a lot. It gave me all the ingredients to write the script. Most of the music in the soundtrack was the music I was listening to while writing the film.
What was it like working with a legend like James Caan?
Billy Crudup: I think that’s how we had to address him. (laughs) It was really exhilarating for me. Needless to say, I grew up a great fan of James as a man, and James as an actor. It can be intimidating working with someone who you have such a history with from afar, but I found the experience of working with him very easy. He was very accessible. He liked to take over the set, but Guillaume did a good job keeping him in line. I think we ended up having a really good time!
Guillaume, what was it about the original French film that you thought would translate to an American setting?
Guillaume Canet: I originally read the French script as an actor. I did the movie, and while I was shooting it I met the two actual brothers. Those two guys were so interesting. Their story was beyond the script and what I was shooting in the original film. Years after I shot the original French film, I came back to this story. I had always pictured it in the 70s in New York – I don’t know why – but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That is why I knew I had to make it and I had to direct it.
Billy, the film deals with a lot of themes regarding the brotherly bond and also about redemption in some ways. Were those elements that attracted you to the project?
Billy Crudup: No doubt about it. I have two brothers, so I identified with the sibling rivalry and the theme of personal identity as it relates to our close family. How the roles that we play in our family when we are younger often don’t seem to change much as we grow and become adults. How frustrating and gratifying it is. You can be really grounded when you know the same things are expected from you from your family year after year. At the same time, it can be infuriating when you’re trying to break out from that. Also, Guillaume has an energy and passion that is rare and also magnetic. When he begins to talk about the passion of the film, it’s hard not to be enthused about the project!
Mr. Canet, was it difficult to make sure that audiences still connected with Chris, although he did some terrible things?
Guillaume Canet: It was very important to me that Chris would be charismatic enough and sympathetic enough. This guy is someone you can really like, because he has these charming and nice and funny parts of himself. Billy was saying in the film that he was his hero. It was because he was looking at his brother as someone great. Chris is a complex character, because you can be very charmed by him, while on the other hand, he is someone terrible. That is why I thought Clive would be very interesting in this role. He is charismatic, while at the same time [he] can look very terrifying. It was the key part of the film. If this guy was not someone you can like, there would be no film. Frank is stuck with the idea that his brother can be someone good. As the audience you have to understand that.