It’s fair to say that Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River has split opinions (even on the SciFiNow team…). The Detroit-set urban fairytale drew boos from the notoriously fond-of-booing Cannes audience but has since found staunch defenders, with Guillermo del Toro introducing the film to SXSW to a much kinder reception.
Lost River contrasts neon stylised nightmares and energetic grim reality, and stars Agents Of SHIELD star Iain De Caestecker as Bones, a young man living with his mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) and baby brother in Detroit and facing eviction. While Billy takes a job at a nightmarish nightclub, Bones realises that finding scrap copper isn’t going to save them. Together with his neighbour Rat (Saorise Ronan), he must venture beneath the ruined city’s surface to save his family while avoiding psychotic neighbourhood bruiser Bully (Matt Smith).
We spoke to De Caestecker about shooting in Detroit, working with Gosling, the Cannes reaction and how Agents Of SHIELD has gone from strength to strength.
What drew you to Lost River? Was it the urban fairytale angle?
There was this kind of urban fairytale side to it for sure and I think, to be honest, you read a lot of stuff and when you come across something that’s exciting and original, that’s just constantly appealing to me. And the characters were very fleshed out on the page even before we started working on it, and that’s always something which is attractive. And also I think the idea of working with Ryan, who is someone that I think everyone who works in movies is a fan of. Obviously that was also a huge side to it as well.
Did it feel like you were working with a first time director or did he have a very clear vision?
Yeah, a bit of both really. There was never a moment where I didn’t think Ryan was a director who fit that role perfectly, because he does. His personality and his imagination really just suits that title of director. But there’s this quite magic feeling on a first time movie set like that, it’s kind of irreplaceable. And that feeling was there as well which I think is really great.
Was there room to improvise and explore your characters?
Yeah, Ryan was a very big champion of improvising and collaborating. He was very keen for everyone to have their say and he wrote this great script that everyone would have been happy, I think, to just work from that, but he was very keen for everyone to bring their own thing and their own ideas and so having those two things together, you don’t always get that. He wanted everyone to be included in a lot of the process. When we were in Detroit finding the house and finding the costumes he kind of wanted people to bring their own ideas to the table.
Did you discuss your character much beforehand?
Yeah we talked a lot before it about things like that. Before we started filming I went out to Detroit for about four weeks I think, and that was kind of how I got to know the character really well actually, by being in Detroit, it’s a very inspiring place. And for some reason that’s where I learnt most about the character and what it would be like growing up in a place like that. But yeah, me and Ryan would talk a lot and catch up and we would bounce ideas off each other which is where a lot of the ideas for Bones came from.
In terms of what I do, it doesn’t matter where you are, it stays the same for me. I work hard and research as much as I can to prepare myself for getting on set and then when I get on set I try and do the best job I can when the camera goes on. That kind of doesn’t really change. So it’s just the background is different. But at the same time this was quite a unique experience, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had. It was just something really special about it which I couldn’t quite put my finger on completely but everything about the whole project was pretty special.
Did you know much about Detroit before the film?
I didn’t actually. The thing was I ended up doing a lot of reading about it and came out and couldn’t have been…when I was reading a lot of stuff about it, it wasn’t completely true. When I read about it I actually ended up feeling quite scared to be there, I thought I can’t leave the hotel by myself and walk around by myself. There’s a lot of things I read, articles, people saying it’s a dangerous place, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The people there are great, everyone says hi to you in the street. I think it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been, I found it really exciting and inspiring place. But that became a big character in the film as well I think.
There does seem to be this phenomenon of films and TV using Detroit as kind of ruin porn and ruin tourism.
Yeah, I mean there is that, there is a side to Detroit where it just has the most amazing history, these old abandoned theatres we found, you can feel the presence of what used to be there. But Ryan was very conscious of showing, even though Detroit has had such a difficult time in recent years, there’s the magical thing about it, this magical energy, which I think Ryan was very keen on capturing. Something that really gave him that urban fantasy world that we talked about that Ryan is such a huge fan of. Detroit is one of his favourite places in the whole world, if not his favourite place in the whole world. So that was something hat he was conscious of, he wanted Detroit to be shown in a good light where and when he could.
What was the experience of shooting in Detroit like?
It was great. We never used sets really. We would go and find these old places and film in them, it was like the best movie set ever made, all the character that are in these places. I loved filming there and like I say the people in the city are very patriotic people and a lot of them just wear their hearts on their sleeve and they would come in and do scenes with us and they were one of the best parts about it, some of them were the best actors I’ve ever met because they were able to play themselves so well.
There’s obviously a great cast in the film as well…
Oh yeah it was great. Eveyrone was. Saorise the best, Matt’s the best, Christina’s the best. There’s a side to it where you feel kind of inadequate because you’re amongst these amazing people but there’s also a side where they make you raise your game hopefully and push yourself as far as you can go. And they all brought something very very different to the film, I think that’s the genius of Ryan, the way he cast it. They’re all very individual very different people but worked together very well. [Matt Smith] really immersed himself in that and it wouldn’t have worked if he didn’t. And that kind of sums Matt up, he’s a very brave, courageous person like that. He just threw himself into that full tilt which was cool.
The reaction at Cannes was pretty harsh but it must be nice to see it opening to a wider audience and finding its fans…
Yeah I think, there’s loads of different sides to that. I think the good thing about the movie is it’s either one way or the other, no one’s really in between about it. They either seem to really like it or not really like it. And that’s fine. Obviously when you do something the idea that everyone’s going to love it as much as you do, of course you hope for that but it’s very unlikely. But for me the main thing is whether you can look back at something and be proud of it and feel like you were part of something important. And I do feel that with this movie, I couldn’t be more proud of it, to be a part of it. So that’s enough.
I think the only thing that hurts about some of that stuff, I’m not somebody that reads reviews or anything like that, but for Ryan really, for someone like him to come and make a film like he did and have the courage to stick to a film that he believed in that was different and original and wasn’t just a rehash of other independent movies that have come out in the past couple of years, to do that and not be celebrated I think it’s strange to me. That’s just my opinion, you know.
Agents Of SHIELD also had a rocky start but certainly seems to have hit its stride now.
Yeah, I think it certainly had growing pains in the start in some ways. It’s a very tough…the way they shoot a show like that is very very tough. With network TV they just don’t really have time to prepare, they’re always playing catch up. Just for everyone that was there, for everyone to find their feet, and for everyone to find out what the show was just took a bit of time but I think they really did find it. I think specifically in this season they really did find out what it wanted to be and that’s cool. It seems to be getting a lot better feedback and people seem to be enjoying it. It’s a crazy old world, that, but it’s great fun. And it’s nice to be able to go to work every day and be around people that you really get on with.
There really does seem to be a great camaraderie between you guys
Yeah we’re very lucky and I think it starts from the top down, we’ve got great executive producers with Mo [Tancharoen] and Jed [Whedon], and Jeff [Bell] and Jeph [Loeb] and that works its way down, and also Clark [Gregg] who’s the head of the show sets the tone and he’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet. So all that put together, we still get on very well. Which is nice. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we hated each other. It would be the worst time! So I’m very appreciative, I do try and take the time to realise how lucky it is to get that, because I don’t think it’s the same thing that happens in everything you do. But we are lucky.
Do you have a plan for the kind of movies or TV shows you want to be involved in or is it a case of project by project?
Yeah, I think so, the latter. I don’t tend to be too premeditated about what I want to do next. I’ve got a really good team of agents that find great stuff for me and then also when something comes in and it excites you a certain way, that’s what you go towards, and if you feel something’s an important story to be told and whatever. I don’t think I’m at a position where I’m privileged enough to be very choosy all the time about what I do but when I can I am and I’ve been very lucky as it stands so far to be honest really.
Do you have anything else lined up?
Not just now actually, no. We film for nine months of the year so finding something in between that works out that you really want to do can be difficult. So right now SHIELD is definitely my main focus. I’d be excited about doing something else in the future, it would be good to play a different character!