Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter explores the track for Jeremy Saulnier’s thriller, Blue Ruin.
One of the best films of the year finally opens in limited release this week after months of wowing festival audiences, and I can’t recommend enough that you head out as soon as possible to soak up the intense and gory goods of Green Room. If you’re reading this then you’ve already had the pleasure of experiencing writer/director Jeremy Saulnier‘s previous thriller, Blue Ruin. (If not then stop reading now…) It’s a far more sedate film, but it’s every bit the modern classic.
Revenge film by way of the art house, Blue Ruin is a slow burn punctuated with dark humor, graphic violence, and a terrific subversion of genre tropes. Saulnier and lead Macon Blair (Murder Party) are long-time collaborators, and that trend continues with the Blu-ray’s commentary track.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the Blue Ruin commentary.
Blue Ruin (2013)
Commentator: Jeremy Saulnier (writer/director), Macon Blair (actor)
1. The title font was meant to be temporary as Saulnier finds it “ugly, terrible,” but after the film was accepted into Cannes he became superstitious about changing it.
2. They had between 60-70 different title options that they argued about and discussed for months before finally agreeing on Blue Ruin. Their second choice was The Homeless Avenger. Okay, that’s not true, but they don’t share any of their alternatives so I felt forced to make one up myself. [Update: The making-of featurette on the Blu-ray includes a glimpse of an old outline showing the title as Beach Bum. So I was close!]
3. Saulnier shot the boardwalk scenes “by my lonesome” because he had wrapped the crew after twelve hours but still wanted to get these shots.
4. Sidné Anderson, who plays Officer Eddy, is not licensed to drive a car and is unable to do so even if she was. They were unaware of this fact when they hired her as the cop who drives up to Dwight’s (Blair) car to give him the news about the man who killed his parents. They just pushed the car into frame instead.
5. Saulnier pronounces scene as “skeen” before correcting himself. It’s odd, right? To be fair, I think he is one beer in at this point.
6. Blair’s younger brothers, Brooke and Will, composed the film’s score. “And my cousin Duncan Blair helped me with the fishing skills too,” he adds during the scene where Dwight guts the fish.
7. The shot of Dwight buying the map was the very first shot of principal photography. “I was shaking,” says Saulnier, “I was terrified, and I was so rusty I didn’t know if I could do it.” He did it.
8. The scene where Dwight smashes the truck’s driver side window was a one-take deal, but the door jammed and wouldn’t open. Blair dove through the glass-lined window to save the take, but Saulnier ended up cutting that bit anyway. “Jeremy,” says Blair, “thee is no time like now to reveal in the endless rehearsals for that shot I was so nervous I was gonna blow it, that I wasn’t thinking, and I clicked lock on that door.” Saulnier gasps in surprise before saying “You prick.”
9. Blair and Sandy Barnett, who plays the newly-released convict, have been friends for decades. They “have this long history of incredible fight scenes on camera, usually half inch VHS,” says Saulnier. “We wanted to finally archive their long history on a more viable format.”
10. Blair says the scene where he puts his hand over his mouth while hiding in the bathroom stall before killing Wade was inspired by Tom Noonan in Manhunter.
11. Saulnier recognizes the importance of quality practical make-up work saying if you don’t come prepared it will knock viewers out of the movie. Blair adds that bad gore effects mean they’ll have less fun too.
12. The shot of Dwight peeling out of the parking lot in the stolen limo originally included a school bus filled with children passing by, but they removed it digitally frame by frame to keep the feeling of remoteness.
13. Dwight’s young nieces are played by Saulnier’s own children.
14. “This was a nightmare to film,” says Saulnier. “That’s all I’ll say about this scene.” He’s referring to a short, ten-second bit inside the car as Dwight and his sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), rush back to her house. “Okay, it’s over.”
15. Dwight and Sam’s arrival at her house “was originally a much darker sequence, and there was some people killed.” Saulnier dropped it after realizing he had swiped it from one of Blair’s own screenplays. “It’s part of the brain-hive situation.”
16. People criticized the line where Sam tells Dwight that he’s “weak,” but Saulnier finds it necessary. “For me it was a matter of staying true. People hated that line because it was so mean, but I felt it needed to be. Dwight’s act of vengeance can’t be celebrated.”
17. Sam’s house is actually Saulnier’s parents’ house where he grew up. He knows every inch of it and wrote the home invasion sequence with that knowledge of its nooks and crannies. The crew was situated two hours away leading to talk that maybe they should film the sequence somewhere closer to their home base. Saulnier had to choose between “making it convenient or making the scene I had envisioned which was blocked to the inch for this location. It worked out. This was one of the battles I decided to fight.”