David Lowery Talks about His Western Influences and Writing

By Jason Harris


David Lowery, the writer and director of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a movie about an outlaw portrayed by Casey Affleck, who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. He wanted to do something that dealt with the archetypes of the western and outlaw genres. The westerns he finds himself loving are ones that have a different perspective.

“One of the first westerns that I loved was Lonesome Dove. It gave me a great appreciation of the genre and how rich it could be and how characters like this could live on the landscape.”

The western that showed him a deconstruction of the genre was Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch, he said.

Along with movies, even literature had an effect on Lowery. Cormac McCarthy is one writer in particular that affected him.

“When I read The Crossing when I was 19, it had a profound effect on me and pretty much changed the way I view not just literature, but storytelling in general.”

Lowery considers everything that McCarthy has ever written in the western genre some of his favorite literature, he said.

Lowery doesn’t have a writing process, but he does think that whatever his process is, it’s him just being lazy. He considers himself very lazy, which is what he thinks most writers are.

“I always put it off as long as I can and find other things to do, eventually the ideas I have in my head sticks around long enough that I just have to finally write it.”

He forces every idea through a trial by fire in his own mind before writing them down. If the idea is forgotten then it wasn’t worth writing down to begin with and the ones that stick around tend to get bigger and bigger, he said.

His choice of Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) and Ben Foster (X-men: The Last Stand) to star in his movie were his top choices for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

“It was a dream come true,” Lowery said about getting his three stars. “It was pretty remarkable.”

It felt to him that he and his three stars were friends and that they wanted to make the movie together, he said.

“I consider myself very lucky not only that they wanted to do the movie, but they brought that attitude.”

This is only Lowery’s second feature. His first feature was St. Nick, which was released in 2009. Along with these two movies, he has created “a lot of short films.”

He learned a sense of confidence from his first film.

“I need to stick to my guns and do what I feel is right for the project.”

Lowery would like to work with his stars again. He would also like to work with Brad Pitt.

“There are so many great actors. I admire so many different people. It really depends on what the project is,” he said about who he would want to work with and place in a movie.

Writer Talks about His New Movie, ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

By Jason Harris

MV5BMjg2MjI1OTU2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODc3MzM5OQ@@__V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_Writer and director David Lowery has been a fan of westerns since he was seven when he moved to Texas, where he thought all the streets were going to be dusty and guys would be wearing big hats.

When he wrote Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a movie about an outlaw portrayed by Casey Affleck who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met, he wanted to do something that dealt with the archetypes of the western and outlaw genres.

“I wanted to pay homage to those archetypes. I didn’t want to do anything too complex. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I wanted to let them be what they have always been throughout the history of this type of storytelling.”

The movie’s title came from some misheard song lyric to an old song. They just spun around in his head, he said.

“I thought they make a good title for a movie,” Lowery said. “When it came to writing the script, I very quickly remembered that title and thought that this movie would be a fine movie for that title.”

Lowery wanted the movie to feel like an old folk song with that quality, resilience, and mentality to it. He also thinks it is very thematic since a person will not find that phrasing in any other language.

He thinks titles can prepare people for what they are going to see, which he believes his title does.

The movie is set in the 70s because it wouldn’t work in the 80s, 90s or now because of technology. It also allows it to take on grandeur tones and have a mythological and timeless feel to it, he said.

“I don’t think the story would work as well or worked at all if there were such things as cellphones or the Internet.”

He chose the outlaw genre because he wanted to play around in a genre he really liked. He wanted to do something that dealt with the archetypes of the western and outlaw genres.

This type of storytelling goes beyond the movie and goes all the way back to folk songs, American folklore, and history itself, he said.

“It was a really wonderful process to write it because I felt like I was participating in the tradition of storytelling.”

Lowery didn’t do a lot of research for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, but relied on other movies and how they used these tropes and ideas, he said. He trusted what other people have done on film in the past.

“I didn’t feel the need to tie this movie down to reality.”

That being said, Lowery did mention he had a police advisor on the film set to explain how the police would approach a farmhouse. What the advisor told him is exactly what he expected since he had seen it in other movies so many times, he said.

Even though Lowery didn’t do a lot of research for the movie. He did ask Ben Foster, one of the three main stars in the movie, to do research about how sheriff’s in Texas go about their jobs and performing their duties. Foster got to know what it was like to have that job and what that job meant.

“He brought a lot of that to the table and a lot of information I didn’t know so that was really helpful as well,” Lowery said. “He brought a lot of realism to that part that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.”

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints opens in theaters Friday, Aug. 30.