The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is director Fredrik Bond’s first feature film. Premiering at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, it stars Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood as a couple who meet under strange circumstances and have an impossibly strong mutual attraction. As LaBeouf’s character Charlie falls for the beautiful and grieving Gabi, he gets caught in the sights of her dangerous husband (Mads Mikkelsen) and his life comes into immediate and grave danger. The film feels like a modern fairy tale story of love and pain colliding set in the gritty world of Bucharest, Romania. It also stars Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Vincent D’Onofrio and Melissa Leo.
At the press conference at Sundance the morning after the premiere, Collider was present as Bond, LaBeouf, Wood and James Buckley (The Inbetweeners) spoke about the film. They discussed the making of the film, the chemistry on set and what they learned from previous works and relationships. Hit the jump to read some highlights from the press conference.
Bond started by discussing his feelings on directing his first feature, which were “terrifying…and an amazing experience. There’s only so much you can talk to commercial actors about, it’s 30 seconds.” Bond says that he and his cinematographer “storyboarded the film 3 times” to prepare for the shoot. He credits his relationship with the actors for a lot of it; both he and Shia referenced the time they spent biking together around Romania to do location scouting for the film before most of the cast arrived. LaBeouf added that he felt that he had a more real relationship with Bond than he did with other directors, which he felt have sometimes included “a reverence to the point of fear [which] kills collaboration.” When asked how Bond compares to Spielberg LaBeouf claimed “he’s a better kisser than Steven, I’ll tell you that off the top.”
LaBeouf elaborated on why he felt compelled to do this role among all others. “It read like The Graduate with blood in his mouth.” For him, a big part of it was getting to work with Wood. The two reminisced about meeting when they were around 10 or 11 years old at an awards dinner, then again on a plane. “She was sitting behind me and it was like this” (he mimes slowly turning around and staring behind him). He says of their chemistry “it’s one of those things that’s innate or it’s not. You look at somebody and it either feels like that or it doesn’t.” Wood agreed emphatically, citing the connection the two felt immediately upon coming together for the film, “you know the second you’re in the room with someone.”
When asked about the stunts in the film, LaBeouf explained why he performed most of them himself. He cited the difficulty and the paradoxical ease of looking the Romanian stunt team in the eye and trusting them, despite possible language barrier issues. During a stunt where he hung by one foot over a river, they told him “the danger isn’t falling into the water, it’s if you swing into [the giant neon sign], there’s no way you’ll survive.” He claims that this “is a great example of an actor being able to fall on circumstance as something to lean on to give you safety and comfort. The goal of the actor is to be honest, and in a situation like that you have no choice. The less you have to conjure the easier the job becomes I think.”
As far as that goes, Wood had a much more different character from herself to get into, at least on the surface. She discussed the rigorous studying and dialect training she did on her lunch breaks while filming another movie to get the Romanian accent down. She also discussed her difficulties in playing the cello in the film. She said it “was difficult because we went through a whole thing with what pieces I was going to play for the main orchestra and I had gotten the wrong piece…I looked at the real cello players and this is not what I learned.” When she was told to “look out of the corner of your eye and mimic what they’re doing,” Bond claims that he got a “stinky eye [from Wood] for one minute.”
However, she also spoke about some ways she felt similar to her character. She said “I’ve had Charlies and I’ve had Nigels [Mikkelsen’s character]. Jamie [Bell] is my Charlie, he is…I know what it’s like being stuck in the middle.” She says she chose this film because of the tone of it and because she “really wanted to do a gritty romance because True Romance is one of my favorites…I love the contrast of tender love surrounded by crazy violence and madness. And I love the character, she’s a survivor, she’s a fighter, what woman wouldn’t want to do it.”
Finally, LaBeouf spoke about some of his influences and relationships with actors and directors. About Mikkelsen he said “he’s one of the five guys you look at to gauge what’s new and what’s next…Mads, Fassbender, Gosling…these are the guys who are pushing the boundaries.” As far as Steven Spielberg, LaBeouf compares him to Picasso. “Like watching Picasso paint, you’re not gonna learn how to paint. It’s like going to the zoo and looking at a bear. You don’t learn how to be a bear, you’re just like woah, that’s a bear.”
Click here for more of our coverage from Sundance 2013.