Capone, from director Josh Trank and star Tom Hardy, is a strange film. It follows the last moments in the life of famed gangster Al Capone (Hardy) as his body and brain are ravaged by the debilitating effects of syphilis and dementia. It’s aggressively grim, borderline experimental, and features several scenes of Hardy pooping the hell out of himself. And per an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Trank was encouraged to fly his freak flag by some of your favorite filmmakers.
Filmmakers showing each other cuts of their films in progress is not a new trend (anyone else remember Kevin Smith showing Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez a cut of Clerks 2 from the bonus features?). It’s a great way to field-test a cut from peers who know how to give actionable, practical notes and advice. Trank chose a couple of great ones to add to his brain trust: Rian Johnson of Knives Out and The Last Jedi fame, and Joe Carnahan of Boss Level and The Grey fame. Trank laid it out that he didn’t just want softball notes from the folks he showed it to:
When we show our work to people, we’re specifically showing our work to people who are going to give us a real heavy critical reaction to it and are not going to just be there to tell us what they think we want to hear like, “Oh, it’s great.” And the thing that I got feedback on every time from everybody I knew was the same thing: “I just still can’t believe that this movie exists.” All of my filmmaker friends loved the movie for all of its weirdness, for Tom’s performance, for the places that it goes and for the things that it does. I haven’t gotten any feedback from anybody that has been tepid or lacking enthusiasm.
Johnson, Carnahan, nor any of the other folks he showed cuts to encouraged Trank to make his work more accessible or mainstream-friendly in any way. In fact, they encouraged the opposite: “Everybody was like, ‘There are areas where you could be weirder. If you’ve already gone this far to make a movie this weird and this unexpected, own it. Own your shit.’ No pun intended.” This would, by my count, make the second time in as many recent moments that Johnson has crafted a delightful bon mot around the word “shit.”
For more about that wacky Capone, here’s Linda Cardellini talking about joining the project.