Ben Foster's character Sebastian in the new film "Contraband" is partially based on a producer the actor once worked with, and it's someone who inspired him by teaching him exactly what not to do — a lesson especially handy now that he's become a producer himself. Since starting a production company called Third Mind Pictures with Oren Moverman, his director from "The Messenger," Foster has his first title on the way and another in pre-production, to shoot later this fall.
"Rampart," is out later this month, and while Foster has a small role in the film — as a wheelchair-bound homeless vet — his main role was being a constant collaborator for director Moverman: "I was on set every day. I was there on prep. I was there in camera. I was working on the shot listing. I was in the edit room," Foster told The Playlist. "I was just there not to lie to Oren, to be straight with him and ask questions."
Foster said he also helped with script rewrites on the fly, since "there were rewrites every single weekend," as they continued to sculpt the film, both on the page and in the edit. "There are producers who just make a lot of phone calls," he said, "but that's not where I think my strengths are." His biggest contribution, he said, was "demanding" that the film shoot on the Arri ALEXA, before it was widely available.
"There were only about 50 of them, and there was very little footage available," Foster said. "But I had been reading up on it, and then I spoke to a friend who had just done some camera tests on it, so we brought the crew over and looked at the tests. Then we got certain kinds of lenses. The idea was, if we could do old glass with new technology, it would create a unique look for the film. So I was pushing that. It doesn't take a genius to say, 'Look at the best car on the market. Let's drive that,' but I was grateful they [agreed]." (It probably didn't hurt that Foster has been friends with the film's DP Bobby Bukowski, "who does tremendous work," since he was a teenager).
Getting to tackle these kinds of creative problems — in addition to script development and storytelling — is why Foster wants to produce more projects, both for himself to act in as well as others. "Supporting your community, supporting the people who excite you and turn you on, it's creating an umbrella," he said. "So if I can help facilitate and support the people I believe in, that's very exciting. All Oren and I have are our taste and sensibility and we honor that to the best of our abilities."
"Steve is just a great, great director, and a wonderful fellow," Foster said. "And Burroughs wanted Steve to direct it. He's been very busy with 'Boardwalk Empire,' but there's a window that's opening, so we're hoping to start shooting this fall." Foster hasn't committed to a role himself, because he's "a little superstitious," and a little unsure if he'd rather do what he did with "Rampart," and only take a small part while he focuses on learning more about producing. "You can never be bored," he said. "It's impossible to be bored, because there's too many things you don't know about!"
Plus, Foster has a larger part to film this fall that might take up the acting space on his schedule, now that "Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father" is back on again. As John Gotti Jr., Foster ages about two decades throughout the course of the film. "I gained 30 pounds when we were about to go before," the actor said. "And then I lost them while we were on pause. That's not fun. And it's not healthy, gaining or losing too fast, and that was over the course of five months. My back didn't particularly like it! So I need a long prep for that, but I'm ready."
Despite rumors and false reports, Foster won't be seen in the big-budget "Prometheus" in the meantime. "It would be nice if that one was true," he laughed. "I wouldn't have turned it down. But I look forward to seeing it in the theater!"
"Contraband" opens this Friday, January 13th.