Could Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon be headed back to the Oscars? That could be the case if word on their latest collaboration, “Promised Land,” bears out.
The folks over at The Film Stage picked up on a recent feature article on the film in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that dropped a handful of interesting nuggets about the upcoming movie, which was co-written by and co-stars John Krasinksi alongside a cast that includes Frances McDormand, Hal Hobrook, Rosemarie Dewitt, Scoot McNairy and Titus Welliver. Perhaps the biggest bit of info is that Krasinski reveals the movie could be in “a small number of theaters” by the end of the year. Van Sant had already put together an assembly cut during filming, and “is editing the movie and will huddle with his fellow producers and others at summer’s end and tweak the movie through the fall.” Putting those small clues together, our guess is that “Promised Land” will have some kind of awards consideration run, before a wider release in 2013. As for a festival appearance in the fall? We reckon it’s a possibility.
As for the film itself, it will find Damon playing Steve Butler, a corporate salesman who arrives in a rural town with his sales partner, Sue Thomason (McDormand). With the town having been hit hard by economic decline in recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company’s offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally. As you might guess from that logline, there is an environmental angle at play, and early on, there was one word around the interwebs that the movie was an “anti-fracking” screed (fracking is essentially the process by which water and chemicals are blasted to separate rock layers to extract gas and oil). But not so, says Krasinski.
“Fracking for us became a backdrop. The original script was about wind power,” he explains adding about the rumors, “The idea of fracking or natural gas was just a very apropos news story that was beginning to grow a year and a half ago. I just chose that as the background and, of course, that has grown into something quite wild in and of itself.”
So what will the film address thematically? “I don’t want to give too much away, but the situation people are in financially is very, very real. And what they’re protecting is a community and a lifestyle that they believe very, very strongly in,” he explains. “So, for some of the characters in the movie, it’s a choice to give up everything that they are and everything that they have come from, in order for a quick paycheck, which I think is in keeping with a lot of the different opportunities that are going on in the country today, whether it’s the derivative market or anything else.”
In short, the film is more about the values of America today and how they’ve shifted from our parents’ generation, something that Krasinski remembers his father recollecting. The “way he described his upbringing and the country and the community that he grew up in, and how everything was incredibly honorable and loyal and incredibly rather simple in the best way — going to work, having family, having friends, and taking care of what you needed to take care of, and there wasn’t really much else. And someone’s word was as valuable as anything else,” he shares.
Sounds like the kind of big, broad ideas that Oscar loves and with Van Sant at the helm, a script from Damon and Kraskinski and a pretty compelling cast, this one is inching up our list of anticipated movies for 2012. Hopefully we’ll know more soon, but this could be a dark horse for the end of the year.