Quietly turning in two back-to-back Texas gems in the form of “Joe” and “Manglehorn” (the latter of which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and hits theatres soon via IFC Films), director David Gordon Green seems to have struck gold with a home turf advantage —during production of “Manglehorn,” he could ride his bike to nearly every location. But he’s set a challenge for himself with follow-up “Our Brand is Crisis,” a political comedy-drama starring Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy and Billy Bob Thornton. “Bolivia, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Colorado, and Los Angeles,” Green told us at SXSW of his globetrotting filming locations, going on to hint further at what the film has in store.
Based on the 2005 documentary of the same name by Rachel Boynton, Green’s film focuses on questionable political strategies used by U.S. consultancy company Greenberg Carville Shrum during on the 2002 Bolivian political elections. It is certainly Green’s largest-scale film to date, but as he explained “that’s why you do studio movies: you can do something with a bit of scope to it.”
Part of that scope involved bringing his ensemble cast over to the Bolivian city La Paz, which clearly made a huge impression on him. “You wouldn’t believe the beauty of that culture —it’s something that I’ve never seen on film,” he said. “Soderbergh‘s ‘Che’ shot down there, but that’s a historical period piece. Contemporary life in La Paz has never been in an American film, as far as I’m aware.”
Green added “it’s a culture where if they’re frustrated politically or socially, they hit the streets and raise their voices. There’s something beautifully passionate about people that care, particularly the indigenous cultures that have been stepped on for so long that they just don’t take anyone’s shit. It’s also a constantly evolving culture, like with the cholitas, who wear the most colorful, exotic wardrobe. It’s beautiful. In fact, one of the actors in the new film is a guy that ran for president in Bolivia fifteen years ago —he’d never acted before. Incredible face and voice. To be able to integrate that into the ensemble of professional actors, that’s an opportunity.”
In the film, Bullock plays “Calamity” Jane Bodine, a consultant who emerges from retirement to help a Bolivian presidential candidate win the election. Like Al Pacino’s turn in “Manglehorn,” it’s a chance to see a mainstream actor exploring the strange detours common to Green’s films.
“I think actors that didn’t want to do that weird shit wouldn’t want to work with me,” Green said. “There is a playful environment that I set up, and my pitch to any actor is ‘I’m going to safely take you into dangerous places. We’re gonna go somewhere where you may be uncomfortable, but I’ll never put you in harm’s way. I’ll never do something stupid, because I’ll show you how stupid it is first. I have a good reputation among the acting community, which really helps —it’s them knowing that you’re there because you love them and aren’t trying to exploit them.”
Green’s “Our Brand Is Crisis” will be released this year.