Now I can finally write it down on paper: I am a great admirer of Rachel Brosnahan, for her masterful interpretation in and of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” by which I was completely shocked and enchanted, for the talent and audacity of her stories, and for all her acting choices, so precise and courageous. Just like the one of her new character Rachel in “Dead For A Dollar”, presented out of competition at the 79th Venice Film Festival and available to rent or own via all major digital platforms on March 13, 2023.
Ten minutes before the interview with her, I felt catapulted into a positive energy spiral because I was about to meet her aura of kindness and determination. Two minutes after greeting her, that energy, which could have also matched some kind of anxiety, immediately transformed, simply making me feel good. With her precise and passionate way of talking about films, stories to tell, and new frontiers of cinema, we also discussed how important it is to look for small acts of rebellion in the everyday life and how being here in Venice to present a new movie is simply crazy cool.
How is it going in Venice in these days?
It’s been the coolest thing. I’ve never been to Venice, so being here for the first time, premiering a film… I’m not sure if anything can top this!
You character in the film “Dead for a Dollar” might feel different from traditional westerns, but it actually is a character that’s always been there and that now has the space to be. What was your first reaction after reading the script and the first questions you asked Walter Hill [the director] about Rachel?
When I read the script, I was immediately intrigued. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and then Walter is Walter, he’s a legend. So, there weren’t a lot of immediate questions for him, but he gave me a call on the phone, he wanted to talk to me a bit more about the role and what he had been thinking about when he wrote it and also what his intentions were for the film.
He talked about being a great lover of and having a lot of respect for the Western genre of which he’s a really important contributor, too, and said that he wanted to use this film to be a part of continuing its evolution, he wanted to add this film to the canon of great westerns and imagined that a big part of doing so was creating space within the genre for characters like Rachel, Elijah and Poe, who historically have not been included at all or left on the fringes, underdeveloped, underexplored.
That was really exciting.
“…creating space within the genre for characters like Rachel.”
The sensation is that the film added something new to the genre.
How did you build the layers of Rachel?
I don’t like to get too much into the process, the secret stuff performers do. [laughs]
But I had a lot of conversations with Walter about the fundament of who she is and what she wants, and he said something that I found really inspiring in terms of crafting Rachel, which was that Rachel, even though we need her in this relationship with Elijah, is not someone who is looking for love, she is someone who is looking for light and truth and she’s doing so with courage and dignity and a profound sense of honor in her own moral code, and that gave me a really helpful jumping off point.
“She is someone who is looking for light and truth”
Walter Hill said, “Every good story ends with a tear”. What was the aspect of the film that moved you the most?
I suppose the end, the promise of what’s to come at the end. There is a peek of that in the postscript on the film, the promise of everyone’s lives because of this experience that they shared. I found that to be the most moving thing about this film.
I think that being an actor, with the many characters you play, you also get to work on yourself, learning new things about yourself. What’s the thing you discovered about yourself through Rachel?
Absolutely, you always do. This film was unique in that it was a rare opportunity to walk away with tangible skills and intangible lessons. I became a better horse rider, piano player, and gunslinger. I think it takes time for those lessons to set, so I’m hesitant to speak about the more personal things that I learned through this film because I think they are still settling.
Yes, of course. I think it’s a process, right?
Yes, you always walk away with something.
Films are such an amazing platform for conversation, and you opened your own production company, Scrap Paper Pictures. What would you like to open a conversation on?
I would love not to necessarily open one but continue to add to conversations about how and why we make art, I would like to add a conversation on what’s possible with the art of film and cinema. There is this idea that cinema is dying, theater is dying, and it certainly feels true sometimes and we have to fight for it. But, at the same time, not unlike the Wild West, there is also a new frontier and there is more opportunity for new artists and new voices in the streaming space, for example, and I don’t believe that one is more valuable than the other but that they both must be protected, working in both directions at the same time. So, I think that with our company, we would like to be adding to that conversation about what’s possible and broaching new frontiers.
We also want to be adding to a conversation about what it means to push at the boundaries of traditionally understood genres and what that means, how we play with style or form or that kinds of voices you see represented on screen or behind the screen.
“I’ve always wanted to be pushing at the way we understand traditional spaces and genres.”
I really can’t wait to see what you will be doing!
We have some really exciting stuff in development that hopefully I’ll be able to talk about soon.
Usually, what are the things that make you say “yes” to a project, that trigger you?
Inspiring and talented collaborators, whether that be other actors, the writer or the director or even the producers. A great script with great characters who are tridimensional and complex. It sounds like the bare minimum but it’s more rare than you think.
I’m always looking for something that feels brand new, that it feels like it opens – to go back to your question – new conversations or expands on a conversation about something, whether that be the role of women, the way we think about horror, or the kind of conversations that we have about race and class and gender.
What’s your most remarkable act of rebellion?
Of course, there are many, many people whom I admire whose acts of rebellion are so big I couldn’t possibly hold a candle. I don’t know if I can think one most remarkable act of rebellion, but the ones I think about range from just getting up in the morning to quietly making choices that I know have a ripple effect for the better even when it feels dangerous or frowned upon. I think so often that the biggest acts of rebellion are the quiet ones.