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SXSW “Prince Avalanche” review and Q&A

SXSW “Prince Avalanche” review and Q&A

March 20
08:15 2013

Preston Barta

Film Critic

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The South by Southwest Film Festival continued with a screening of “Prince Avalanche,” the latest movie by David Gordon Green, starring Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd as Lance and Alvin, two highway roadworkers spending the summer of ’88 working away from their families.

Rudd, who last appeared in Judd Apatow’s “This is 40″ (2012), has always been capable of providing audiences with memorable performances. Alvin is another role to add to his already impressive résumé.

Normally seen in more dramatic roles, Hirsch steps out of his comfort zone and is absolutely hilarious as Lance, chewing up the scenery with lines like, “we have no chance of getting any [girls] because it’s Sunday and everyone’s at church.” Ever since 2007′s incredible film “Into the Wild” and 2008’s “Milk,” he’s been an actor that keeps filmgoers on their toes. I hope Hirsch takes on the comedy-genre more often because he has proven that he is an actor of range.

Gordon Green is an admirable writer-director. He first came to light with his romantic-drama titled “All the Real Girls” (2003), starring Zoey Deschanel and Paul Schneider. However, audiences really became curious after the critically-acclaimed “Snow Angels” (2007) and hit-comedy “Pineapple Express” (2008) came about. Now, Gordon Green returns to his roots, providing a nice, subtle dramedy with “Prince Avalanche,” a feature that proves filmmakers can still make good movies without a gargantuan budget, and that making movies just for fun remains refreshingly possible and entertaining.

Q&A with Rudd, Hirsch and Gordon Green at the Intercontinental Hotel in Austin, talking about their new film and what it was like making a film in Texas

Can you talk a little about how this project came together and the decision to make the film under the radar?


David Gordon Green: “Well, it wasn’t necessarily a decision to make it under the radar. We just didn’t have anybody to talk to about it. So, we just made it and we were done with it by the time anybody learned about it.

It came together pretty quickly and I think that’s very unusual in terms of making a film with notable actors because usually there are a lot of headlines, hoopla and gossip about it. I think it was unusual that there wasn’t a lot of awareness in that way, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. That whole process was very valuable to a movie like this, which was a very backwards type of inception.

The short version of it is I had an idea for a title. I was told of this location, the Bastrop State Park in Texas after the 2011 wildfires – which I visited – and thought it was an incredible place to film a movie. I needed to come up with something to film there before the rebirth of the forest.

A friend of mine introduced me to this Icelandic film titled ‘Either Way,’ and I thought it was the perfect way to very quickly adapt something into this environment and circumstances.”


How was it working in that environment?


Paul Rudd: “The park was huge and the devastation was enormous. We would get in our car and drive a couple miles down the road and it would still be charred trees, and it puts you in a mood because it’s so strange and otherworldly.

What you don’t get when you watch the movie is the smell and the feeling in the air. You would smell those burned trees and the ground and it just gets under your skin a little.”

Emile Hirsch: “Yeah, I kind of loved it, though. I mean, as devastating as the fires were, to actually be there, running around in this sort of alien landscape – it was also lot of fun. I found myself having fun, playing with the charcoal and branches. I sound like an idiot [All laugh].”

PR: “But, it’s an amazing piece of landscape. So surreal. However, the destruction wasn’t just to those trees and the ground. There was a lot of damage to people’s houses. There’s a local woman in the film, Joyce. We got a tour of her house, which was really powerful and overwhelming. She was so fragile and saddened by what had happened to her. She lost everything. It was a reminder of how powerful that fire really was, and we carried that with us throughout the shoot.”


David, what does it mean to you as a filmmaker to be living in Texas?


DGG: “Makes my life easier because I’ve got two little kids, so it’s nice that you can actually see them sometimes, rather than some of the times when I go on location and have to detach myself a little bit more from the responsibilities. Being in Austin is great for me because I have a lot of friendships here. Professionally, there are many great filmmakers here and that facilitates my profession in a way that makes my life very joyous and easy. You’ve got Richard Linklater making his films, Robert Rodriguez making his films, Mike Judd, Jeff Nichols and now we have Todd Rohal. So many amazing and distinct voices here making different kinds of things.

I was introduced to half-a-dozen filmmakers after our screening – local filmmakers who are getting their voices out there, and some are breaking through in a very big way. It’s just very exciting to be a part of that.”

Did you guys have any jobs that could compare to that of the one in the film? Anything crazy or painful?

DGG: “Yeah, I had a job that kind of had that meditative, mundane quality to it. I used to dunk doorknobs in acid to remove faulty bronzing on the chrome. So, I was in a hazmat suit, dunking doorknobs in acid all day.”

EH: “Dunking doorknobs?” [All laugh]

DGG: “Yeah, it was me and these three metal heads and we could only expose ourselves to the chemicals 20 hours a week because it was all poisonous.”

EH: “My grandpa used to pay me to pick up pine cones.”

PR: “I used to glaze hams. I did it for about four months. It was just a monotonous thing with propane and sugar. The repetition of it is relatable, but glazing hams was never outside.”
“Prince Avalanche” will be in theaters later this year.

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