While at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, filmmakers Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl celebrated the world premiere of their low-budget/high-ambition sci-fi western Prospect, which follows a father/daughter team of terrestrial miners who end up in a fight for their lives after a routine excavation goes awry. The family at the center of Prospect is portrayed by indie pioneer Jay Duplass and up-and-coming actress Sophie Thatcher, and Daily Dead spoke with the duo in Austin this week about their recent collaboration and more.
Congratulations on Prospect—it’s really an incredible film. Clearly, there was some really good stuff for you both to dig into with this film, but from your perspectives, what was it about these characters in this world that appealed to you?
Jay Duplass: I thought that the world was incredibly well-built. The guys had a short film that was beautiful, too, and there was this human story that was being told in the future. I had never played a dad before, either. I usually play weird, crazy people or just regular guys or whatever. I don't really even understand it because I am a dad, so it's been funny for me, for people to be like, "Wow, it's so different for you, playing a dad. And I'm like, "That's what I do every day of my life." But I just thought this offered me a lot of cool opportunities, and honestly, I really wanted to work with Sophie and Pedro [Pascal], too. I remember they had shot a test with Sophie and she was amazing in it.
Sophie Thatcher: Thank you.
Jay Duplass: I just thought this was an amazing cast and I usually just go off my gut when deciding this kind of stuff.
Sophie Thatcher: For me, there aren't many parts out there for anyone my age. I mean, there are, but it's always just the stereotypical teenager or just a typical daughter role or something like that. And I was just drawn to how unusual the script was and just to see Cee's trajectory throughout the story, I thought it was going to be something very special.
Because this film has something of a pared-down approach to its dialogue, did you guys dig in even deeper into these characters with the directors before coming into it?
Jay Duplass: I talked to them a lot about backstory, and there was an understanding that this life that they lead is very dangerous, but it’s very functional, too. The shit needs to be done right or things can go wrong. It was probably a lot more dangerous than my dad character is revealing to his daughter, too, and so there's a certain strictness there in his interactions with Cee. But I thought it was really important to just reveal love there between them so that you feel like you can relate to their connection, and it was easy because Sophie and I got along great from day one. We're just like pals the whole time, so it was naturally there.
Sophie Thatcher: For me, I met with the directors a couple times beforehand and I was just preparing and writing notes into the script a lot to get myself ready. But as soon as I came on set, everything clicked, especially when we got into the shuttle and everything. It just came naturally, and I didn't want to think about all the preparation I had, I just wanted everything to come out naturally, and I hope it does.
When you're doing a performance where, during many of the scenes, you are stuck in these suits, do you have to work differently on a physical level and change your approach at all?
Jay Duplass: Yeah, you definitely do change your approach, but you don't have to think about it, it just happens to you. We were just talking about how the first few days of shooting, it was just Sophie and me in the rain forest and the suits had not been tested. They needed a lot of adjustments and we couldn't breathe because they didn't have holes in them, so we were just figuring our way through it and being like, "Guys, I need to cut, because I literally have no air left [laughs]."
Sophie Thatcher: That was a difficulty, and it was harder with the longer lines, too, especially for Pedro, who had to cut down his monologues because he kept running out of air.
Jay Duplass: But we did so many cool things on this film, and the guys were very flexible, and we made adjustments to the suits the whole way through. But even just walking with a backpack and a gun and a suit through the rainforest—which is not cleared, so it's really hard not to trip—that made it feel like we were just constantly trying to find our way. It was nice in some ways because we were just reacting to everything as we were shooting.
Sophie Thatcher: Yeah, being in that setting helped so much.
Jay, I know you're no stranger to Austin and SXSW, so how was it being able to bring this film here and put it out there in front of a crowd and get a real reaction to this story?
Jay Duplass: It's a really special experience. This is where I became a filmmaker and Austin is such a film-lover town, so you just feel it when you're here. People are here to enjoy and celebrate film, and I love it whenever I get a chance to come here. Plus, having two movies here right now is just such a special experience.
Sophie, before we go, I wanted to ask about your experiences with this character. So much of this movie rides on Cee, and it becomes this beautiful journey for her transitioning into adulthood. How much did you enjoy getting into her headspace and just going on this ride?
Jay Duplass: This film really does ride on her shoulders, and I just want to say that I think Sophie's an awesome actor.
Sophie Thatcher: Well, thank you, thank you. It was obviously stressful going into it, considering I don't have that much experience. This is my first feature film, so I talked with the directors a lot beforehand and I just trusted them completely. They helped me so much, and like we've talked before, the setting helped so much, too. It was just reacting to everything and interacting with all other the amazing actors in this. I would say that's how I made Cee more realistic. I didn't know how it would be with the space helmet, I didn't know if there would be a disconnect, but it all seemed to work.
I do feel like it was a really empowering experience. And just watching it, what I took away from everything was that it was almost a therapeutic experience in some ways. Seeing Cee’s trajectory and how much she changes and becomes this independent, powerful, young woman, it really had an emotional effect on me and I loved it. They did a great job on this film, and I’m very thankful.
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