Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Debut Video for ‘Jubilee Street’

With the release of Push the Sky on the horizon, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have already graced us with one mysterious and shadowy video—the Gaspar Noe-directed "We No Who U R" earlier in the month. But today, they’ve released the video for their slow-churned and sordid "Jubilee Street." Helmed by Cave’s buddy and collaborator John Hillcoat, the video stars English actor Ray Winstone as a man who frequents seedy back alleys and bedrooms, lies at women’s feet, looks distressed, and gets a boob in the mouth. Hillcoat lights the video with neon colors to illustrate the late night world, as Cave moves with his signature mix of smoothness and gloom through the streets. When I spoke to Hillcoat back in August, he told me his friendship with Cave is, "an Australian connection. I’ve known him since I was a teenager and I did his music stuff and he worked on my film stuff…I love music and I’ve been involved in music my whole career and Nick loves movies. He watches more movies than me and I listen to more music than him. So it’s a weird connection there, we love collaborating and we’re always planning and working on the next thing."

Check out the video—which is probably not suited for most work environments but who cares, right?—below.

Nick Cave: Still Lawless After All These Years

It’s hard to know where to begin with Nick Cave. His music inspires a sort of devotion among fans that few other artists enjoy, a hard-earned loyalty that’s seen him from post-punk provocateur to balladeer, novelist and screenplay writer. This Bad Seed’s latest project is the script for Lawless, which he adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel, The Wettest County in the World. Directed by longtime friend and collaborator John Hillcoat, Lawless is a strangely beautiful tale of three bootlegging brothers in Franklin County, Virginia. Cave and longtime collaborator Warren Ellis did the soundtrack, as well, under the name The Bootleggers; it’s a magnificent, eccentric collection of Lawless-era takes on songs like "White Light/White Heat" by the Velvet Underground and a must for Cave fans.

Tom Hardy stars as Forrest Bondurant, a reticent man who favors cardigans and extreme violence when necessary. He’s a myth, a man who allegedly can’t be killed, and yet a mother hen of sorts to his two screw-up brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke). The Bondurants’ livelihood is threatened by a new lawman from Chicago, Charlie Rakes, who is played by a nearly unrecognizable Guy Pearce. Sporting slicked-back black hair, a shaved part, and no eyebrows, Pearce is menacing, sadistic, and unforgettable. Rounding out the cast is Jessica Chastain as a former showgirl named Maggie who’s looking for a quiet new life in Franklin County, and Mia Wasikowska as a religious young maiden who seems open to a more worldly life in the arms of Jack.

Although it’s tempting to think of Cave as a myth on par with Forrest Bondurant, he’s human and equally at the mercy of the vicissitudes of technology. The soft-spoken Australian was fighting the good fight against his dying cell phone when he called from Los Angeles to discuss his acting swansong, lyrical violence, and the slog of interviews.

I’m really interested in how Lawless seems to fit right into the world of your songs and even your novel And the Ass Saw the Angel. Was that part of the attraction to adapting the novel, or was that even conscious?
I didn’t look at it in that way. I’m happy to write about anything for screenwriting as long as it serves the director’s vision effectively and that I can write about it. We were just given this book by a couple of producers who thought that John Hillcoat and I could do a good job on it based on The Proposition, the movie we’d done before that. I guess it’s no accident that we were chosen to do it; these producers were quite savvy sort of people, but for me, it wasn’t that I felt that it kind of fitted into something that I was about, it was more that… the beautiful lyricism of the book, the beauty of the writing, the absolutely exquisite dialogue that was in the book, and the great bits of brute violence that were in there as well just made the whole thing irresistible.

Have you ever though about returning to acting, since you met John on the set of Ghosts… of the Civil Dead?
No. [Laughs] No, you’ve got to know your limitations, and acting is always unbelievably painful. I do play a dead gangster in Lawless, and I saw that as my final curtain call for acting. Three bullet holes in the face.

How much time did you spend on set? Did you have a lot of ongoing input?
I spent two days on set when I did that particular scene. The rest of the time I spent ten days working with the actors in Georgia where it was shot, going through the script with them, and rehearsing with them, and giving them the opportunity to have some sort of input into the script or discuss the script or change the script or whatever… And then I left to go back to civilization. You know what I mean. The more civilized world of being a rock singer.

I read your interview in The Observer where Tom Hardy said he wanted to play his character like "an old lesbian," and I was wondering if you could elaborate on that.
I can’t, really… He also said he wanted to play the character like the old lady in Tweetie Pie, do you know who I mean? Yeah, that was the other person that he based the character on. And at the time this was kind of a [joke], these kind of comments [laughs] but you know, I think that what he was really saying was that he wanted to play the character like a matriarch, and that he was the mother in this family, and that when Jessica Chastain’s character comes in, she isn’t a love interest so much as a direct threat on his authority as a mother figure, and I think that that’s the way he’s playing that character. He’s just amazing in the film.

My favorite line was when Chastain’s character enters the room to seduce him, and he’s so perplexed, and he says, "What are you doing?" It’s beyond him.
Yeah, well, he’s a virgin. He’s a virgin.

Aw, little Forrest!
[Laughs] He’s spent his time looking after his family and sitting on his nest, and anything like love interests and all that sort of stuff, I don’t think he’s ever, you know, he’s never had an opportunity for. That’s the way we’re looking at it.

The process is so much more—you get hamstrung by the studios or the producers or what have you. What’s the payoff in writing the screenplay when you don’t have as much freedom as you do making an album?It must be very frustrating.
In the writing of something, it’s not like that. When you first write something, it’s actually really kind of enjoyable and playful and really all you’re doing is taking a story, and you’re writing the scenes, and at least, because I’ve only written a couple of screenplays, really, maybe three or four, I’m still kind of naive enough to the process to think that what I’m actually writing is gonna get made.

I think that with Lawless, my eyes were opened up to the way films get made a lot more. It was a Hollywood movie, and it’s different, it’s a different process. But I think what makes it enjoyable for me is a kind of naiveté about the process and that you can write scenes that maybe a more experienced writer would know that these scenes will never get made. That there’s no point even putting pen to paper with these scenes because they’re never gonna get made. I think at least initially when I wrote Lawless, there were a lot of scenes like that, that were so enjoyable writing them. A lot of them, as it turned out, didn’t get made, but a lot of them did, and so it’s both. It’s extremely exciting, but it can be frustrating as well.

But there’s a huge amount of people—it’s amazing anything gets done, honestly. There’s so many people involved in the artistic decision-making of a film, and the sort of trajectory that it takes, it’s amazing that a film ever gets made at all.

I understand Crime and the City Solution is preparing to go on tour and release its first new album in years. What inspires you to revisit a certain band’s sound, like, okay, now I want to do some Bad Seeds. Now I’m feeling a little Grinderman. Now I wanna go do something with The Flaming Lips. How does that work?
They’re all different. The Flaming Lips… It was very much about the kind of irrepressible personality of Wayne Coyne. He’s, how shall I say this, he’s a very difficult person to say no to. That turned out real good, but you know, all of these other things—screenplays, novels, and all that sort of stuff—I see as just keeping the songwriting process going.

What I want to be able to do in life is just to write songs, but I know, more than anything, that if I don’t do other things, I’m not going to be able to continue to do that because you just run out of ideas. If you just made one record after another after another, it’s impossible to do. It’s impossible to keep up any quality. And I was kind of seeing that fifteen years ago or something. I understood the trajectory of the band and where it was going in some kind of way, and it was starting to decline. It was in decline, I think, and so I started doing other things just to kind of revitalize that process, and it seemed to work really well.

If I do a script, like something like Lawless, by the time I’m finished with that, I’m running screaming to get out of Hollywood and the film world and get into something more sane, like making a record. It just keeps that process alive.

How do you feel about the kind of promotion you have to do for a movie insofar as going to different festivals and talking to interviewers? Is it exhausting in a way that promoting an album or going on tour isn’t?
Promoting an album, doing interviews, and going on tour are two very different things. With all respect, doing an interview is something where you’re sitting there and selling a product. It’s always that way, and there’s a certain amount of that that I guess needs to be done, really. Going on tour is something that is an extraordinary thing to do. I love going on tour and playing concerts and watching the songs come alive in a live way.

There are actually occasions when you do an interview that makes you think about things and makes you reassess things or gives you ideas and so forth, or makes you even understand what you’re doing in a clearer kind of way, and they can be really good as well, actually. But in general, the interview thing is a bit of a slog. [Laughs] Not this one, of course. Not this one.

[Laughs] That’s very kind of you. What makes an interview not a slog? Seriously, I am always looking to learn.
Really, it’s being able to kind of honest in an interview. You know, that’s the thing about filmmaking in particular, is that no one can really be honest about a film… because so many people are involved, and the kind of destinies of so many people are involved in the outcome of the film that everyone’s just gonna kind of, you know, toe the line. If you know what I mean.

Creativity really ebbs and flows, and it seems like you’re producing work at an incredibly alarming rate. What do you do for your downtime?
I’m trying to work on that, to be honest. That’s my next project, is downtime, because it’s not something that really comes naturally to me, and it becomes worrying on some level how much work I’m doing. Not that I’m exhausted by it, because I find work energizing, but just that there needs to be downtime. There needs to be time when you don’t know what you’re doing… If you don’t have downtime, then you don’t have the epiphanies, either. You need the downtime for the epiphanies to [appear]. I think to work more on downtime. Maybe you’ve got some ideas.

Shia LaBeouf’s Serious Actor Transformation Continues With Acid, Moonshine

Yesterday was talk-about-famous-penises day here at BlackBook, courtesy of a certain nude British monarch (fine, I suppose for SEO purposes, it was naked Prince Harry), Ryan Lochte and Shia LaBeouf, and we hope you all enjoyed it, despite the slightly disappointing (for someone, anyway) news that LaBeouf would no longer be participating in unsimulated sex acts in Lars Von Trier’s upcoming film, The Nymphomaniac. There will still be real actors doing real sexy things, of course, but they will just be body doubles—so if your penis looks anything like Shia LaBeouf’s, you may be able to land a role in the next Lars Von Trier movie (there’s a certain NSFW Sigur Ros video where you can compare and contrast).

LaBeouf, who has been very vocal about seeking new acting horizons in the wake of his appearances in the successful Transformers series, isn’t just up for getting naked for Icelandic pop bands and/or Lars Von Trier. Citing Sean Penn’s electric-chair experiences preparing for Dead Man Walking as a point of admiration, LaBeouf has embraced not full method-acting, but a similar approach. For the upcoming John Hillcoat-directed “Goodfellas in the woods” Lawless, in which he plays a young bootlegger sharing the screen with Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain, he actually got drunk on moonshine. For The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, another mob tale in which he stars alongside Sundance favorite Mads Mikkelsen, he took a day to trip on acid to mimic his character’s experiences.

"Sometimes, it does get real," LaBeouf told USA Today of his hallucinogenic-augmented experience. "Too real for a (director) who’s trying to keep a diplomatic set." Not the sort of thing you can replicated with a body double, eh? 

John Hillcoat Travels Back to the ‘Lawless’ Franklin County, Virginia

“For me, cinema in the late ‘60s and ‘70s—that was the renaissance of film,” says acclaimed director John Hillcoat, whose newest film, Lawless, harkens back to dusty outlaw tales of Bonnie and Clyde while taking the the conventional gangster genre and burying it deep in the backwoods. Based on the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bonderant, the film was written and scored by Hillcoat’s longtime collaborator and friend, Nick Cave, bringing together not only their shared passion for American folklore but their unique brand of storytelling.

The film tells the story of three bootlegging brothers: Jack, Forrest, and Howard (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke, respectively) in Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, during the prohibition. After FBI Special Agent Charlie Rakes (played by Guy Pearce) is sent into town to bring hell into their lives, the film follows down the beloved Hillcoat trajectory of a violent, male-driven tale of people living in extreme worlds with extreme consequences. It’s through the characters of Maggie and Bertha (played by Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) and their strong female presence, however, that we’re presented with a real-life tale that’s more about battling for survival and protection than just machismo. We caught up with Hillcoat to chat about going back in time to find the story, the complexities of alpha male characters, and being on the fringe of American cinema.

How did you come across the novel? Were you looking for something like this?
I was looking for a gangster film. I love being transported into other worlds and extreme worlds. When I say extreme worlds, I mean where the stakes are high therefore there’s real conflict. And being transported into other worlds has always been something that I’ve loved about cinema since I was a kid. There’s something to me about the Great American films; the gangster films and the westerns were certainly two very distinct worlds you get caught up in, and I’d been looking for a gangster film but, to be honest, it was very hard to find a new take on that genre, especially in the wake after Goodfellas. It’s kind of hard, where do go from there? So I went back in time. What I found interesting [in Lawless] was that it was the people in the backwoods, and that story, I don’t think, has ever been told. I guess it’s also where the western ends and the gangster film begins, and the western outlaws in the backwoods now are introduced to guns and modern technology. It was quite an upheaval.

What attracts you to these sort of extreme worlds and moral situations?
It just always interested me because I think it just reveals a lot about ourselves. It’s in extreme situations that we see the best and the worst of ourselves. I’m always intrigued by what really lurks under.

There are a lot of gangster films that come out but don’t have a strong staying power like Goodfellas because they lack the character and heart, but these characters were so developed—they all had their own strong backstories and you could empathize with them. Is that something you grasped from the novel?
Matt Bondurant, who wrote the novel, he was at his father’s place, and he saw hanging on the wall, a pair of brass knuckles and he said, “What the hell are those?” His father said, “Oh, that was your great Uncle Forrest.” So it was actually that moment that he went right into the whole research of that world, discovering his family history. Also just as a writer, his ear for dialogue; I love the way he talked about Maggie and Forrest and that they’re both damaged people that find each other and it’s a very unusual but moving kind of love story and they hide it from everyone. Forrest can’t describe his emotions, so it’s this secret awkward love affair. And then the sweetness and innocence of the first love of Jack and Bertha. Because no matter how extreme a world, I’m more interested in trying to find the humanity than just making the two-dimensional. That’s sometimes a challenge when you’re dealing with such familiar genres. Although, that being said, these gangsters and westerns are still filled with flawed characters with moral dilemmas.

You don’t necessarily like the characters all of the time, but you still want it to work out for them because you’ve set up that humility in all of them.
Exactly. And their own tragic flaws are always compelling, I think. In this case, what also was very attractive—that Nick Cave who adapted it, and I both loved was that traditionally, the genre with gangsters—you’re used to seeing them punished for their sins and so they’re all taken out in a blaze of glory. But in this case, I don’t want to give away too much, but there was a real transformation and to really engage in everyday life. We thought that was actually a refreshing thing to see. And the one guy who was always a misfit in life and kind of the most haunted finally finds peace and you think he’ll always survive. So, for us, in the true story, there were a lot of rich ingredients and it’s still tapped into archetypes of that world that I’ve always been fascinated in. Floyd Banner is just that colorful kind of gangster, the gangster for all of us, someone we’re all scared of and thrilled by, so he was a really interesting character as well and I really tried to get that irony of the way Jack was like all of us.

You’re attracted to these male-driven, violent stories. They’re not violent for the sake of it, but just because they are it’s necessary for their survival. Is that something that you’re cognizant of when developing an idea?
Actually, what I thought was so great about what Tom  brought to Forrest was actually quite a vulnerable, feminine side.

He was like the mother of the family.
And when he lashes out he is absolutely terrifying and probably all the more for it. But because of the contradictions and complexities, I am fascinated by the sort of flip side to those archetypes and also the vulnerabilities. To me, it’s always more interesting to see, a sort of powerful alpha male vulnerable than just pure alpha male. Having said that, and this what I love about the Maggie and Bertha, I do love a little respite in there. It’s hard to find, often in most of these stories, to find strong female characters and so I’m always actively seeking that. And in actual fact, I’m actually specifically looking for female-driven leading characters. I love these kind of genres and these generic, almost like ancient kind of dilemmas and conflicts. Often the written scripts for leading female characters tend to be not in these kind of robust genres and I would love to find that, I’m always looking for that material. I’m saying, I would like a classic genre film in extreme situations but the character is a woman. That’s hard to find.

It was refreshing to see these women that were really strong and could hold their own against these men. Even Bertha, even though she’s so innocent, but she had a strength.
I’m glad you noticed! And Maggie is actually stronger than all those brothers, even Forrest.

I love that she had to be the one to do something first because he’s so strong but was completely incapable of expressing himself.
Yes and she had to bare this terrible truth and hide and then eventually reveals that she had to take care of him. Then she had to bare the real truth that he couldn’t deal with. She had to battle it and that makes her all the more stronger that she can handle it whereas she knew he couldn’t.

How did you go about casting?
First came Shia; he was always involved from the get go. In all his films, he was always strong in them and compelling and there was something about him. And he was itching to get his teeth into real characters and he had qualities that Jack had. The film had come through various incarnations because initially when we were trying to make it, it was a studio film and then the global economy shook everything up and all the studios went into a spiral and decided they couldn’t make these sort of films anymore. So we went back and reconstructed it. Shia independently had contacted Tom because he loved his performance in Bronson. I actually had been aware of Tom independently and met Tom after he had just done Inception and knew he was someone I wanted to find something to do and this was perfect material. And Jessica, I met her actually before Tom. I was looking for a strong, intelligent woman who was charismatic and also had real gravitas and depth to her and real emotion. So then when I met her it was a combination of things I had heard from other filmmakers that I trust and then meeting her and then seeing a couple scenes from the film. Mia I met before she did Alice and she, at that stage, had only done a couple of smaller films and again, she had this wonderful quality and just struck me as having a great face for it. When you look at different periods and different times, there are certain faces that look suitable for those times and also for that kind of closed religious communities so something about her look. The Mennonites, a lot of them came from an eastern European background so there was several qualities and also a real sweetness and edging with her. She was so young and clearly so talented and also a completely different energy to Jessica.

It was a perfect pairing between Jessica and Tom and then Shia and Mia. They all had such great chemistry.
And that something I’m always looking for, especially with an ensemble, that kind of different energies and contrasts.

You have an ongoing relationship and collaboration with Nick Cave as a writer and composer. Can you tell me about that? He always does such fascinating work.
We have an Australian connection. I’ve known him since I was a teenager and I did his music stuff and he worked on my film stuff. There’s something about him… I love music and I’ve been involved in music my whole career and Nick loves movies. He watches more movies than me and I listen to more music than him. So it’s a weird connection there, we love collaborating and we’re always planning and working on the next thing.

So do you work together as he’s writing it, do you sort of build it together?
There’s a period where I’m more just a bouncing board for stuff he writes and I talk about ideas that I’ll have that he’ll play with, so it’s very much an organic back-and-forth. And to have him write at the very beginning and then end the whole thing with the music gives it a really added cohesion that I don’t think I would get otherwise.

Because he knows what the tone is supposed to be because he set it.
Exactly. And actually, there’s something very musical in the rhythms of films and the way people speak and the whole tone of things, so I’m very lucky.

This is sort of a very rural American Dream type of film. As someone not from here, do you have your own very predisposed image of what you image this time to be like and American history?
Well, I actually grew up in America as a young kid and I grew up in Canada from when I was 4 years old to 17 and I’ve travelled a lot through the country but I definitely have an outsiders perspective. It’s strange, it’s an outsiders perspective and in that sense, that sometimes can be a big advantage.

Did you have any sort of cinematic touchstones that you looked back on when making the film for inspiration? Gangster movies or westerns?
Oh, yeah. The big one for me, particularly, was White Heat with Jimmy Cagney, which has a kind of restless energy and flamboyance, that was something in that period I talked a lot to Guy Pierce about when he played Rakes. And, of course, Bonnie and Clyde. The films of the ’70s—they’ve always been a profound influence on my work and an inspiration. But there’s old black-and-white films, the classic gangsters as well. And the original Scarface

Nick Cave Meets ‘The Crow’

I’ve been a rather fervent Nick Cave fan for ages, so it’s been with keen interest that I’ve watched him develop into a sometimes screenwriter over the past few years. Thus far, he’s worked primarily with director John Hillcoat, and while I confess I’ve not seen their first collaborative effort, Ghosts…of the Civil Dead, I was thoroughly impressed with their second offering, the sun-bleached outback thriller The Proposition. It might even rate as my third favorite Aussie film after The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and the almost criminally under-seen Wake In Fright. In any case, shortly after its release there was talk of yet a third collaboration, this one to be called Death of a Ladies Man, after the Leonard Cohen song. That project has never materialized, but Cave hasn’t given up his sideline gig in the least. On the contrary, The Wrap is reporting that Cave has just signed on to do a rewrite of Relativity Media’s forthcoming reboot of The Crow.

I never liked The Crow one iota, but perhaps Cave will bring a different slant. If not, he’s still got plenty of other projects in the pike that sound just as—if not way more—promising. Cave’s been working with chameleonic actor Andy Serkis on a mo-cap version of Brecht’s ThreePenny Opera, and last year he completed still another feature script called The Promised Land, adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World. Hopefully between all of these side projects he’ll find time to slip another record into the marketplace as well.

John Hillcoat’s Regrettable Levi’s Commercial

Director John Hillcoat, he of The Road and The Proposition fame, has crafted a Levi’s commercial that’s getting some rave reviews on the web. Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells has even gone so far as to call it “the best Hillcoat ever,” and while I’ll admit the spot is not without a certain poetic quality, I nevertheless abhor the thing. My reasons, and the commercial, after the jump.

The first thing that chafes about it is that Hillcoat deigned to do it at all. I know my attitude will likely be perceived as fustian and unrealistic, but I really can’t stand it when filmmakers (or musicians, or artists, or actors) agree to hawk corporate wares. Time was, you’d get called a “sell out” for such things. Now Jack White writes a jingle for Coke and nobody bats and eye. I’m with Tom Waits, who summed the issue up very nicely by stating, “If Michael Jackson wants to work for Pepsi, why doesn’t he just get himself a suit and an office in their headquarters and be done with it?”

The other thing that galls me about the piece has to do with its location. The ad makes a point of telling you (twice) that it was filmed in Braddock, Pa. Why Braddock? Well, for decades it’s been an economically troubled town owing to the collapse of the steel industry and an epidemic of gang activity. In 2008, house values hovered around 6,000 and there were only two stores in the entire town. Lately, however, there’s been something of an artistic renaissance in Braddock, thanks largely to Mayor John Fetterman, who’s refurbished homes, started youth programs, and enticed artists to relocate to Braddock with the promise of cheap rents. The voice over in the piece, spoken by a child, obliquely explains the situation: “A long time ago, things got broken here. People got sad and left. Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do.”

Apparently Levi’s wants to be associated with the “work” of this small-town struggling to make an economic recovery. It’s an “up from the bootstraps” vibe that they’re after, and who knows, it may well move a lot of jeans. What I find bothersome, if not hypocritical, in Levi’s choice of Braddock, is that it’s a town that was nearly eradicated because of disappearing jobs—the Monongahela River valley around Pittsburgh (which Braddock is basically a suburb of) lost some thirty thousand of them during the 80’s alone. Now, while I think it’s all well and good that Levi’s is currently donating money ($2million) to Braddock’s redevelopment, and casting its residents in their commercials for top dollar, I can’t help but be reminded that Levi’s spent the 90’s closing down all of its North American factories, eliminating jobs aplenty in favor of cheap(er) overseas labor. So why aren’t they shooting commercials and funneling money into the communities they’ve affected themselves? You know, other places where the world broke “on purpose?”

To my thinking, this is a clear case of the problem masquerading as the solution. Levi’s feel-good community assistance in Braddock must perforce be considered along side their other, less wholesome corporate practices, and especially their less than spotless reputation with respect to labor conditions abroad. (Google “Levi’s” and “sweatshop” if you need examples.) And when you see those print ads featuring Braddock residents and the slogan, “Everybody’s Work is Equally Important”, don’t believe it. I’m pretty sure Levi’s doesn’t.

image