Lizzy Caplan recalls taking on the female lead in this action-packed Western ode to Tarantino and Peckinpah
Tiller Russell's action-packed Western The Last Rites of Ransom Pride seemingly shot forth from out of nowhere, quietly amassing a cult audience that has fallen in love with its rich, atmospheric photography and its hearty scenes of violent mayhem. Lizzy Caplan, who rose to fame in Cloverfield and put in stellar work on the short-lived but much loved Starz sitcom Party Down, stars as the film's protagonist, a tough-talking, quick-drawing cowgirl out for revenge.
Its not often that we see a female lead in a Western, and it certainly adds an honest and unique flavor to the adventure that Lizzy's Juliette Flowers embarks upon in The Last Rites of Ransom Pride. With an ensemble cast that also includes Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Scott Speedman, Peter Dinklage, and Jason Priestley, Tiller Russell has set out to please both the country music loving audience as well as cult film enthusiasts.
The movie is set to reach a wider audience this weekend, as it opens tonight, September 10th, at the Laemmle's Sunset 5 with showings at 10 pm and Midnight. And it will continue to play throughout the weekend, with 10 pm and Midnight shows on Saturday, and 10pm shows the rest of the week. There will also be Midnight screenings throughout the country the rest of this month. To see if the film is coming to your town, be sure to check the movie's official Website.
To help celebrate tonight's midnight launch of The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, we caught up with Lizzy Caplan to talk with her about the film, and to find out more about the behind the scenes work that went into making it such a cult hit with genre fans.
Here is our conversation:
This movie sort of jumped out from nowhere. When did you guys make Ransom Pride, and where have you shown it that its accumulated such a strong cult following?
Lizzy Caplan: I don't know exactly when it was made, because I can't tell the difference between years. It wasn't this past summer. I don't think it was the summer before that. It was either two or three summers ago. Which is a great answer to an interview question. We made it in Calgary. They've been editing it, and kicking it around, and trying to decide what to do with it. Now, all of a sudden, it's finally coming out.
We don't get to see too many Westerns. One a year if we're lucky. And this one looks really great for an independent Western. What were the challenges of making this film as interesting and eye-popping as it truly is?
Lizzy Caplan: We were all really excited to be there. Kris Kristofferson was there, which is beyond the coolest thing ever. He had done some Westerns before. We had Dwight Yoakam there. All of these really awesome music guys. Then there was Peter Dinklage, and Jon Foster, and Scott Speedman. Everyone was so over the moon to be able to ride around on horses and shoot guns. Everyday was this weird, sick carnival.
There is such a great energy coming from the entire cast.
Lizzy Caplan: Yeah, our writer/director, Tiller Russell, is the most enthusiastic guy ever. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with this film. His excitement was really infectious. Because we were shooting in Calgary, we would try to go to dinner every night together, and talk about what we shot that day, and what was coming up the next day. In Independent film, you have flexibility in terms of what you want to do with your character. I was surprised, because I thought a writer/director would be really precious about what he put on the page. It's kind of cool when you feel that you are being hired for your opinions as well as your appearance on screen. He was really open to playing around with stuff, and hearing our ideas.
You have a pretty unique accent in the film. How did you find that particular tone and cadence in selling Juliette home as such a badass?
Lizzy Caplan: Its funny, because there aren't that many actual lines of dialogue in the film. I haven't seen it since they screened it for us a while ago. But it sounded to me like this gravely, trying to be Clint Eastwood thing. If that comes across at all, that would be awesome!
It almost sounds like you have a bit of that Tennessee twang in there, too...
Lizzy Caplan: There is that. The accent was interesting. Because this girl lived in Mexico. She traveled around. So her accent wasn't going to be a perfect Southern accent. It was meant to be a hybrid of a bunch of things. It's a nomadic Southern accent, I guess? Doesn't that sound like the most pretentious shit ever?
I know you mentioned Clint Eastwood, but when you are narrating the film in the beginning, it really reminds me of the parting Eulogy that Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid gives at the end of Young Guns. I can hear Emilio's voice in your performance...
If you were obsessed with that movie, then I know it wasn't a coincidence. It's hard to shake some of that dialogue weeks after watching it.
Lizzy Caplan: My sister had that poster on her wall growing up.
That poster is actually hanging on the wall in here, too.
Lizzy Caplan: Really? I can imagine that that movie still holds up.
Yes. I saw it not too long ago, and it's still pretty awesome. The second one? I don't think anyone ever talks about the second one, but it is such a good movie.
Lizzy Caplan: I don't even know if I saw the first one.
I want to ask you about your wardrobe choice in this movie. It is also very interesting. It almost has a futuristic vibe to it. This landscape could almost be an apocalyptic Western version of the future. It is very postmodern. Did you guys ever discuss that idea on set?
Lizzy Caplan: We didn't, but I'm sure Tiller Russell, our director, would have a huge boner just to hear you say that. It does take place in a specific year. God, I haven't seen it in so long, but I believe it is 1919. There were cars, but not many people had cars. It did take place in a specific time that actually happened, but...Clearly the wardrobe lent to a much-more futuristic rock and roll vibe. Our wardrobe woman, Wendy Partridge, who lives in Calgary, was amazing. She works in this massive warehouse, and she made all of the costumes. My costume required three people to get it on and off every day. It wasn't the most comfortable, but it was the coolest thing. She made those pant out of nothing. I am really impressed by costume people that can do stuff like that.
I have to say, those pants are kind of awesome.
Lizzy Caplan: The pants were rad. The belt that I am wearing is like a horse check plate. I wear it as a sort-of chastity belt, I guess. Every one's costume was ridiculous. That helps you get into a weird mindset that is necessary to get into if you are walking around on set in a costume like this all the time.
You have a natural beauty, and it doesn't take a lot to make you look astonishingly gorgeous. Is it a harder process to come in and get grimed up for a role like this, where you are covered in dirt, and your hair is greasy, and you look like you haven't taken a shower for a while?
Lizzy Caplan: No, it's a harder process to look good. (Laughs) But everyone on set was filthy and covered in blood. A lot. They start off doing nice make-up, but by the end they are just throwing dirt and old shampoo on you. They slather you with a bunch of shit.
In talking about the cast, one of the people you didn't mention was W. Earl Brown, who was of course in one of the greatest Westerns of the last twenty years, Deadwood. Was he able to offer any insight into this world of filmmaking?
Lizzy Caplan: I didn't have too much stuff with him, really. But I am sure that he talked to our director a ton about his experiences on that. His wardrobe is the most straight forward in the movie. It almost looks like it came right out of Deadwood. I don't know if they did that on purpose, but it was pretty cool. Our Western is pretty out there. He probably had to take everything he knows from that show and tweak it a bit.
So that guy just rolls around in his Deadwood outfit no matter where he is?
Lizzy Caplan: (Laughs) Yeah, probably.
He was on Justified, and he was wearing something similar. And that show takes place in modern day Kentucky.
Lizzy Caplan: That is so amazing. It's cool. They make fewer and fewer Westerns nowadays. Its not like it was back in the 60s. That's all they were making, it seems like.
This is something you don't ever see...Only two come to my mind, the Clint Eastwood movie Two Mules for Sister Sarah and Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead...Where we have a female protagonist in a Western. How exciting was that for you, to join that very small club?
Lizzy Caplan: Exactly, that is why it was such an attractive role. Usually, in a Western, the girl wears a dress and sits on the porch, waiting for her cowboy or lover to return to her. Some boring shit like that. My favorite kind of set to be on, and movie to make, is when I get to hang out with all the guys. And it gets grimier and grosser. And all the immunities that would either come with a big budget movie, or if I had to look nice all the time, aren't there. We were in Calgary, which is for-real cowboy country. Making this movie, it was mostly me and a bunch of guys. For me, that was a dream come true.
And you seem pretty handy with the weapons. Does that come naturally? Or did you have to go through some training?
Lizzy Caplan: I wish that it came naturally to me. I did a bunch of fight training leading up to the movie with a guy here in Los Angeles. Then Jon Foster and I went to Calgary a couple of weeks early to do horse and gun school. Which was amazing. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to in my life. The countryside in Calgary. We would ride horses every day. We would shoot our old guns at hay bails. It was awesome.
Can anybody go to horse and gun school?
Lizzy Caplan: They set it up for us, but I'm sure that anybody could go. We went to a ranch that had about a hundred horses. And they train everybody there for Westerns. Right before we got there they shot The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. They shoot most Westerns up in that area.
I think Calgary is one of the reasons the film looks so good...
Lizzy Caplan: It is so beautiful. And they have really good steaks in Calgary. It is so awesome.