<strong><em>Out of the Furnace</em></strong> cast and crew interviews from the AFI Fest premiere

The cast and crew of Out of the Furnace speak about the drama at the AFI Fest Premiere

One of my favorite times of the year is early November when AFI Fest rolls around, because it's the one major film festival that is just a few blocks away from me. While there are over 100 movies at the fest every year, everyone looks forward to the Gala Screenings the most, since they are usually top awards contenders. Last night, I hit the red carpet at the Out of the Furnace premiere, where I had the chance to chat with several of the film's stars, along with director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). Sadly, Christian Bale was not in attendance, since he is currently in production on Ridley Scott's Exodus.

Out of the Furnace centers on the the blue collar Russell Baze (Christian Bale), who works in a Pennsylvania steel mill by day and cares for his dying father at night. When his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from a tour in Iraq, he gets lured into a crime syndicate to try and make a better life, although he mysteriously disappears, causing Russell to take the law into his own hands.

Tom Bower, who some will remember as Marvin the janitor in Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Bill Wilson Scott Cooper's directorial debut, Crazy Heart, spoke about how the filmmaker's style has evolved between his first two films.

"He was under a lot of pressure, because he didn't have a lot of money with Crazy Heart, or a lot of days to shoot the movie in, but he was surrounded by really close friends. Bobby Duvall, who I think I introduced those two, I have been friends with Duvall for a very long time, so he was surrounded by people he knew really well and took good care of him. It was a smaller cast and a smaller, very personal story. This one really branches out in ways that are very difficult to rein in."

Director Scott Cooper, a former actor who transitioned into directing with his critically-acclaimed feature debut Crazy Heart, spoke about how that acting background gives him an advantage as a director.

"You can speak the language of an actor, and your actors understand that as a director, you understand their process. It really helps you connect on a very personal level with the actors. They seem to be able to trust you, and they seem to want to dig as deep as they possibly can for you."

The film is both set in and shot in Braddock, Pennsylvania, which was important for the director to portray as realistically as possible. While some productions may have tried to shoot in another city and cheat it for Braddock, the director revealed how important it was for the production to take place in Braddock.

"Brian, it was critical. I wouldn't have made the film if I couldn't shoot in Braddock. It's absolutely critical. I wrote it for Braddock, and it's a town that has suffered a great deal of distress, and it means a lot to me. If not for the mayor and the sitting governor of Pennsylvania, we wouldn't have shot there. It's sometimes difficult to get certain tax incentives, but I didn't even consider looking at any other states. It was critical that I shot in Braddock, and fortunately we were able to."

Director Scott Cooper, Forest Whitaker and Zoe Saldana at the AFI Fest premiere of <strong><em>Out of the Furnace</em></strong>
The project originated with an original screenplay by Brad Ingelsby entitled The Low Dweller, which landed on The Black List in 2008. The director talked about how he re-wrote the script, and which elements remained from the original draft.

"Brad's was a well-written script, but it wasn't something that I wanted to direct. It was just a seed of a man getting out of prison to avenge his brother, that was really the only similarity."

Woody Harrelson, who plays the villainous Curtis DeGroat, spoke about how important the look of his character was to him.

"Well, yeah, of course. I tend to be really attentive to costume, anything to do with make-up, hair, and all that stuff. It's really important."

The actor spoke about shooting in Braddock, and how the town is an essential character in and of itself.

"It was really inspired by him (writer-director Scott Cooper) driving through Braddock, while he was doing press for his other movie, Crazy Heart. He went through there and that inspired him to write this story. I can say that the effect that the effect of being there, and the look of the town and everything, was a big part of it."

The actor also spoke about Scott Cooper's directing style on the set, and how his background as a former actor helped the production.

"Sometimes director's can be really great, technically, but no so great in terms of talking with the actors. Scott is one of the best I've seen, in terms of how he connects with actors and coaches them to do what he wants, which is usually exactly what needs doing."

Zoe Saldana plays local school teacher Lena Warren, who, unlike brothers Russell and Rodney Baze, has no desire to leave this blue collar community.

"No, I don't think Lena wants to leave. I think Lena is happy just being a teacher and doing the same routine for the next 50 years of her life. I feel like that was the difference, but maybe her problems, maybe her expenses, maybe her life, was in a more assembled state than Russell's."

She also spoke about how Scott Cooper implicitly trusts the work of his actors.

"He trusts everybody that is on board with him. That is a very beautiful thing, so you really feel free. By the time you get to the set, you've done your homework, and that is what he's expecting you to do, so we can all just glide, and we can be bendable and foldable, whenever he needs us to go in one direction or another. I like working with directors like that, directors who allow you to add something, and if it's not something he'll use, he at least lets you do it. I really appreciate that, as opposed to just, 'Don't do it this way.' He's not a no person. He's not a no director, and I love that about him. I know that's never going to change. You just know, when you meet somebody and work with somebody, if they're going to change, and I don't think he is. That's a very good thing."

Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and director Scott Cooper at the AFI Fest premiere of <strong><em>Out of the Furnace</em></strong>
Forest Whitaker, who plays local sheriff Wesley Barnes, revealed how important he thinks this story really is.

"Scott introduced me to the script, and I met with him and thought it was an amazing piece and a very important story about America, the economy, post-traumatic stress from the war, all these different ideas inside of it, and how we can keep ourselves together. Me and Zoe come together, we're married, because of the circumstances. That's what attracted me to it, and this monstrous cast with a story I think is important."

That wraps it up for my red carpet coverage of Out of the Furnace's AFI Fest premiere. The drama, which is garnering more and more awards buzz by the day, hits theaters nationwide December 6. You can also check out our entire gallery from the red carpet premiere below.

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