Lucky: Press conference with director John Carroll Lynch and co-writer Logan SparksLocarno Film Festival 2017
Lucky is the story of one man facing up to death, and that man turns out to be Harry Dean Stanton. Actor and first-time director John Carroll Lynch – recently seen in Hollywood fare Jackie and The Founder – talked about the relationship between the film and the legendary 91-year-old actor.
“This is based on and encapsulates Harry’s life. He has made 236 films and countless television shows. This film is homage to the character actor Harry Dean Stanton and all those who appear in the film with him. It’s an actor’s piece.”
The film shows Lucky at a point where he must resolve his innate crankiness by accepting his position in the late stages of life. As Carroll Lynch noted: “He’s looking at mortality probably not for the first time, but the last time. He’s in penalty time and he doesn’t know when the ref is gonna call it. This film doesn’t say the smell of death is rancid – sometimes it’s sweet. It’s a movie about living.”
Of the final images, as the camera centres on the indubitable lead, the director emphasised the significance of this moment: “Harry’s smile is saying that he knows you’re there, the audience. After a 60-year career he’s looking at us. He has sucked the bone marrow out of life, and that’s why his face is so expressive and beautiful.”
The tortoise – so prominent as a motif – was more difficult to coax than Stanton, but nearly as important to the film’s message. As Carroll Lynch explained: “We arranged for a local tortoise hospice to bring them. We had to bribe them with strawberry juice on the backside of rocks. It was tricky and we had to do it quite a bit. But it was important – the tortoise is an image of natural eternity, a thing that last longer than us.”
The co-writer Logan Sparks explained how some big names got to act in the film: “The entire cast wanted to act with Stanton. [David] Lynch said he would do it for Harry and because he liked the script.” Even Stanton himself was at first a challenge to persuade. Sparks said, “I know Harry very well – he was the best man at my wedding! But he needed a lot of convincing”.
Sparks also wanted to emphasise the significance of the tortoise’s escape and allude to the origins of its name, President Roosevelt: “My wife saw a lost tortoise sign, and it was like how did that happen. At what point do they know they’re not a rock. While the second Roosevelt was the one who saved us from the Nazis and overcame evil. It needed to be a name that had some authority.”