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Philly2Philly talks with Crazy Heart Writer and Director Scott Cooper

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In the new film Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges  plays a fallen country singer who begins a slow road to recovery after being re-ignited by a young beautiful reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The film has already scored two Golden Globe awards  (Actor: Bridges & Best Song), and remains one to watch come Oscar nomination time. The Director and Screenwriter, Scott Cooper  sat down with Jim Teti from Philly2Philly to discuss working with Bridges, creating the original music, and the challenges that he encountered as a first time director.

Philly2Philly: Crazy Heart is the story of a country singer. You grew up with many music influences. How did the environment upon Maggie Gyllenhaal and Crazy Heart Director Scott Cooper attend the Crazy Heart premiere in Beverly Hills, California. Photo- http://photos.upi.com/Entertainment/fbe2bbc591e7cd40e929479df9a212c4/Maggie-Gyllenhaal-and-Scott-Cooper-attend-the-Crazy-Heart-premiere-in-Beverly-Hills-California_11.jpgwhich you were raised influence the film?

SC: I was born and raised in the artistic community of Abingdon, Virginia. I cut my teeth on bluegrass musicians like Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, then would listen to my father’s LP’S as well. That’s why I’m always drawn to people who write about their life experience and do it eloquently like Michael Stipe of R.E.M. for example. That gave me personal insight into who this man Bad Blake was and is and how to tap into his personal life.

Philly2Philly: This is first and foremost, a character study, even moreover the story of a man rediscovering his talent and himself. Was this intentional?

SC: It all harkens back to 70’s filmmaking where characterization is emphasized more than plot. I wanted to build up who this man was and you have to make it impressionistic since we’ve lived with this man for two acts. We understand what he’s going through and what he may perceive next and he’s taking a step towards redemption. I would have loved to have told the story in 2 and 1`/2 hours, but studio politics don’t let you do that anymore.

Philly2Philly: The film is based upon a novel by Thomas Cobb? How closely does the film stay to the book?

SC: I tried to stay true to the spirit of the novel, but if you are a filmmaker you also personalize it. I took liberties by personalizing it as I know it, basing things on people I knew who suffered through alcoholism or some of the great radio heroes I grew up on and how they wrote about their life experiences. Then you use the novel as a blueprint, stopping off point, and embellish from there. I do think it’s a faithful adaptation. When the novelist (Thomas Cobb) saw the film, he said he cried.

Philly2Philly: The film has been called, among other things, an Oscar vehicle for Jeff Bridges and the role of a lifetime. Did you always have him in mind for the part?

SC: I wrote it for Jeff. In fact, when I first read the screenplay I sent it to Robert Duvall, a mentor of mine he said if you can’t get Jeff you can’t make the film because he was the only one who could play this part. He’s a musician and a very good guitarist and shares a physicality of the people like Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. He’s just a remarkable wonderful actor and this is his favorite film of his filmography.

Philly2Philly: What was the most difficult aspect of filming, considering this was your first directorial effort?

SC: The logistics were difficult. I had only 24 days to shoot it. We shot in three states, with ten musical numbers and one of them live in front of 12, 000 people who didn’t know I was shooting. Those were challenges I encountered because I never directed before.

Philly2Philly: As you indicated, the movie has 10 musical numbers. What is the meaning behind The Weary Kind, which has been getting awards attention?

SC: Legendary singer T-Bone Burnett  created an alternate universe of part country music, part delta blue, and part Texas romance. In the movie, the character Blake (Bridges) hasn’t written a song for years and the song he writes is about reconnecting with his son, finding a younger woman that will reawaken him artistically, about his life on the road. Out of the song comes The Weary Kind, which Ryan Bingham  wrote in one day. Once we had that song, a thread through the film, I tailored this script to it.

Philly2Philly: With Crazy Heart getting rave reviews and Oscar buzz, is there more directing in store for you in the future?

SC: Absolutely. I feel like to be a complete filmmaker I should take a page from the guys I respect—Sean Penn, Duvall, Eastwood—writers and directors. I have a long way to go, but I think I am in that camp where my talents will align. My next project, however, will be in the form of acting. I am in "Get Low" with Duvall and Sissy Spacek. My next directorial effort will be a personal story. There have been so many influences, William Faulkner, Miles Davis, and (John) Coltrane among others.