How a Silicon Valley Tech Mogul Created Sundance's Most Bohemian Movie, Captain Fantastic
24 January 2016
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Sunday morning's Sundance screening of Captain Fantastic brought a few surprises before its standing ovation. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as an eccentric genius raising six children deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest — rigorously disciplining them in matters of the mind, body, and sticking-it-to-the-man — before being forced to reintroduce his homegrown oddballs into society. Surprises range from the righteously unplugged family passing time by hunting animals by hand to Mortensen stumbling out of the family's hippie school bus one morning fully nude.
But perhaps the biggest shock of this ultimately heartwarming and offbeat family drama is that the creator of this universe — in which the characters eschew all manner of technology and modern convenience in favor of old-fashioned books and homemade goods—is none other than Silicon Valley's Matt Ross. You know, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson.
After the screening, Ross answered audience questions about the drama, which essentially rejects everything about his technology-based HBO series. "It is not autobiographical," the Juilliard-trained character actor deadpanned about the feature, though he "did live in a lot of alternative living situations" growing up.
"My mom started a commune in Oregon and I lived in some in Southern California, mainly because it was the 80s," Ross said to audience laughs. "But [the film] was more inspired by me becoming a parent. I have two kids, and was wondering what kind of parent I want to be and how I want to raise my children in the United States today."
In an interview with Variety, Ross — who has appeared in American Horror Story, Big Love, and Good Night, and Good Luck — said that Mortensen's character was born out of his own parenting fantasies. "We all straddle our professional and personal lives," Ross said. "I fantasize about being able to devote my entire existence to my kids."
The film co-stars Frank Langella as Mortensen's disapproving father-in-law, who tries to strong-arm the family into a more conventional existence — a confrontation that ultimately leads to an especially poignant final act. The fact that the film calls on viewers to consider their own ideals is one of the reasons that Mortensen was drawn to the project.
"It was one of the best scripts I've ever read," the Oscar-nominated actor said during the post-screening Q&A. "I think it is one of those stories that makes you question everything... ideologically, spiritually. I love stories like that."
During the course of filming, Shree Crooks, who plays one of Mortensen's youngest children, revealed that the cast even went a little method during the approximately three months of filming. For example, Mortensen slept in the teepee where his character lives a few nights, and the actors restricted their cell-phone use. In fact, the experience was so great, the 10-year-old said, that, "After the movie, I made a plan for my life that when I grow older I will live in the woods."
Last edited: 13 May 2016 11:56:27
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