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Charlie Countryman is a bold movie — a dark gangster film with a hopelessly romantic protagonist. It’s one-part spiritual and two-parts trippy, all the while shifting from intensity to quirkiness at a moment’s notice. That’s a balancing act most first-time filmmakers, like Fredrik Bond, wouldn’t attempt. Bond, though, is hardly a novice, but instead is yet another successful commercial director making the switch to feature films.
Bond tells The Hollywood Reporter that his work in commercials was the perfect training ground to direct Charlie Countryman. “Commercial directors have to use a quicker language of cinema because we have to tell our stories more efficiently,” he says. “This script lends itself to do that because it goes between these radical changes and you need to be quite effective in your language. ”
Working in the advertising world also exposed Bond to a variety of shooting experiences: “I got to work with a lot of different types of scripts and I cut my teeth with comedy, big visuals and many different genres. I got fairly technically confident.” As a result, Bond wasn’t intimidated by Charlie’s stunts, visual effects and other technical demands. As he explains, this allowed him to focus on the actors, starting with his lead.
“Shia [LaBeouf] is the spine of the movie,” Bond explains. “He’s in every scene, so we spent a lot of time walking, talking, meeting and watching a couple movies.” According to Bond, having LaBeouf nail Charlie was crucial to the film’s success: “If you read the script, the soul was there, but it was a very wild ride. It needed Shia’s character to ground everything and make it earnest. That was my main emphasis going in. The movie shifts, a humorous scene becomes a very violent one, and I felt like I needed to balance that out through the character.”
Bond spent 14 years looking for the right script before making the jump to movies. He was creatively satisfied working in commercials and wasn’t ready to abandon a lucrative career for two or three years just to become a movie director. What first caught his attention about Matt Drake’s Blacklist script was that “it reminded me of the movies I loved: After Hours, Trainspotting, Run Lola Run, True Romance, even some of the French films, like Diva and Lovers on the Bridge. It had this sort of artistic vibe to it — it wasn’t formulaic. Between the seriousness and the humor and the violence and the love story, I just felt like it suited my temperament.”
In watching Bond’s commercials (see a good example below), it’s obvious this eclectic mix of elements is what attracts him to most of his projects — but ultimately it’s not what caused him to finally pull the trigger on making a film. For Bond, it’s all about emotionally connecting with the character. And it was the character of Charlie that made him take the plunge.
“Charlie isn’t your normal, typical, macho guy going on a bender in Europe,” the director says. “He is a vulnerable cat, who turns out has to have enormous strength. It was his heart and humanity that I felt was so appealing.”
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