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FOG! Chats With DIABLO Co-Writer/Director LAWRENCE ROECK

Interview conducted by Dean Galanis

Lawrence Roeck, Walton Goggins and Scott Eastwood on set of Diablo / Image © Lawrence Roeck

The effective and interesting new Western/noir/thriller Diablo marks the second feature for director Lawrence Roeck, following 2012’s The Forger, which featured the final screen performance by screen legend Lauren Bacall.

Roeck began his career producing skateboard and snowboard films. He was later handpicked by Clint Eastwood to film and direct the final segment of an HBO documentary, The Eastwood Factor.

Diablo (which was co-written by Roeck and Carlos De Los Rios) stars Clint’s son, Scott Eastwood, and features a terrific supporting cast including Adam Beach, Danny Glover, Camilla Belle and Walton Goggins.

Roeck took some time to discuss Diablo, which will arrive theatrically, On Demand and via iTunes, on January 8th.

FOG!: How did this project come about?

Lawrence Roeck: You know how it is with screenplays, it’s a collaborative process between the director, the main star and the writer. But the idea for the big twist is Scott’s, actually, and then some of the other reveals are based on what Carlos and I did on the screenplay. He’s the main writer, responsible for the work, but it was a pretty collaborative process. Scott came up with a couple of the ideas; he’s a very collaborative actor with a very active imagination, comes up with good ideas. And we all worked together.

He and I just had a lot of discussions. Diablo is a very linear story. So in a weird sort of way it was easy to write out a draft. What was difficult was how to make it interesting and how to make the mechanics work to lead you along on a journey and lead you from the A story to the B story, in terms of the mechanics of the psychological thriller aspect of the film.

How did you assemble that cast?

LR: Carlos and I were really passionate [about Diablo] and really believed in it and we got Dean Cundey to sign off first. So we have a method where we get a great DP first, make sure all the actors have someone fantastic that’s photographing them and just get a really good casting director and work with them in finding great actors that are going to be passionate about the story and lend something to each individual character. We had Roger Mussenden, a great casting director who did the X-Men series for quite some time, and he got Camilla, Danny — and Walton, especially, was his idea.

Photo courtesy Momentum Pictures © 2015.

I really liked Walton in this film.

Yeah, he’s one of those actors where the crew would just sit around and watch him perform. I usually had to clear his eye line because the crew would be sitting there watching him do his scenes. He’s amazing.

I wrote in my review that he was born to act in Westerns.

Yeah, but I think he’s going to do a lot of other work in his career. I seem him being way more complex than that. He’s done a few [recently]; I can’t speak for Walton but I can only imagine he’d flip the script on that.

Fair enough. Speaking of the cast, I know you have a history with Scott, but was there any trepidation at all considering the legacy of his father that this might not work? That there would be criticism that he’s merely aping his father?

Well, you know, any questions regarding Scott and his father I’d have to defer to him. What I can say about making Diablo with him is that it is a Western, but it’s more of a psychological thriller, so I think that that was really our focus: just making a great psychological thriller, or attempting to make, that people really enjoyed that could take place in the 1800s or set in the present day with a guy who came back from Iraq that lives in Montana.

Photo courtesy Momentum Pictures © 2015.

That was the important thing: just finding a universal story. Diablo has really strong undertones of PTSD, and the lead character has schizophrenia as well. PTSD was never diagnosed in that era; it was called “Soldier’s Heart”. And as far as mental illness [back then], you were just crazy, they’d lock you up. There’s a heavy thing there that really ties back to the overall story of PTSD, but we told it in a post-Civil War setting. We wanted that to be unique. Usually, it’s World War I, World War II when they start covering that subject.

Being a vet of the Gulf War, I found it very interesting to see PTSD in this setting.

Oh, wow. Which conflict, during the George Bush, Sr. era?

Yes, in the first Gulf War. So certainly Veteran’s Affairs and PTSD are an interest and concern of mine, so I found it interesting how the character’s PTSD was handled.

Well, thank you.

Yeah, it was interesting to see it in that era where it wasn’t diagnosed so much as “deal with it”.

Yeah, you know, you have a choice when you go out and make a film in the Western genre. Do you try and do the classic thing or do you want to take a different approach and maybe show it in a more authentic way? Or not so much more authentic but just interpret it in a different way? And when we made Diablo we just wanted to make it bare bones and show what it was like in the wilderness at that time, you know, travelling through the woods.

The movie seemed to have a film noir feel to it.

Yeah, it probably comes from Dean Cundey’s cinematography. He did Halloween and The Thing, so he’s got a dark side to him (laughs).

How did you approach Dean Cundey for the film?

The funny thing is he was the very first guy I called. I was looking for a long time through a list of Directors of Photography, you know, there are so many amazing DPs in the US and Canada. And because we’re shooting in Canada I was trying to look at the possibility of finding a guy that was Canadian but had done some really big movies, and Dean wasn’t a Canadian but he was a part of the union up in Canada and had a Canadian agent in Toronto.

So, he was the first guy I saw and obviously I was a big fan of all his work. He shot Jurassic Park, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, all those great movies. The Thing, the list goes on and on. And he just wanted to film a Western. He had done Back to the Future III, which was kind of an homage to Sergio Leone [at times], but it wasn’t a full-blown Western and Diablo is full-authentic of that era: same guns, same tack, everything. And he wanted to do that, so that’s kinda how we hooked him.

I’m glad you did, it’s a beautiful movie.

Thanks, I’ll let Dean know. (laughs)

(laughs) Great! So, what do you have in store for us next?

I’m working on an international action thriller. It’s an untitled project and I’ve been developing it for a while. I can give you the general concept: it’s about a guy that has the world’s largest fortune and he disappears and it’s all about finding him, and we find out why he left, what went down. I’m really excited about it; I’m working on that right now. Probably going to go to camera, hopefully, this summer.

Read our review of Diablo, HERE!

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