Tim Blake Nelson on ‘Old Henry’ and ‘the unmasking of a father and farmer into a killer’

“A privilege of acting is getting to learn new stuff and to embrace the demands of looking like you’ve been doing something all your life,” reveals Tim Blake Nelson about what he values about portraying new characters. As the star of writer/director Potsy Ponciroli‘s new Western drama “Old Henry,” Nelson spent months in pre-production preparing himself for the physical and emotional demands of playing a mysterious recluse and protective father in the Wild Wild West, who reveals an unexpected darker side when he is threatened by menacing outsiders.

“I demanded more of myself in terms of knowing where I am in the story,” he explains. “This felt like an extra challenge in this role, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do it, because in addition to being in the narrative trajectory, there’s this other unmasking that’s taking place that’s beyond the nuts and bolts of the story and it’s coming from within,” he explains. Watch our exclusive video interview with Nelson above.

SEE 5 classic Westerns snubbed by the Oscars for Best Picture

In “Old Henry,” Nelson stars as widowed farmer Henry, who lives with his teenage son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) on a farm in 1906 Oklahoma territory. After Henry encounters a mysterious, near-dead man (Scott Haze) with a satchel filled with cash, he takes him back to the homestead to recover and heal from his near-fatal injuries. But things soon go south when a gang of three riders led by vicious thug Ketchum (Stephen Dorff) come knocking, claiming to be the law in search of the man and his loot. Not knowing who to trust, Henry must defend his home at all costs when the men lay siege to his homestead.

After its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 7 and theatrical release on October 1, the Western garnered positive reviews from critics, scoring an impressive 95% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

SEE Perennial side man Tim Blake Nelson steps up to lead in Western ‘Old Henry’

“Old Henry” proves that the Western genre is alive and well as it offers an fascinating take on the age-old concept of heroes and villains in the unforgiving and untamed frontier. “It has everything that you want in a Western in terms of violence, tension and scope, not to mention the bag full of money and horses and lots of gunfire, but it also tells a very intimate story between a father and a son,” Nelson declares. At around an hour and half long, not a minute is wasted as the film tensely weaves this fable about a father and son under attack, who must either put up a fight or die, ultimately forcing them to reckon with Henry’s mysterious past. “What really interested me about the part was the unmasking of him. In fact, you could describe this movie as the unmasking of a father and farmer into a killer, a protector,” he says.

“What I originally appreciated in the script and really admire terms of what Potsy had come up with was that at its heart, the story is addressing the tension all parents go through in terms of raising their children,” Nelson explains. “Do you expose your offspring to the dangers and challenges and violence of the outside world by way of preparing them for it? Or do you protect them so that childhood can last as long as possible and they can grow up confident and loving rather than laced with fear?”

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