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Billy Crudup and Guillaume Canet – Honoring Their Blood Ties

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Billy Crudup stars in “Blood Ties.”

Billy Crudup and Guillaume Canet

Honoring Their Blood Ties

by Jay S. Jacobs

Two brothers.  One is a cop.  The other is a gangster just getting out of an extended stay in jail and now sliding back into his old ways.  That’s going to make for some uncomfortable family holiday dinners.

That dichotomy is the story behind the new film drama Blood Ties.  Billy Crudup plays the cop and Clive Owen is the con in a terrific ensemble drama about the hard life of New York in the heart of the 70s.

The movie also co-stars terrific actors such as Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard, James Caan and Lili Taylor.

The film is based on a true story which took place in France in the 1980s. 

Writer/director Guillaume Cantet first heard the story when working as an actor on a 2008 French film based upon the story called Les liens du sang.  Canet was fascinated by the story and decided to adapt it to the US gangster milieu.  Six years later, his family crime drama is finally treading the mean streets of Gotham with an all-star cast.

A few days before Blood Ties premiered in theaters and On Demand, we were one of a few websites who were invited to chat with star Crudup and writer/director Canet.

Blood Ties felt so 1970’s authentic. How difficult was it to achieve that realism? Also, the music was very reminiscent of many of Lalo Schifrin’s seventies scores. Was that a deliberate nod to him and the era he was most notable for?

Guillaume Canet: The period of time and how we tried our best to be authentic, that was one of the important things for me. [I wanted] to do homage to the cinema to the 70s American independents, because I have always been a huge fan. It was very important to me to try to do our best in making a movie as if it was a movie from this time. I am talking about the realism and not the caricature. Try to be as realistic as we could be. The production designer, the lights and how we filmed the movie. I wanted to have this washed out effect with grain on the image. That was really important to me. For the music, I was listening to a lot of music from that time and it inspired me a lot. It gave me all the ingredients to write the script. Most of the music in the soundtrack was the music I was listening to while writing the film.

What was it like working with a legend like James Caan? 

Billy Crudup: I think that’s how we had to address him. (laughs) It was really exhilarating for me. Needless to say, I grew up a great fan of James as a man, and James as an actor. It can be intimidating working with someone who you have such a history with from afar, but I found the experience of working with him very easy. He was very accessible. He liked to take over the set, but Guillaume did a good job keeping him in line. I think we ended up having a really good time!

Guillaume, what was it about the original French film that you thought would translate to an American setting?

Guillaume Canet: I originally read the French script as an actor. I did the movie, and while I was shooting it I met the two actual brothers. Those two guys were so interesting. Their story was beyond the script and what I was shooting in the original film. Years after I shot the original French film, I came back to this story. I had always pictured it in the 70s in New York – I don’t know why – but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That is why I knew I had to make it and I had to direct it.

Billy, the film deals with a lot of themes regarding the brotherly bond and also about redemption in some ways. Were those elements that attracted you to the project?

Billy Crudup: No doubt about it. I have two brothers, so I identified with the sibling rivalry and the theme of personal identity as it relates to our close family. How the roles that we play in our family when we are younger often don’t seem to change much as we grow and become adults. How frustrating and gratifying it is. You can be really grounded when you know the same things are expected from you from your family year after year. At the same time, it can be infuriating when you’re trying to break out from that. Also, Guillaume has an energy and passion that is rare and also magnetic. When he begins to talk about the passion of the film, it’s hard not to be enthused about the project!

Mr. Canet, was it difficult to make sure that audiences still connected with Chris, although he did some terrible things? 

Guillaume Canet: It was very important to me that Chris would be charismatic enough and sympathetic enough. This guy is someone you can really like, because he has these charming and nice and funny parts of himself. Billy was saying in the film that he was his hero. It was because he was looking at his brother as someone great. Chris is a complex character, because you can be very charmed by him, while on the other hand, he is someone terrible. That is why I thought Clive would be very interesting in this role. He is charismatic, while at the same time [he] can look very terrifying. It was the key part of the film. If this guy was not someone you can like, there would be no film. Frank is stuck with the idea that his brother can be someone good. As the audience you have to understand that.

Mr. Crudup, I liked how you played the character of Frank. He could have easily been a hothead,  but you underplayed the part, which I think worked better. Did you ever feel that you wanted to let go and just hit someone? It felt like you had pent-up anger and could explode at any moment. 

Billy Crudup: Well, thank you for that comment and observation. That was really drawn up specifically in the script. The way Guillaume spoke about Frank from the beginning was someone who had a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability, but had been so oppressed by his family and his family's idea about how he should be. He had a lot of built-up resentment and disappointment in his family. He tried his best to live with some moral authority in the world and was somehow seen as the black sheep of the family for doing good. It seemed so perverse. I think Guillaume was really shrewd in maintaining the undercurrent of Frank's sadness and frustration. I did get a chance when Clive and I had a little wrestling scene to let out some of the aggression, so I wasn't pent up completely for the entire experience. But I think that was part of the character study. 

If you were in Frank's position, do you think you could turn in your brother? Do you think you could ever forgive him? 

Billy Crudup: Wow, that is a really incredible question. The fact of the matter is that one of the strongest aspects of the way that this family relates to each other is through silence. Years and years have gone by without people confronting the authentic story of their family. This creates an enormous tension and crisis between Frank and his brother. Therefore, I think that is added to the complications of Frank being able to make the decision to save his brother or to let him rot in jail. Me and my brothers are not like that at all, so I can't think of a comparable situation. But there's no question that when it comes to my brothers, there is almost nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. You sacrifice all of yourself for your family. I think Frank is stuck in a really complicated situation. We find in the end that it's really difficult to find a way out. 

Beautiful evocation of 1970s NYC. I was a kid there and then and it seemed very authentic to me. Was there a reason why you felt the film had to be set in the 70s? Was it just that you wanted to honor the films of that era? Or could it have taken place today?

Guillaume Canet: Thank you so much. It was for two reasons. The first is because the real story happened in the 80s in France. As everyone knows France is always ten years behind the US, so I decided to place the movie in the 70s. The second reason is I am a huge 70s movie fan so I was passionate about the idea of placing the movie in that period. When you see the film and that story, I cant imagine that story placed right now. Especially because of all the technology today. Communication is not the same today as it was then. There is no interruption in communication today as there was then. It wouldn't have been the same film for sure.

Billy was awesome in his portrayal. Glad to see him returning. He stole the spotlight for me. Congrats. 

Billy Crudup: Well thanks, Mom. (smiles)

Mr. Canet, the soundtrack seemed very deliberately chosen. Were you heavily involved in the choice of music?

Guillaume Canet: Yes, music is really important to me. I always write my scripts and listen to music at the same time because music gives me the reason and emotion – everything I need to write a scene. When I was writing this script, I was listening to some music from this period of time. All of the classic songs. It helped me to put myself in that time period. I've always been a huge fan of that period and each time I listened to that kind of music, it made me feel like I was living in that period. So all the music that I chose was very important, because I didn't want all of the music to be well known. I like as an audience watching a movie listening to a great song that I know, but I also like to discover a song I didn't know. I tried to find some music that we don't all know. There are some songs we all know really well, but there were some others that I wanted to supply the audience with.

Copyright ©2014  All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2014. 

Photo Credit: © 2013. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

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