Dermot Mulroney on Joe Carnahan, Director of ‘The Grey’: “He was determined to make a movie in which the actors truly suffered”

Dermot Mulroney has never seemed to have a truly breakthrough role, but chances are you have seen him before: he’s been in such varied films as Zodiac, Young Guns, J. Edgar, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and the upcoming The Grey — though he actually hopes you don’t recognize him!

Set in the Alaskan wilderness after an oil rigging team experiences a plane crash, Mulroney explains that the film’s on-location shoot itself provided an extremely challenging environment for the actors.

Mulroney makes an important, logical point: often in a film in which involves characters trying to survive dire circumstances, it is often the most recognizable actors who survive.  He points out, “In most films, if you see a bunch of people getting on a plane and you already recognize six of them, then you already know who’s going to survive the movie, and that kind of blows it. So Joe [Carnahan, director] cast the film with really strong, dedicated actors — some you might have seen before, but not all of them, not yet.”  To avoid audiences recognizing him, Mulroney changed his appearance by growing a beard and wearing glasses. 

While Mulroney was able to fix the issue with his familiar appearance, that didn’t do much to help Mulroney avoid the shoot’s frigid temperatures — the movie was shot in Smithers, British Columbia, which is a 12-hour drive north of Vancouver.  He describes the temperatures as so shockingly cold that it took his focus off everything else.  “All the preparation you do on the script, the reading about airplane wrecks, the research into wolves — it all goes out the window. Because when you’re standing on a mountain and it’s 20 below zero with 60 mile an hour winds snowing sideways, none of that matters. You’re just being there.”

Just in case you think Mulroney is exaggerating he assures you he isn’t.  He adds, “When I say ‘cold,’ I mean intensely, painfully, near-frostbite cold. It was excruciating.  Joe conceived of and wrote the movie with that in mind — man going through the most extreme conditions and harshest environment imaginable. He was determined to make a movie in which the actors truly suffered.”

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