ByJennie Breen, writer at
Jennie Breen

Only two movies out of the gate, Jeff Nichols is making his mark.

The 32-year-old Little Rock native slayed festival goers with critically acclaimed his 2007 domestic drama Shotgun Stories and reteamed with that film’s star, Michael Shannon, to deliver Take Shelter, an apocalyptic thriller that premiered at Sundance 2011, landed a home at Sony Pictures Classics and won the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. [It comes out this Friday, September 30 in limited release.]

His next film, western coming-of-age tale Mud, will be his biggest yet. Now in production, it stars Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.

We caught up with Nichols to discuss the genesis of Take Shelter and what we can expect from Mud.

Two films that played Cannes this year, Take Shelter and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, both deal with how humans react to an end-of-world scenario. Both you and Lars chose to approach the potentially epic stories at a micro level. Am I right in guessing this was a personal film for you, despite what transpires?

Yeah, they all are. You’re dealing with issues that are in your everyday life. That’s what I want to write about. It’s the only way I know to write something that has a remote chance of connecting to the audience on an emotional level. I just have to feel it.

I learned it on my first film, which is this movie about revenge and the concept of one of my brothers getting hurt. It was such a palpable thing for me that I just clung to it through the writing. I think it translated and I took that into Take Shelter. 

There was this fear of loss and this anxiety of the world around me not hanging together. It was something I could wake up to, tasting in the morning. I think it’s a really powerful tool to have something that clear, a feeling that clear.

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