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ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

About The Characters

From the outset, it was clear that the casting of John Grady Cole was essential to ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. Cole is the story's true hero, a young boy who undergoes a test of his courage, honor and his belief in doing the right thing on an adventure that will change him forever and turn him into a wiser, darker man than he ever imagined he would be. He is also the story's romantic hero, the sensitive teenager who falls in love with a woman he cannot have, and the idealist who chases a dream he will have to pay for in blood. Quiet, reticent, with a gentle gift for breaking horses, John Grady Cole is more about his actions than his words.

To capture the many facets of John Grady Cole, Billy Bob Thornton chose Matt Damon, an Oscar-winner in his own right for co-writing "Good Will Hunting" with Ben Affleck (Damon, Thornton and Tally make ALL THE PRETTY HORSES the first film ever to involve three Oscar-winning screenwriters, albeit each in a different capacity!). Thornton had his pick of leading men, but he felt that Damon had that ineffable American youthfulness and underlying nobility that defines John Grady Cole. "The great thing about Matt is that the character has to be a boy who in the course of the story becomes a man. Matt can seem boyish but at the same time we believe his transformation because he's already got the man in him," says Thornton.

Damon was blown away by the book. "I understood right away that the film could be really special," he says. "I felt that the character of John Grady Cole was that of a young person trying to figure out the world, a truly universal character. It drew me very strongly. And when I heard that Billy Bob was going to direct — that's when I became really excited and decided that I had to do this role."

As Damon's sidekick, Lacey Rawlins, Thornton cast Henry Thomas, the young actor who first made a huge impression when he was 10 years old as "Elliott," the boy who befriends an alien creature in Steven Spielberg's "E.T." Now, as an adult, Thomas seemed to carry a timeless quality that appealed to the director. "Henry's got that thing that old movie stars like Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper had: he's both a leading man and a character actor," explains Thornton. "His manner really reminds me of Gary Cooper — he's soft-spoken and direct. He can say the simplest thing and make you wonder what he really means."

Thomas, a big fan of McCarthy's work, was thrilled to take on the role of Lacey Rawlins, whom he sees as not just being the sidekick but as having a profound impact on John Grady Cole's journey. "This is a story about endless searching, a theme Cormac McCarthy uses in all his novels," observes Thomas. "John Grady is the searcher and he's looking not for salvation but for his place in the world. The world is changing and he doesn't know his place in it anymore. But Rawlins is different. He's a settler. He goes along on the journey because John is his friend, they have this great camaraderie, but Rawlins is more like a witness. He's the voice of reason in the story whereas spontaneity is a stronger streak in John Grady's character.

Equally important to the story is the character of Jimmy Blevins, the tough- talking 13 year-old marksman who leads John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins into trouble with the Mexican law. For this role, Billy Bob Thornton had only one actor in mind: Lucas Black, the young actor he cast so effectively in his directorial debut, "Sling Blade." "It wasn't really a matter of thinking of Lucas Black for the role," Thornton says. "I simply knew he was going to be in the film.

One part of John Grady Cole's story is a grand, star-crossed romance that takes him completely by surprise — and costs him more than he could ever have anticipated. When he and Rawlins finally make it to Mexico, they find jobs at an old hacienda w

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