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CONVICTION

Casting Conviction
In casting CONVICTION, Tony Goldwyn put equal emphasis on all the characters and roles, aiming to forge a diverse ensemble that would allow the audience to really feel the relationships – some strengthening and others destructive -- that lay behind this story of a brother and sister‘s quest for justice. Joining Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell as Betty Anne and Kenny would be a trio of Academy Award® nominees: Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, and Melissa Leo.

"Together, a group of extraordinary performances give this film its power, sums up Andrew Karsch. Andrew Sugerman adds, "We had a cast of consummate actors, yet nobody was in a position to steal the show, because they each make their roles shine as real people. There was no ego, no attitude about this. Everyone felt strongly about bringing this story to life in a way that feels true."

It began of course with the role of Betty Anne, which Goldwyn always knew would require an actress capable of revealing the contours of inner strength, something that has been associated with Hilary Swank in roles such as her Academy Award® winning performance as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood‘s MILLION DOLLAR BABY and her portrait of a teen who passed herself off as a boy in BOYS DON‘T CRY.

For Tony Goldwyn, the key was that Swank was so much like Betty Anne under the skin. "Both Hilary and Betty Anne are similar in their core. They have this intelligence, this steely strength and determination," he says. "Hilary grew up in a trailer and came to L.A. with her mom when she was 15 to try and become an actress. They lived in a car. She may not have had the same struggles as Betty Anne but Hilary has fought incredibly hard to realize her dreams. So there's a lot of synchronicity there. She's indefatigable. She works hard and is so prepared that it seems effortless. She just is Betty Anne.

When Goldwyn first approached her, Swank was looking to take a break from playing real-life characters, but she couldn‘t get Betty Anne out of her mind, and she soon became one of the story‘s biggest supporters and an executive producer. She was especially drawn to the film‘s exploration of the bonds that can tie family, especially a brother and sister who have gone through hard times with each other, together in unbreakable ways.

"It‘s a rare kind of love that Betty Anne and Kenny have, where one would do anything for the other, she says. "It‘s something I think we all strive for in our lives, whether it‘s with a brother, a child, a parent or a best friend. And I think for Betty Anne, her whole life was about helping her family, and she felt it was natural to go to the ends of the earth for someone you love like that.:

In preparing for the part, Swank wasn‘t immediately sure that she wanted to meet with Betty Anne, though they ultimately developed a close rapport that helped deepen the role. ¯I was worried that if I met her, I would feel a real obligation to be as much like her as possible when I didn't believe that was really important to the integrity of telling the story. Instead, I wanted to be able to find a way of portraying her the most honest way," explains Swank. ¯But when I met her, it only allowed me to feel her heart stronger.

Ultimately, having Waters on the set turned out to be a gift. ¯Most of the time, I didn‘t even know Betty Anne was there, Swank muses, "but I think it was cathartic, an important part of her healing. And I never felt like I was being judged."

For Waters, watching Swank inhabit her life was surreal. ¯It was the strangest feeling, she says. ¯I felt like I was watching myself.

Swank disappeared into the role. "Hilary is an actress who doesn't hold herself above anyone. She doesn't make herself into celebrity, and because of that, you can relate to her as an individual, as a real person, says Sugerman. ¯I think that's an important quality Hilary brings to Betty Anne because Betty Anne was an ordinary person who was given an insurmountable task to accomplish in life. And Hilary was really able to embody that in a way I think people will relate to."

Goldwyn also knew that the audience‘s belief in Betty Anne‘s drive to help her brother would hinge on a raw, urgent, deeply felt performance in the role of Kenny Waters, a man who went overnight from a reckless kid to a hardened prisoner betrayed by the system, doubted by many and fighting desperately for his life. From the beginning, Goldwyn had Sam Rockwell in mind for the part.

Rockwell is known for a variety of memorable roles including the lead in George Clooney's CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND; the crazed killer ¯Wild Bill Wharton in THE GREEN MILE; THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD opposite Brad Pitt; MATCHSTICK MEN; and the critically acclaimed MOON. But this would be something different than all of those.

"For Kenny, we knew we needed someone with extreme contrasts, someone big-hearted that you fall in love with and that you instantly care about -- yet also, someone with a madness, a violence in him that you think could have possibly have committed murder... someone completely mercurial – and that is Sam," says Goldwyn.

Rockwell won Karsch's vote after he saw him playing a misunderstood outsider in LAWN DOGS, a performance that garnered the actor critical raves. "I saw the incredible possibilities of what he could bring to Kenny, says Karsch. "Still, this is a very, very different kind of role for Sam. It brings out something poetic.

Adds Sugerman, ¯Sam has all the qualities of Kenny, the ability to be tough, wild, a little crazy, but also to be empathetic. He‘s so unpredictable, you start to think maybe Kenny could have committed murder, because he has that quality where you can‘t be sure what he‘ll do next. The way Sam plays him, you wouldn‘t want to get on his wrong side, but he also has a real warmth and tenderness. Sam brought Kenny to life as such a vibrant personality, and with such emotional depth, that it went beyond what we ever imagined."

As soon as he picked up the script, Rockwell sensed the role was special. "It‘s a very juicy part for an actor because of the emotional through-line Kenny has with Betty Anne, because of their bond," he says. "It‘s her story but he‘s such an important part of it and what he goes through is extremely intense."

To immerse himself in Kenny‘s overturned world, Rockwell did personal research into what life in prison is like for a convicted murderer, talking with friends who had been incarcerated and reading several prison-life memoirs, including Jack Abbot‘s In The Belly of the Beast. Tragically, Kenny passed away after his release from prison, but Rockwell watched court footage of him and spoke at length with Betty Anne, who generously shared her memories.

"I found Betty Anne extraordinary," Sam Rockwell says. "She was an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things all for the love of her brother. I think it all went back to their childhood, which was so traumatic it was kind of like being in a war together. When they were sent to different foster homes, they made a vow never to be separated ever again and that gave them this inseparable bond that never weakened."

He also began to see the complexities of Kenny, who was accused of a terrible crime in part because people believed he was just enough of a charismatic troublemaker to be capable of murder. Kenny could be very charming, loving and open. He had a childlike quality to him  and yet, he al

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