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Career > > 2014 > The Homesman

The Homesman

October 03, 2014 | Saban Films | 122 minutes
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones | Written by: Tommy Lee Jones | Literature: Glendon Swarthout | Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto | Editing: Roberto Silvi | Costume Design: Lahly Poore | Production Design: Merideth Boswell | Music: Marco Beltrami
When three women are driven insane on the edges of the American frontier, the task of delivering them back east falls to Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). The challenge of driving a wagon loaded with madwomen four hundred miles compels the pious spinster to employ a partner - drifting low-life George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones). Together, they head out across the prairie, re-traversing the harsh Nebraska Territories in a journey marked by stark beauty and constant threat. Their destination is a Church in Iowa where a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep) waits to relieve them of the lost souls in their care.
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones (George Briggs), Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy), Grace Gummer (Arabella Sours), Miranda Otto (Theoline Belknapp), Sonja Richter (Gro Svendsen), David Dencik (Thor Svendsen), John Lithgow (Reverend Dowd), Tim Blake Nelson (The Freighter), James Spader (Aloysius Duffy), William Fichtner (Vester Belknap), Jesse Plemons (Garn Sours), Evan Jones (Bob Giffin), Hailee Steinfeld (Tabitha Hutchinson), Meryl Streep (Altha Carter)

The script by Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald and Wesley A. Oliver is based on the novel, “The Homesman” written by Glendon Swarthout and published in 1988. A number of Mr. Swarthout’s books have been adapted for the screen including “The Shootist”, starring John Wayne; “Bless the Beasts & The Children” and “Where the Boys Are”. “It’s the story of three women who are transported in a wagon across Nebraska in 1854, because they have been driven pretty much insane by the hardships of life on the American frontier”, says director, producer and actor Tommy Lee Jones. “When I completed the script, my vision of the film was minimalist because there are not a lot of visual details to show it’s Nebraska and the Northern part of the West. Now, I’m certainly impressed by North Eastern New Mexico, where we shot the movie, because it stands in very well for Nebraska. For me, the landscape itself is a very important character in our movie.” “The Homesman” shot for 42 days, primarily on two ranches north and east of Las Vegas, New Mexico (not to be confused with the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada). That area of eastern New Mexico is part of the Great Plains as was the Nebraska Territory where the story is set. The current drought in eastern New Mexico means that a good deal of the land cannot support the same quantity of cattle as was possible 10 years ago. The ungrazed pastures provided the backdrop of tall grass blowing in the relentless wind. The weather proved a constant challenge and in many cases a true cinematic beauty. The harsh wind and swirling dust that accompanies George Briggs’ approach to Mary Bee’s house is not generated by giant fans, but is genuinely New Mexico. Snow was created on a few occasions, but the production team was also gifted with unexpected storms in spring.

Meryl Streep needs no praise; she’s got plenty of it. She’s one of the finest movie actors in the history of cinema, and I’m very happy to call her a friend, because to be a friend of hers is another total joy. (Tommy Lee Jones, Production Notes)
Screenwriter Wes Oliver recalled the early development of “The Homesman”, when both Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep were shooting “Hope Springs”: “They were shooting in Connecticut and we spent time with Tommy on the set. In between their scenes, we would work on The Homesman. Tommy would do a scene with Meryl, come across the street, work with us, go back across the street and jump a hundred and fifty years forward in time back into a romantic comedy. It was a remarkable achievement on his part to be able to do that. I was very impressed. And it was also helpful for us because it I think energized our writing process. We were surrounded by a film crew, and by the excitement of a film already in production.”

The sod houses, Mary Bee’s house, the Church in Loup and The Fairfield Hotel were all built created by Production Designer Merideth Boswell and her amazing Art Dept, Construction Dept and Set Design team – under difficult weather and budget conditions. The houses and Church are still standing on one of the location ranches. The Fairfield Hotel burned until dawn until all that remained were 4 tree trunks that formed the four corners of the construction. The destination of Hebron, Iowa was filmed for one week at a reconstructed 1850s town called Westville in the town of Lumpkin, Georgia. “The Homesman” had its world-premiere at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was theatrically released in French cinemas in May 2014. The American theatrical release is set for October 2014.

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