No lie, one of the single most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a movie theater all year was watching the new film from co-directors Aaron Katz (COLD WEATHER) and Martha Stephens (PILGRIM SONG) entitled LAND HO!, in a story about two elderly former brothers-in-law who decide to take something of a spontaneous road trip through Iceland before they get to old to do it. The two men are played by veteran Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn (who played the title character in last year’s desperately overlooked THIS IS MARTIN BONNER) and “newcomer” (at 72 years old) Earl Lynn Nelson, a Kentucky surgeon who has starred in Stephens’ features PILGRIM SONG and PASSENGER PIGEONS.
These two characters couldn’t be more different except for one crucial thing: they value a strong friendship, and they travel Iceland’s strange and exotic landscapes and people searching for adventure, a little female companionship and a way to feel a little more alive in the world. LAND HO! is a funny, poignant and well worth searching for at an art house near you. I had a chance recently to chat with the two actors together via the phone, and they are as sharp and amusing as they are in the movie. So please enjoy my chat with and Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson…
Paul Eenhoorn: Can you hear me?
Earl Lynn Nelson: [Singing] Can you hear me?
Capone: I can hear you.
ELN: I know you can hear me [his voice is rather booming]. We don’t need a telephone for me.
Capone: That’s probably right, sir. What an enjoyable surprise it was watching this movie, seriously. I’ve seen Adam’s previous film, COLD WEATHER, so I was familiar with his work, and Paul, THIS IS MARTIN BONNER was one of my favorite movies from last year.
PE: Oh, thank you.
ELN: [joking] I’m so sick of hearing about MB it’s making me sick to my stomach.
PE: Earl would like you just not to mention that at all.
Capone: Earl, have you seen the film?
ELN: What? MB? TIMB, we’re going to call it.
PE: No, no he hasn’t, and he no longer wants to [laughs].
Capone: Did the two directors do any kind of chemistry test between the two of you, or did they just throw you in a room and hope for the best?
PE: Yeah, yeah they did. They poured nitrous acid on my skin, and then they asked, “Which one hurts more, the skin or Earl Lynn?” And I said the skin, and they went okay, you’re done.
ELN: The real story is we stirred up some moonshine out of the freezer in my kitchen, and threw in a little tequila, and that’s what made the blend go.
PE: Well, you know we shot in Kentucky. We shot like 10 pages or something on a two-day shoot, and then they used that to finish their finance round. So that was the chemistry test.
Capone: Did they shoot the whole opening of the film?
ELN: Right. They wrote the movie after they found out if we were going to do it or not. They had us before they had the movie. Before the script was even started.
PE: They had about 20 pages.
ELN: They had a few pages when we met first. The first time we met was the weekend we started shooting there in Kentucky.
Capone: I know that Earl Lynn, you had worked with Martha before, but what was it about these rolls and about this story that you responded to, even though there was no script done yet?
ELN: Martha called me up, and she said “Would you go to Iceland?” I said, “Yeah, hook me up.” And that was it.
Capone: Well who wouldn’t? What about you Paul?
PE: Yeah, I did a lot of due diligence on Martha and Aaron, and I watched COLD WEATHER, and I thought, yeah, I want to work with these two. I really wanted to work with them, because it appeared to me they were the new wave, definitely.
Capone: The roles seemed almost tailor made for the two of you, and clearly that was the case. Did they try to sort of capture the real you in the script?
ELN: Well, you see, Paul’s an actor, and I’m a character. And what you see is me, okay?
PE: Most definitely.
ELN: I’m the same person everyday.
Capone: So, you’re still just as sexually oriented and driven as your character is?
ELN: I love it, baby. My grandma always told me, “Easy...” That was my nickname growing up was Easy-- She said, “Easy, always be nice to the ladies, and they’ll always be nice to you.”
Capone: Paul, how close did they get to you here, or is there more of a differentiation between you and this character?
PE: Yeah, there are a lot of difference between the character and me in real life I think. Don’t you reckon, Earl?
ELN: I promise you, he’s as genuine, caring, sensitive person in real life as he is in the movie. Paul and I got to know each other real well over the past several months. Living in Iceland, going to various places where we had to stay--I guess you’ve heard we shared the showers and the shitters, but not at the same time and with everybody in the group—the whole family got to be really close over there from the directors right on down to the guys carrying the bags and film cans and so forth.
Capone: I figure if you share a bed in the film too, that that might make you closer as well.
ELN: Yeah, Paul headed up the gay parade yesterday, and I brought up the rear, okay?
PE: Yeah, let’s not go there.
Capone: If I understand the timeline right, the turnaround on this film to make it to Sundance is almost unprecedented. You shot it in October?
ELN: Yeah, September and October, and they worked our butts off, Aaron and Martha, to get it cut and put together so they can get it to Sundance.
PE: Who was it that was doing the file work, he was always sitting quietly? They were getting files sorted while we were on the shoot. Oh, god I’ve forgotten his name.
ELN: Little bitty short guy. He was on the computer…when they finished one piece, he’d have it on the computer going through and filtering it and fixing it right after we shot it. We’d move on to the next shot, and he’s there working on the computer.
Capone: So they were editing as they went?
PE: Yes, getting their thoughts sorted out straight away.
Capone: Other than that test that you did of those 10 pages, was there any time for you guys to just get to know each other a little bit?
ELN: Well, we got to know each other. When we shot that first couple of days there in Kentucky, they stayed at my house. Everybody stayed at my house, so we got to know each other if you will while the cameras were rolling.
PE: I locked my door at midnight, and could hear Early Lynn in the hallway going, “Where’s Paul at? He wants to have some more moonshine.”
Capone: So moonshine is the secret ingredient?
PE: It’s the moonshine.
Capone: Paul, you’ve been acting most of your life, but Earl Lynn, you’re just beginning your career as an actor. What’s it like being the new kid on a film set?
ELN: Well, I did a couple of what I call “serious films” with Martha where I played a coal mine executive in the first one, PASSENGER PIGEONS, and then I played a park ranger in the second one, PILGRIM SONG. And I did a segment on “Eastbound and Down” with Kenny, and I did one of those back in September. Well excuse me, that’s not true—it showed in September, but I did it in the summertime, and that’s when I had my own trailer. I’ve got a lot of respect for actors that I didn’t have before, I can tell you that.
Capone: When you’re watching Paul work, do you learn anything from watching him?
ELN: Yeah, I learn what not to do [laughs]. No, Paul has taught me a lot.
PE: He understood why THIS IS MARTIN BONNER is such a good film [laughs].
ELN: Oh, god. There I go. It’s amazing how Erin and Martha would go over the script the night before, and they would give tidbits to Paul or tidbits to me for shock factor during the movie that the other guy didn't know what was coming, which made the movie interesting. But Paul helped me in, not memorizing my lines, if you will, but how to present them, and several times he’d bail me out. I’d get off the track, and he’d slide me back in, and he did that several times. But the thing about it is, once or twice I even bailed his ass out because he got off the line.
We did a whole scene from start to finish, and it flowed is what I’m saying to you. We got all the information in, and we might not have got it in take 1, 2, 3, 4. But the part about it is, people don’t realize we didn’t shoot this movie from start to finish. We’d go back and forth in the story because of the weather over there. There were sometimes where we would be doing a scene and say, “Uh oh, that hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t say that now.” Because we were shooting say 10 scenes in, and we thought it was the second scene we were shooting.
Capone: Earl, as much as you say you’re basically playing yourself here, there’s some real deep emotions running under for both of these characters; it’s not all fun and games. Were those moments where you have to open up a little bit, were those especially gratifying to play?
ELN: Well, we talked about this, when we’re sitting there at the fire popping corn, that was the scene to me that was one where I reached down and found some of my feelings, my deep feelings, and I guess that’s when that came across.
Capone: That’s when you’re confessing about your retirement, right?
ELN: Yes, yes.
Capone: That’s a great scene.
PE: Yeah, that’s probably one of my favorite scenes. I like that work. I like two people talking and being truthful and finding that truth. It’s an actors dream, I can tell you.
Capone: One of my life’s goals is to visit Iceland, believe it or not. What do you remember good and bad about being there and the people and the climate?
PE: We were there in the fall, and it ended up being not a good summer.
ELN: The worst summer they’d had in 50 years.
PE: It’s cold around October.
ELN: People were fantastic, friendly, nice. They speak better English than we do. The food was really good. After a while though, you get tired of boiled potatoes and boiled fish. But the weather, we can’t really speak about the weather, because if I wanted to go there, I’d wanna go up there in the summertime. I wouldn’t wanna go in September, October, November, because the roads are horrible. After the 15th of September, they don’t do any maintenance on the outlying roads anymore. And you’ve got to realize, when Paul was driving the truck, you saw those big splashes of water coming up—it’s not like we have potholes here. Over there, there wasn’t nothing but potholes. I mean, the whole road was potholes. It wasn’t a pothole here and there; it was a pothole everywhere. The whole road was a pothole.
Capone: I would love to see further adventures of Mitch and Collin. Is there any chance that that would happen? Would you be up for that?
PE: We’re pushing for Australia.
ELN: We wanna do LAND HO, MATEY.
PE: No, MATE.
ELN: MATE, MATE. And somebody else wanted us to do LAND HO: HAWAII.
PE: But I think Australia would be cool, because it’s got some good geography. Iceland was a character in the film, and I think Australia could be too.
Capone: Are people talking about this, or is this...?
ELN: We’ve been asked about it a lot, and you hear inklings, and this, that, and the other, but until somebody actually says something that’s got some power and can come up with the cash, you don’t know. But they’ve also said maybe a half-hour TV show a week. But I think that we could do an Australia, and I think it’d be fantastic, and people would enjoy it. Our movie, people think this is about old people, but to me the situation that we were in, it could happen in your 20s or 30s. You could loose your job, you can loose your loved one, you can get divorced, you can be screwed over by somebody and have your money robbed. So it’s not just about people getting old. Those situations happen in all age groups.
PE: I am not old.
Capone: There are a lot of issues that come up in this film that are not age specific, and you’re absolutely right that this is a film about living life, and that doesn’t have to happen only later in life. This just happens to be about two older guys on an adventure, but it doesn’t feel like it’s the last adventure. There are definitely more adventures to come.
ELN: Well, we’re hoping.
PE: Yeah, we hope so. We’ve got plenty to do. We’ve got a lot to look forward to, and in the end, if we ever shoot anything else, it’ll be a box-office-driven thing. That’s got to be the proof in the pudding.
Capone: This premiered at Sundance. What was that experience like, before and after the screening?
ELN: Well I didn’t know the significance of Sundance at all when I was there, and when we were screening it, and a couple people said “Here’s how you can tell about the movie. When the movie’s over, usually a half to about two thirds of the people walk out and leave. And only a few people stay for the Q&A.” After our movie was over with, nobody left, and when we walked up on the stage for the Q&A, they gave us a standing ovation.
PE: No one left.
ELN: The audience stayed, and that made me feel good, according to what these other guys had told me.
PE: The buzz on the street before the screening was good.
ELN: We were sitting at a bar, and they don’t know who the hell you are, and they’re talking about your movie, and you’re overhearing them talking about how they enjoyed it, they liked it, it made them laugh, it made them feel good, and that made you feel good. It made me feel good.
Capone: You’ve been going around with this film for a while here, what do you find people are responding to?
PE: The one comment that I get a lot is that it’s so real. The characters are real, and they say, “I forget that I’m watching a film, and I think I’m watching a reality program.” Now I think that’s a good thing, because it’s a testimony to the two characters that they can create such a real world for the audience. To me, that’s a point of pride.
ELN: I think that what I’ve gotten is that people truly enjoyed watching the film. They truly, down deep inside enjoyed the film, and it was like they could relate to the film, and it was a film that made them fell good and made them realize that life’s got to be lived on.
PE: The first screening at Sundance, man, they were rolling in the aisles. They were laughing. it was an amazing screening. I’ve never seen anything like it. Laughing so much.
Capone: Having two directors who I don’t think had ever worked together before, what was that experience like. Did Aaron handle some part of the film, and Martha handled the other part?
ELN: They worked together. It was amazing. Everybody wants to say that there had to be some kind of line drawn in the sand, but it wasn’t like that. They worked so well together. It was like they were one, if you will. They would discuss things and come up with what they wanted to do. It wasn’t like one person did this, and one person did that. It was amazing to me that they worked so well. The cohesiveness between the two was just unbelievable.
PE: They were like one mind and four hands.
Capone: The film is about many things, but one of them is about not being afraid to discover something new. What was the last thing that you remember discovering on your own in your lives?
PE: Well I discovered I could do 18 days on a road film in Iceland. And I’ll tell you, I’m serious, I haven’t had that much physical work. Physically, it was really taxing for Earl Lynn and me, because we were always on the road or to a set up, and it was always cold. I found places that I could use within myself, because when you’re going into a scene and you’re ready to shoot, you’ve got to produce the goods. It doesn’t matter what the weather is or what the climate is or what the circumstances are. You’ve got to do the work. So I discovered that I was deeper than I thought I was.
ELN: I tell you what, we had a lot of young people that were in our crew, and I don’t know if you remember the black beach scene, but the wind was blowing 35 to 40 mph. We were getting sand in our eyes, our noes, our mouths. When Paul went out and he thought he could beat the wave coming in and he got wet, that wasn’t part of the movie. That just happened. And they finally let us get over to the side where we were drinking those orange pops. They let us quit eating sand for a while. The movie wasn’t made by me and Paul or Aaron and Martha, but the whole crew made that movie. We can talk about Sony [Pictures Classics], and we appreciate what they’ve done for us and are still doing for us, and Gamechanger [Films], but the people who really need to take a bow are the whole crew. Sound, camera, trash pick up people, the trucks that were jammed in each other and going here and there. Most of the places we would travel an hour and a half to get to the shoot, and then it was an hour and a half back after over nothing but potholes.
PE: Great crew. The whole team was just phenomenal.
Capone: Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk. It was a real pleasure.
ELN: Well, do us a favor. Tell your people that you’d like to see us do another movie, okay?
Capone: Absolutely. It seems that there’s a great pairing.
PE: We could work with Paul Hogan. We cold have a CROCODILE DUNDEE: LAND HO MATE.