SXSW: Stand-out performances

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As we bid this year’s SXSW film festival adieu, here’s a look at some of the individual performances that really got our attention, hopefully making their way to a theater near you before too long.

John Gallagher Jr. — “the Heart Machine”

John Gallagher Jr. in "the Heart Machine."
John Gallagher Jr. in “the Heart Machine.”

John Gallagher Jr. follows up last year’s fest-winning “Short Term 12″ with “the Heart Machine,” by first-time writer-director Zachary Wigon, about a man (Gallagher) who starts to suspect his long-distance girlfriend isn’t as far away as she’s led him to believe.

On examining paranoia and suspicion in romantic relationships: “Someone once told me if you’re playing poker, one of the worst things you can do is go full tilt, which is when you start spiraling out of control. You start second-guessing everything, and it’s really an altered state,” Gallagher says. “That is certainly something that I’ve felt in past relationships when I’ve become suspicious or jealous or convinced that I’m not being told the full story. Logic just goes absolutely out the window immediately. I loved the idea of my character in the film spending the whole movie in that place, because it’s a terrible place to operate from, and it’s an awful feeling.”

On using Skype on the set: “I remember the script and being really scared that you’d have to shoot them separately or something or that you actually wouldn’t be able to do it in real time together, but Zach made it very apparent immediately that the intention was fully each time we would always be acting with each other on the screen,” he says.

Josh Lucas — “the Mend”

Josh Lucas in "the Mend."
Josh Lucas in “the Mend.”

The “Sweet Home Alabama” and “American Psycho” star has always been a tricky one to peg down, and here he goes off the rails completely as Mat, a dilapidated wastrel who commandeers his younger brother’s apartment and generally makes a mess in director John Magary’s feature debut.

On the unique psychology of Mat: “This is a guy I feel who’s justifying giving up. It’s a guy who has lost, and he’s basically saying, ‘I lost because I don’t give a f—,’” Lucas says. “And the reality is they went hand in hand. He started to lose because he didn’t give a f—. It’s a kind of personality that to be honest with you, more and more in my life, I’m trying to stay away from thinking those thoughts, because they lead to where he goes which is basically homelessness, really. My sense is he’s kind of rotting from within. Look, I know there are times in my life where I’ve drank too much, smoked too much, and this is a guy who’s always in this space where his insides just don’t feel good. I think in a sense he’s constantly hungover, and that feeling is there even when he’s not.”

On doing it old-school: “This is something I’m really frustrated by these days with filmmaking: Hand-held is really f—ing lazy. It really is. And it’s really often quite hard to watch. We’re getting used to this lazy quality of filmmaking that way. And this was precise, preparation, ‘This shot with this camera movie,’ and I feel it throughout the whole movie. It makes a big difference.”

Rosa Salazar — “May the Best Man Win”

Drew Tarver, Rosa Salazar and Whitmer Thomas in "May the Best Man Win."
Drew Tarver, Rosa Salazar and Whitmer Thomas in “May the Best Man Win.”

In the fairly low-brow and male-dominated world of prank comedy that dominates the envelope-pushing “May the Best Man Win,” Rosa Salazar doesn’t only hold her own against her male co-stars, she easily outshines them. It’s easy to see why her male counterparts (Whitmer Thomas and Drew Tarver) would engage in an escalating series of dangerous dares to win her affections.

On the freedom of improvisation while pulling pranks: “There was so much freedom, especially when you’re with one of the victims,” Salazar says. “When you’re with a mark you can say whatever you want because you have to to get them to go that way to get the best stuff from them. I was pretty OK with everything. I was hoping we would cross a few lines.”

On what she’s learned about herself during this process: “I’m starting to feel like I’m not a human with human emotions,” she says. “I mean, I have no shame. I auditioned, and I remember on the way there being like, ‘This is going to be so f—ing fun.’ The audition was the audition prank, and I was like, ‘I get to hit people?’”

Harry Lloyd — “Big Significant Things”

Harry Lloyd in "Big Significant Things."
Harry Lloyd in “Big Significant Things.”

British actor Harry Lloyd has played some pretty dastardly characters on “Game of Thrones” and “Doctor Who,” but those paled in comparison to the challenge of passing himself off as American in “Big Significant Things,” in which he plays a young man running away from his life for quick trip to the South all by himself.

On stressing over getting the accent right: “The main thing I was worried about was the accent. The film will just die if the main guy you’re spending time with, if there’s any hint of anything [British] it’s just going to be a nightmare,” Lloyd says. “And accents, I always just get very annoyed about. So I did something I’ve never done before, which was I kept up the accent for a couple of months — which actually was a nightmare, and I’m not sure it was very helpful in the end.”

On tapping into suspended adolescence: “It’s a very male thing. ‘I’m going to do good things, I’m going to do something that a woman would be proud of, but first of all I need to do something just silly and stupid for myself because I’m still a little boy secretly.’ And I understand that,” he says. “I think it’s a weird time to be a guy. I mean, I don’t have any point of comparison since I’ve only been a guy the time I’ve been a guy, but yeah. The fact that we had these childhoods where we were told we could do anything, and we didn’t fight a war, our parents didn’t fight a war, so we were promised it all. And then at what point do you think, actually no, I need to pick something and get on with it and the world isn’t different for me and just kind of join the human race?”



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