Since breaking through in indies like “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” and “Monsters,” Scoot McNairy has established himself as one of the go-to character actors. In addition to his stint on “Halt and Catch Fire,” he regularly steals scenes in “Killing Them Softly,” “Argo,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Gone Girl,” among others. He does the same in David Gordon Green’s “Our Brand is Crisis,” a political satire about a campaign consultant (Sandra Bullock) leading a team, including McNairy’s former ad guy, to help save the re-election volley of a hated Bolivian pol (Joaquim de Almeida). But McNairy argues the film could take place in any industry, despite what it says about Ugly Americanism abroad.
You live in Texas, as does director David Gordon Green. Had you two met before?
When I moved to Texas I knew David lived there. I emailed him out of the blue to say, “Hey, my name is Scoot McNairy, I’m an actor, I’m a huge fan of your movies. I’d really love to work with you. I don’t know if you know who I am.” He emailed me back two days later: “I know exactly who you are! Absolutely I’d love to work with you!” Two years later we’re working on this.
Green jumps around a lot, making tiny indies like “George Washington” and studio comedies like “Pineapple Express.” And yet he has this weirdly chill air about him.
The guy is a workaholic. I remember one time he was sitting looking at some papers. I was like, “What are you doing? Are those notes?” He said, “No, a friend of mine wrote an essay for a university. I’m just proofreading it and giving him notes.” I was like, “Geez, man, you just never stop.” He’s constantly reading, constantly watching movies. He works all the time. He’s a literature nut. And obviously he loves it. It’s unbelievable how much he packs into a day.
His smaller indies have this very handmade quality to them. Do you sense he has to change much when working on a studio film?
Kind of. You come in there and find the shape of the scene. You play around with it. You keep doing the same thing and take it in some random direction. You think it’s just an exercise, but then so much that winds up in the movie. He likes to explore the oddity of these scenes, find out how weird they can be. What David likes more than anything is when actors make mistakes. He creates an environment where we can make mistakes.