When Paul Eenhoorn first met his “Land Ho!” costar Earl Lynn Nelson, Nelson walked up to him and put his finger on his eyelids.
“He says, ‘You need your eye lids done,’” Eenhoorn recounts. “I didn’t know who he was.”
Then Nelson made Eenhoorn and filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens drink moonshine. “He took the moonshine out of the freezer, hands me the bottle,” explains Eenhoorn. “I say, ‘No, I don’t drink out of the bottle.’ He says, ‘Don’t put it in the glass, you waste the moonshine.’”
“Because it sticks to the glass. It’s a waste to put it in the glass,” Nelson says, still worked up. “I said, ‘You don’t booze in a glass in my house. Drink out of the bottle.’ That’s how he got to know me.”
The two are an odd couple, off-screen and on. In “Land Ho!” they play ex-brothers-in-law who go on a trip to Iceland. In real life, Eenhoorn is a longtime, classically trained actor from Australia who finally, decades in the business, scored breakthrough notices for the indie “I Am Martin Bonner.” Nelson, meanwhile, is a surgeon from Kentucky whose only two previous films were tiny ones made by Stephens, who’s his first cousin’s daughter,
Eenhoorn is much more open and giggly than he is in “Land Ho!” while Nelson is exactly the same: a hulking force of life with a booming baritone twang, who loves to live life like there’s only one, because there probably is. If anything they get along even better in real life than onscreen, where they get along swimmingly.
“I actually got to like the old sonofab—. We call each other back and forth. We got to be true friends,” says Nelson.
Eenhoorn says their different backgrounds were key to how well they worked together. “I’m not a big note guy. I don’t write notes on my script. I read the bloody script and I read my lines,” Eenhoorn says. Nelson, he feels, is just Nelson. “He’s one of the rare people that when you put a camera on him he doesn’t change. When you see a CEO being interviewed for a Wall Street video, they’re stiff, because they’re conscious of the camera. He’s not. He doesn’t give a s—.”
Nelson backs that up. “I feel like me,” he says. “I’ve only been scared of two things in my life: God and my daddy. And my daddy’s gone, so I only got God. I’ve never been scared of anything.”
Indeed, Nelson is fond of saying “I’ve never met a stranger.” This fearlessness was one reason Stephens wanted her relative in her films. “She knows I’m the person in the family who does and says what I want to do. I live my life to the fullest. I think Martha kind of lives her life through me. Some of the nasty dirty stuff [in the film], it’s not all me all the time. They write the stuff, but I got the balls to say it.”
In fact, when Stephens was consulting with David Gordon Green, who would become “Land Ho!”’s executive producer, he asked her to send him her films. He called her back up and said, “The guy with the voice. I want him.” And that’s how Nelson wound up with a bit part in the fourth season of “Eastbound and Down.”
Nelson says he’ll gladly accept film offers, though he won’t fly out to Los Angeles to audition. But he’d love to do a “Land Ho!” sequel. “We want to do ‘Land Ho Mighty,’ in Australia,” Nelson says.
“It’s MATE. Get it right,” corrects Eenhoorn.
“I like ‘Mighty’ better,” Nelson replies. “That’s the Southern version of ‘mate.’”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge