When Robert Duvall was shooting “Get Low” — a film about a man who hosts his own funeral — he asked director Aaron Schneider to put two microphones on him: a boom mic (typical for film shooting) as well as a second mic, hidden under his clothes.
The first microphone picked up the lines of dialogue between Duvall and his co-stars, which include Sissy Spacek as a widower and Bill Murray as an unscrupulous funeral director. The second microphone picked up more physical sounds made by the 79-year-old actor, playing a man on the cusp of death whose body is going before his mind and heart.
“He carries on conversations with himself in the grunts and groans and sighs,” said Schneider of Duvall’s subtly shaded performance.
“He created a second language with himself, and I worked very hard to preserve and maintain those subtle sounds,” the director said. “It’s a tremendous responsibility with that performance in your hands.”
There’s a fearlessness in Duvall’s lived-in performance, perhaps a natural expectation for such a dynamic actor. The real revelation in “Get Low” is the care and respect with which Schneider directs his cast.
An experienced cinematographer, Schneider won an Oscar in 2003 for his short film “Two Soldiers.” “Get Low” is only his first feature film, but he spins a patient, character-driven tale about deep, life-changing regret and hard-won redemption.
“I just liked the idea of a story that took a person at the end of his life and showed him trying to set things right,” says Schneider. “We’ve all had experiences like that in our lives that changed the way we live.”
For Schneider, who also edited the film, “Get Low” was a labor of love. He spent five years developing the script, researching the story and raising money before shooting even the first reel.
“The financing finally came together, and then in 24 days it was over,” he recalls.
“It was a five-year wait, then suddenly you’re in your living room with these living legends on your plasma set. It was a wild ride, wonderful ride.”
Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deusner
Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics