It has become standard operating procedure for studios and filmmakers to target specific slices of the population when promoting movies. But we’re fairly sure that writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s film Blue Ruin is the first thriller to reach out to the community of beard-growers.
In the movie, actor Macon Blair plays a homeless man whose plan to kill the person responsible for the death of his parents unravels in increasingly tragi-comic, and, at times, extremely violent, ways. For the role, Blair spent 9 months growing out his facial fuzz and that growth has become a strangely pivotal part of the movie’s marketing campaign, starting with a beard contest held at the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie screened earlier this year. “They would have me being the judge of these contests, and I felt like I needed to put a disclaimer at the beginning,” says the now clean-shaven Blair. “These are professional guys that go to professional beard contests. These are very cultivated, crafted examples of facial hair. I felt like I needed to be like, ‘Guys, look, this was for a movie, it was supposed to look terrible. It was supposed to look like a guy who had checked out of mainstream society and had given up on himself and let himself go. It wasn’t supposed to look nice!’”
Macon’s beard has also featured prominently in many of the film’s publicity images, and the actor even conducted an interview with the website, Beard Revered (sample question: “Who is your ultimate bearded hero and why?”). “They were very sweet and I was happy to talk with them,” says Macon.
Blue Ruin director Saulnier admits he had some misgivings about such beard-oriented marketing. “I was initially skeptical,” he says. “I was like, ‘What are we doing with this whole beard thing?’” But the filmmaker concedes it is appropriate that Macon’s beard is front and center publicity-wise. “The beard that Macon grew was this beacon of hope and symbol of commitment,” says Saulnier. “Who knows? Maybe that’s why this film got made.”
Blair isn’t the only one who showed considerable commitment to the project. Saulnier reveals that both he and his wife raided their pensions to help pay for Blue Ruin, which co-stars Devin Ratray (Nebraska), Amy Hargreaves (Homeland), and Jan Brady herself, Eve Plumb, as the gun-toting matriarch of the family Blair’s character faces-off against. “My wife read the script, responded to it, and cashed out her account,” says Saulnier. “It was really inspiring to me. It wasn’t a small thing. She risked our financial security and her children’s future on the movie.”
That risk has paid off. Blue Ruin premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and, following an avalanche of positive reviews, hits theatres, VOD, and iTunes this Friday. Blair says he hopes their romancing of the facially hirsute will help the film at the box office. “However many people with beards come to the movie theatre,” he laughs, “I get a certain percentage.”
You can check out the trailer for Blue Ruin below.