I interviewed Goodloe Byron earlier this week regarding his role in A Public Ransom and given below is an excerpt from our online conversation.
What was your approach to your role as Bryant in the film?
I have been familiar with this story of Pablo’s since I was sixteen, I think, though he didn’t write the one thousand word short story until nearly a decade later. But I remember the spot where he discussed the idea of A Public Ransom very well, as it is a few blocks from my current apartment. But there were never any characters, there was just the idea of some sinister creep who kidnaps people and ransoms them out to the public via graffiti.
So years later when Pablo said that we were going to make a movie out of the thing, I already had an idea in mind—not for the character per se, but of the gravitas of such an act. Pablo was taking a different tact with the script, so that the focus would be on the person who finds the ransom rather than the kidnapper. As it was written the character of Bryant (the creep) is more of a tool to investigate the primary character. Steven (the “protagonist”, for lack of a better word) is full of energy and talk, but at the core he is just very empty and inert. The Bryant character was written to have an energy and vivaciousness to match this, but to be someone who just had more “follow-through”.
But originally, the story he told me when we were sixteen, was about the kidnapper, a kind of Leopold-Loeb figure, except without the trace of innocence that marked those two little monsters. So I wanted to play it this later way. I wanted to strip out all of the energy, and really much of the familiarity of Bryant, and turn him from a counterpoint to Steven, make him a monster that was sitting just off to the side of the film.
How did you prepare for the role?
People have done what I have just described much better and before, so there were a lot of models to copy. Javier Bardeem in No Country For Old Men is exactly this kind of force, because even though he is central to the film, he is more of an outside force that is disrupting the structure of the film. Or another thing that I felt would be good to copy would be the kidnapper in the excellent, excellent Spoorloos (The Vanishing), which is one of my favorite films.
All I really had to do was figure out a distinct way to speak the lines. I feel I gave him a very interesting speech pattern and an amorphous accent, which I was pleased with. I also was supposed to memorize the lines…but I did not do as good a job with that.
Were there any particular challenges you faced during the shoot?
There were definitely some challenges that we faced. For one thing, I never did memorize my lines all that well, prior to shooting! Instead, we opted to create the ebb and flow of the back-and-forth in an hour or so of rehearsal time before shooting. In a way, I think this helped things just as much as it hurt them—it meant that in the end we had worked out a choreography that was still very fresh and raw to us, the performers.
It is similar to when you write a song and record it that same evening. Things could have definitely been done more precisely, but there is something also that is gained, which is more difficult to quantify.
Other than that, we had about two hours to film each scene, which is no small task considering that each of the scenes is about seven minutes long and consist of one continuous take. It was freezing cold outside most of the time, but we had no time to take breaks to warm back up. So by the end we might have the scene down pretty well, but would be delivering it in harried voices with shaking hands.
If nothing else we have made some excellent memories!
How do you feel now that the film has been made available to the public?
When I saw the film a few weeks ago, I was overjoyed. I think Pablo put together an excellent film…though I do wish I had had more time to film each scene.