David Gordon Green’s 'Stronger' tells a story of strength, struggle, and survival
Director David Gordon Green has certainly come a long way from his cult favorite "Pineapple Express", debuting his new biopic "Stronger", based on the devastating Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. He's joined on stage at BUILD Series NYC to talk more about the movie with cast members Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany alongside the hero of the story himself, Jeff Bauman.
"Stronger" follows the life of ordinary Bostonian Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaall, who suffered the tragic loss of both his legs at the bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.
Gyllenhaal claims to have been particularly affected by the screenplay, saying that, "there's not one of us here in this room or watching who's not struggling with something or knows someone they love who's struggling. When I read his story, I was just so moved by the fact that even in the darkest times, you can get up and you can get through it, and I feel like that's exactly the type of story we need right now with everything that's going on in the world, and couldn't come at a better moment...he gives us inspiration that we can keep going."
He continues by describing the choices he made when portraying Bauman. Gyllenhaal was committed to portraying the highs and lows of Bauman's story: "You don't really understand joy, and I think this goes for life as well as storytelling if you don't understand the pain as well."
Playing opposite Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman's then-girlfriend Erin Hurley is "Orphan Black" star and Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany.
The story follows her journey as a marathon runner dealing with the very personal aftermath of the bombing - Bauman's injuries that went beyond the physical loss of his legs. "There's an immense emotional stamina that she has, and an incredible capacity for love and to be a caregiver," said Maslany of portraying Hurley, "but she's also a young woman struggling with the guilt of what happened and her responsibility in it, and also the push and pull of this relationship that was difficult from the start."
David Gordon Green explains what it was like being in Boston and having so many resources available to him when building the intense, heartbreaking, and sometimes funny components of the story. He's grateful for the trust that Bauman, Hurley, and the entire community have put in him, and credits that to his transparency as a filmmaker, saying, "I'm not [a] 'Hollywood' political, aggressive director. You like "Eastbound and Down", you like "Pineapple Express"? I'm here to tell some stories, like, I'm not from Hollywood, I'm from Texas and I do things a little different. And to me, that was a way of saying that you don't have to be skeptical of what we're here to do, because we're here to honor you and respect your story. It's so inspiring to be with people that trust you to go to really dark places with them, and it doesn't mean you can't have a little fun along the way."
A city like Boston can often be a character in and of itself, something Green and the rest of the crew very much took into consideration. While it can often be challenging depicting such an iconic place in an accurate light, Gyllenhaal suggests that their goals were much bigger. They were so big, in fact, that you won't hear the phrase "wicked" even once.
"The thing about Boston, particularly this event, and most importantly Jeff [Bauman], is that it's about all of us. The story is about all of us, and it has always been from the very beginning...I don't think we were really intimidated fully by the city of Boston and all the incredible movies that have been made about it, because it was about being human. I think we were more intimidated about capturing the human beings here"