Danny Huston Interview The Proposition, By Tim Nasson
If you’re one of the throngs who think the great art house film has gone the way of the Galapagos Flightless Cormorant, you would be correct. When one that is worth paying the price of admission does come into view, it is a rare treat, indeed.
It is time for rejoicing. With the release of “The Proposition,” that rare treat is alive.
I had the chance to sit with one of the film’s stars, Danny Huston, in Boston, recently, on a drab, rainy, Monday morning.
That name, Huston, you say, sounds so familiar, but who is Danny?
Well, Danny is the son of Academy Award winning director John. Yes, the John Huston, whose career spanned five decades, and who directed such big screen classics as “The Maltese Falcon,” “The African Queen,” “Moby Dick” and “Prizzi’s Honor.”
Danny Huston is also the younger brother of Academy Award winning actress Angelica.
At forty-four, though, Danny has already made quite a name for himself behind and in front of the camera.
Just last year, he co-starred as Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz’s friend Sandy in “The Constant Gardener.” And since his big screen debut over a decade ago in “Leaving Las Vegas,” Huston has appeared in over twenty films.
“It was an amazing childhood,” recalls Huston, sitting in his suite at the chic XV Beacon Hotel, sipping from a bottle of water, a striking navy suit, complimenting his tall, slender figure. “One of my most vivid memories was being on the set of ‘The Man Who Would Be King,’ where there was Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer and all of the exotic locales [India, England], where my father made the movie, or what he would call the ‘picture.’ I must have been ten or eleven and the memories are just as clear as if the movie was being made today.”
Huston, who was born in Italy but grew up all over the world – Ireland being where he spent much of his time growing up – also enjoyed spending vacations at his father’s compound near Puerto Vallarta. (His father, who loved the area so much, bought a small island off the Bay of Puerto Vallarta, and is credited for putting the now famed tourist destination on the map in the 1960s with his “Night Of The Iguana,” which was filmed there.)
Danny Huston, as of late, is following in the footsteps of his father when it comes to filming in exotic locales. In addition to war torn Africa, where “The Constant Gardener” was filmed, Huston spent a few months in the Australian outback for his latest film, “The Proposition,” which can best be compared to HBO’s “Deadwood,” for all its grime and grittiness of the old west 1800s, (Australia wasn’t that much different than the old west), and the fantastic acting. Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt and Noah Taylor join in on the fun with Huston in “The Proposition.”
“It was one hundred twenty degrees, many of the days we were filming,” laughs Huston, “dust and dirt everywhere. The area we filmed in was literally in the middle of nowhere. But the cast I was fortunate enough to be working with helped make for an endurable shoot.”
“The Proposition” tells the story of Capt. Stanley and his men who capture two of the four Burns brothers, Charlie and Mike. Their gang is held responsible for attacking the Hopkins farm, raping pregnant Mrs. Hopkins and murdering the whole family. Arthur Burns (Danny Huston), the eldest brother and the gang’s mastermind, remains at large and has retreated to a mountain hideout. Capt. Stanley’s proposition to Charlie is to gain pardon and – more importantly – save his beloved younger brother Mike from the gallows by finding and killing Arthur within nine days.
Huston, who costarred as Nicole Kidman’s fiancée in the critically lambasted “Birth,” and as Naomi Watts’ husband in “21 Grams,” will next be seen as Joseph II in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.”
“It’s just a small role,” says Huston, about “Marie Antoinette.” “Very small, really. But it was wonderful, thrilling to work with Sofia on such a fun project.” The film, which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and which won’t be released in the United States until October, is a stylized account of a naive Viennese girl who, in 1774, became the queen of France at age 19. In Coppola’s vision, the music is contemporary, while the look is authentic.
Any aspirations of becoming an epic director, like your father, I ask Huston.
“I do like directing,” he says, recalling the film “Mr. North,” that he directed at the tender age of twenty-four, starring Anthony Edwards, Lauren Bacall, his sister Angelica, his not-yet wife Virginia Madsen (whom he subsequently divorced), and Mary Stuart Masterson and Harry Dean Stanton. “But I am not seeking out the next ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre,'” he laughs. “It doesn’t look like the big budget movies are what audiences want at the moment.”
Which may be why “The Proposition,” on a per screen basis, is doing tremendously well at the box office.