If Josh Lucas looks a little antsy, it's understandable: His wife is seemingly minutes away from delivering their first child -- and here he sits, in his publicist's SoHo office, talking about his new movie, Hide Away.
He makes sure his phone is on, noting, "I've got a bad reputation about not being available by phone," with an embarrassed smile.
The film, Hide Away, is a tone poem of sorts about grief, directed by Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals). Shot in Traverse City, Mich., in a mere 15 days, the story follows Lucas' character, called the Young Mariner, as he buys and moves onto a dilapidated sailboat near the end of summer and spends the fall and winter living on it while he fixes it up. The story examines the character's efforts to come to terms with a tragedy in his recent past as he contemplates whether or not he has a future.
A film in which the weather, nature and silence are as much characters as the Young Mariner or the few people he interacts with (including Jon Tenney, James Cromwell and Ayelet Zurer), Hide Away was a challenge for Lucas -- and, he recognizes, will challenge audiences as well.
"The challenge is that it's an almost silent story of the revival of one man's soul," Lucas, 40, says. "So we had to find the poetry in a script that was like a 75-page treatment. It might say, 'The young mariner cleans the boat,' and that would have to equate to 10 minutes of screen-time. So the challenge was how to do it and not make it boring or indulgent."
The other challenge was to portray a variety of seasons while shooting in early winter. Chilly weather was not a problem; portraying a warm day in autumn or a sunny summer afternoon was something else.
"We had to fake spring and summer -- so the crew would be standing around in serious winter gear and I'd be in a T-shirt," Lucas says with a rueful laugh. "Then it was, 'Can you stop shivering for 30 seconds so we can get the shot?' Believe me, when I had to act cold, I wasn't acting. The whole shoot was cold. The weather became both our great friend and our great foe. It really dictated the shoot."
At one point, in a moment of drunken sorrow, Lucas' character pitches off a dock into the icy waters of Lake Michigan: "A couple of minutes into it, I panicked," he says. "I was in long enough to feel the effects to my body. I think the water temperature was, like 36 degrees. I was going calmly numb. It was a very strange sensation."
Lucas is under no illusion that Hide Away is a mainstream film. But he enjoyed taking the risks inherent in making an independent film with a very personal point of view.
"The thing we ran up against -- and one of the film's flaws -- is that watching someone go through true depression is inherently indulgent," he says.
This interview continues on my website.