Arkansas Heritage Month – Little Rock’s Jeff Nichols at Cannes

NicholsLittle Rock native Jeff Nichols’ latest film, Loving, premieres at Cannes today. The film showed at 8:30 am and 11:30 am Cannes time. (That would be at 1:30am and 4:30am, Little Rock time). It also shows at 7pm Cannes time (12 noon, Little Rock).

Loving, which was written and directed by Nichols, tells the story of the Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple who were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958. It is set for national release in November and is being distributed by Focus Features.

Nichols was first brought the project by Martin Scorsese. A 1997 graduate of Little Rock Central High, he was intrigued by the story and the opportunities it provided him as a filmmaker.

The film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the central couple. Others in the cast include Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, and Bill Camp.  Edgerton, Shannon and Camp are part of Nichols’ informal repertory company of actors. Interestingly, Shannon and Camp are both nominated for Tony Awards in the same category (Featured Actor in a Play) for work they have done on Broadway this spring in American classics: Shannon in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and Camp in Miller’s The Crucible.

This is Nichols’ third film to screen at Cannes, following 2012’s Mud (which like Loving was in contention for the Palm d’Or) and 2011’s Take Shelter (which won the top prize at Cannes’ Critics Week).  His first feature film was 2007’s Shotgun Stories.

With Loving’s screening at Cannes, Nichols is in a select group of directors to have one film screen at the Berlin International Film Festival (where he showcased Midnight Special) and another at Cannes in the same year.

Creative Class of 2015: Graham Gordy

Photo by Nancy Nolan

Photo by Nancy Nolan

From his days as a child actor on Little Rock stages to creator and writer of the upcoming Quarry on Cinemax, Graham Gordy has had a varied career in the performing arts.

After his start as an actor, he transitioned to writing while in Los Angeles working with the Groundlings. Though he still makes occasional appearances as an actor (including a stint kissing Reese Witherspoon’s neck in the Jeff Nichols film Mud), the focus of his career now is writing.

His plays have been performed in New York, but it is his work for film and television that has brought him the widest acclaim.  He was screenwriter for War Eagle and The Love Guru. In 2013, he wrote episodes of the Sundance series Rectify.

Gordy is currently at work on the Cinemax series Quarry.  It is set to premiere in 2016, after Cinemax picked it up for a whole season.  Filming took place earlier this year.

When not shooting on location, or doing “industry work” on the coasts, Gordy can often be found out and about in Central Arkansas supporting the local film and arts scene.


Lights! Camera! Arkansas! book signing with Robert Cochran and Suzanne McCray

The authors of a new book that explores the legacy of Arkansas on film will be center-stage for a panel and book-signing at the Old State House Museum. 

On Sunday, March 8, at 2 p.m., Robert Cochran and Suzanne McCray will be discussing their new book, “Lights! Camera! Arkansas!” on a panel hosted by Ben Fry, general manager of KUAR and host of Second Friday Cinema. 

“Lights! Camera! Arkansas!” traces the roles played by Arkansans in the first century of Hollywood’s film industry, from the first cowboy star, Broncho Billy Anderson, to Mary Steenburgen, Billy Bob Thornton and many others. 

The Arkansas landscape also plays a starring role: Crittenden County as a setting for Hallelujah (1929), and various locations in the state’s southeastern quadrant in 2012’s Mud are all given fascinating exploration. 

Cochran and McCray screened close to two hundred films—from laughable box-office bombs to laudable examples of filmmaking – in their research for this book. 

They’ve enhanced their spirited chronological narrative with an appendix on documentary films, a ratings section and illustrations chosen by Jo Ellen Maack of the Old State House Museum, where “Lights! Camera! Arkansas!” debuted as an exhibit curated by the authors in 2013.

 The exhibit will close on July 31, 2015.