Love my ma, love my pa
But I just love ole Arkansas
Arkansas lyrics from the musical Big River
“I remember I was in junior high school and I was going to write a short story about mobsters, or New York mobsters. I think I had just seen a Scorsese film. And I told my dad that. And he was like, ‘You haven’t ever been to New York.’ And I said, ‘Nah, but that’s where mobsters live.’ And he basically said, ‘Why don’t you write something about Arkansas?’ And a window in my mind opened, and I realized all of a sudden that I had access to something that was interesting, that the rest of the world couldn’t write about, because I was the one there.
And it just seems like, you have an idea, and it feels kind of fake or false or movie-ish, but when I drag it down to Arkansas and place it there, it starts to feel realistic and grounded and I’m accountable for the realism, because I know these people and these places and I have to get it right. And that’s a good thing, because so many southern films are affectations that it’s good to feel accountable to some kind of realism.”
Writer/Director Jeff Nichols (Mud)
Hollywood Reporter 4/26/13
Jeff Nichols, “Mud: Director” Eschews Hollywood for the South by Jordan Zakarin
Though Jeff Nichols currently lives in Austin, Texas (and recieved his educated at the North Carolina School for the Arts) two of his first three feature films (Shotgun Stories, Mud) take place in Arkansas where Nicholas was born and raised. (The third, Take Shelter, is set in a small town in Ohio.) I finally saw Mud over the weekend and it reminded me a little of Tender Mercies, a little of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn, a little of A Perfect World, and even a little of Stand By Me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nichols getting an Oscar-nomination for his script. And if he ever wins an Oscar he’ll join fellow Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton who won an Oscar for his Slingblade (1996) script.
And considering that Winter’s Bone (Mud’s country cousin) was set in a world on the Missouri/Arkansas border and the 2011 Oscar-nominated doc & Arkansas-centered Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory documentary there is some excellent (and gritty) work coming out of that region.
P.S. Other film related artists with roots to Arkansas and in the Arkansas Hall of Fame include Johnny Cash, Academy-Award wining actress Mary Steenburgen, and actress Lisa Blout (An Officer and a Gentleman) who won an Oscar in 2001 for her role in producing the short film The Accountant. And to top it all off one of the most financially successful writers in history—John Grisham—was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Now that I think of it, there are traces of Grisham’s The Firm in Mud. (The movie version of The Firm was shot mostly in Memphis, but some in Arkansas)