Interview: Lane Garrison Talks Bonnie & Clyde

Protecting those you care about is a natural process for many people, whether they’re your family or a stranger you just met who quickly becomes a close friend. That’s certainly the case with actor Lane Garrison, who portrays Buck Barrow, the brother of famous outlaw Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, in the new Bruce Beresford-directed mini-series, ‘Bonnie & Clyde.’ The two-part film not only showcases the connection Buck has with his infamous brother, but also the instant bond Garrison developed with his co-stars, particularly lead actor Emile Hirsch, who portrayed Clyde.

‘Bonnie & Clyde,’ which simultaneously is playing on the History, Lifetime and A&E networks, follows Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger) and Clyde Barrow, the Depression-era outlaw couple whose criminal exploits have assured them lasting fame for eight decades. Frank Hamer (William Hurt) is the Texas Ranger pursuing the Barrow gang, which includes Buck and his wife, Blanche (Sarah Hyland), as well as Clyde’s mother, Cummie Barrow (Dale Dickey), and Bonnie’s mother, Emma Parker (Holly Hunter). Writer P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser) who’s tracking the gang, is accompanied by Austin Hebert (Ted Hinton), a lawman also on the hunt for the title duo.

Garrison generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how growing up in Dallas, Texas, where Bonnie and Clyde were originally from, and learning the outlaws’ history when he was young, influenced him to take on the role of Buck; how he loved working closely with Beresford on the set, because he had so much energy and every nuance of the film figured out; and how he developed a close friendship with Hirsch on the set, as they spent a great deal of their time together, even when they weren’t shooting.

Question (Q): You star as Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow, in the biographical crime drama miniseries, ‘Bonnie & Clyde.’ What was it about the character, and the script overall, that drew you to the role of Buck?

Lane Garrison (LG): Well, a little story behind me is that I’m from Dallas, Texas, and that’s where Bonnie and Clyde were originally from. I grew up in Dallas, so I knew the story of Bonnie and Clyde since I was a little kid. My grandfather actually used to take me to the barrel filling station off of Mockingbird when I was younger. There was also an old barn near my elementary school that they used to say was a hide-out for Bonnie and Clyde.

So this has been a story I’ve been fascinated with since I was a little kid. So as fate would have it, the script came my way, and I had to play Buck. I just knew who these guys were, and what their environment was, as I had seen it for so long as a kid. I’m glad that (Bruce) Beresford gave me the opportunity to play the role. I’ve always been drawn to the story.

Q: How did you become involved in the mini-series? Did you have to audition for the role of Buck, or was the role offered to you?

LG: Yeah, I first put myself on tape, and then sent it to Beresford and the casting director in Los Angeles. I had to read for three different occasions. I put a lot of work into the script, and worked really hard. I’m really happy Richard Hicks was the casting director, and gave me a shot to play the role.

Q: Like you mentioned, ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ was directed by Academy-Award nominee Bruce Beresford, who has been helming films since the early 1970s. What was the experience of working with Bruce on the film like overall?

LG: Bruce is honestly one of the kindest men I know. He’ll probably kill me for saying his age, but he’s 72, and he has more energy than anyone on set. This guy was the first one on set, and the last to leave. It was amazing to watch the man work, because he had so much energy, and had every nuance of the film figured out.

I worked so closely with him, and I love working with him. I hope I get to work with him again. He’s one of these directors who give simple direction. He’ll tell you, “Maybe you should make it a little more friendly,” or he’ll say, “speed it up or slow it down.” So he really directs with this verbage and such an easy shorthand for actors to understand, that he doesn’t get in the way. This man is obviously Oscar-nominated, but is beyond talented when telling a narrative. He’s also a genuinely good-hearted man.

Q: How did you prepare for the role before you began filming? Did you do any particular research before you got to the set?

LG: We all got this book, Go Down Together, by Jeff Guinn. It’s probably the most accurate account of Bonnie and Clyde and their upbringing and where they were from and what motivated them. Before any of us started, we all got a copy of the book, and we read that cover to cover.

It was fascinating, because they talked about places in Dallas that I had known about before. So bringing that book to life, and having visited those locations before, really helped me understand the role.

We also had a lot of gun training, as these guys were running and gunning with the Tommy guns and Thompsons and the BARs. So we did a lot of gun training. But I think more than anything, that preparation was out the window when you put on the three-piece suit and they handed you the Tommy gun; you were transported back in time. You felt what those guys were feeling.

Q: Speaking of using the guns, Buck joins Bonnie and Clyde on their wild crime spree after serving time in a Texas prison. Did you perform any particular stunts during the part of the mini-series where the family was committing their crime spree?

LG: Coming from Texas, I know guns pretty well, so I’m a pretty good shot. So I had no issues with the guns. The stunt guys always want to do those stunts, but I’m one of those guys who want to do it all.

There was one fight sequence between Emile (Hirsch) and I which was pretty interesting. I had to drive Emile off a 15-foot embankment during a fight sequence. It was pretty muddy that day, so we had to work at it a bunch. So that was pretty intense. But I think it came out great.

I was involved with all the action sequences 100 percent. Never once was there a stunt man doing any of that; it was all me. But we had a great stunt team, and safety was obviously first on the set. I loved it, and every day we would show up and fight over who would get to shoot what gun.

Q: Speaking of Emile, he plays Clyde in the film. What was your working relationship with him on the set?

LG: One of the things the book talked about and stressed so much was that these guys got into these situations because family meant everything to them. Before even being brothers, these guys were best friends.

It’s funny, I just got off the phone with Emile; we actually developed a great friendship. It was almost like a younger brother-older brother thing that was going on on the set. Since we shot for three months in Louisiana, we were in a lot of small towns. So there wasn’t a lot to do. So Emile and I hung out pretty much every day. Due to that, I think there’s this natural bond between us. I hope that it plays pretty well. But there’s this natural friendship that makes it feel like we’re brothers. We were pretty connected on set.

We would do everything together, morning, noon and night. We’d hang out and work out and eat together. Getting to know somebody like that really established our relationship, and it seemed like we had known each other for years. There was a natural trust between us. I loved working with Emile; I think he’s a talented actor, and makes a lot of good choices. Anytime you’re working with better actors like him or Holly Hunter or William Hurt, and they’re making strong choices, it helps you make strong choices. So I really have a lot of respect for Emile. I made a new friend for life.

Q: Like you mentioned, ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ also features a great supporting cast, including William Hurt and Holly Hunter. What was it like working with them on the set as well? Were you able to have any rehearsal time with them before you began shooting?

LG: I think a project always starts with the director and their vision, and they set the tone. Since Beresford is such a loving man, he created an environment that was such an easy working space. That drew our whole cast together, and I learned a lot.

I went to lunch with William Hurt a bunch, and I would pick his brain. There was a day we spent together where we walked on set together before we would even shoot. We would also sit down and build the environment. That’s something I’ve never done before, but it was something that William recommended that we do. You learn from seasoned vets like that.

Holly Hunter’s a very loving person who’s got a lot to say, and has a lot of ideas. So for me to be around two really established, fine actors, I listened to a lot of their advice. I saw a lot of the things they were doing. You pick up on the osmosis of it. It was a really tight cast, and was one of those projects that really felt special.

Q: Buck convinces his wife, Blanche, who’s played by Sarah Hyland, to join the crime spree with them. How did you build your working relationship with Sarah before you began shooting?

LG: It’s interesting because Sarah looks so young; she plays a teenager on ‘Modern Family.’ The real Blanche Barrow married Buck when he was 30 and she was 18. So I think that’s part of the reason they cast her.

I connected with Sarah the same way I connected with Emile; we hung out, and got to know each other. She joked and called me the social chairman of the set. But it was one of those things where I wanted to make sure we were always doing something together, because that’s how you get to know someone.

She’s a really talented actress. It’s interesting that most people know her for her comedy, because she’s a great dramatic actress.

Q: Gene Hackman played Buck in the 1967 ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ film. Were you familiar with Gene’s portrayal before you began filming? How did you work to differentiate your performance from Gene’s, while still paying homage to the character?

LG: When you’re dealing with a legend like Gene Hackman, who’s one of the great actors of our time, those are pretty big shoes to fill. The thing with this film is it’s a lot darker than the ’67 version. I was familiar with it, and did watch it years ago.

That version’s a little campier than this ‘Bonnie & Clyde;’ this film explores what drove these people to do the things they did. Honestly, it’s a bit bloody and a lot darker. So there was a lot more creative freedom for me to go to darker places than Gene did. But Gene’s character had so much life force, which I tried to emulate a little bit, so Buck could have that upbeat energy. But at the end of the day, they’re two different scripts

Q: Besides playing Buck in ‘Bonnie & Clyde,’ you’ll also be seen as Randy, a prison guard who finds himself wrapped in a love triangle in the highly-anticipated, big-screen drama ‘Camp X-Ray.’ What was it about the role of Randy, and the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?

LG: It’s interesting because Guantanamo Bay’s been in the news a lot lately. Obviously, there’s been a lot of debate over what we should do with the prisoners, and if we should even close the facility down.

Given my background, as unfortunately I’ve had to do time behind bars, and have been a prisoner before, that role intrigued me. For the first time, I was away from my background and role on ‘Prison Break’ and playing a convict; basically I was playing a prison guard who was running Guantanamo Bay. So for me, it intrigued me to step in the shoes of the guy who gets to walk outside of the fence. I got to explore what motivates him every day.

Peter Sattler’s script was fantastic. Also, working with Kristen Stewart was a big plus, because I think she’s another talented young actress, and her fan base is insane. But this was a chance for me to put on the other shoes, and be able to walk outside the prison; I was able to be the guy running the prison, and not play the prisoner. I’m really excited about this film, and it’s going to be really powerful, and I was blessed to play that character.

Q: Speaking of Kristen Stewart, Randy becomes romantically involved with her character, Cole, in the film. What was your experience of working with Kristen in the film?

LG: It’s interesting; she’ll probably kill me for saying this, but she’s a bit of a tomboy. I’m a sports fanatic, so every day on set we basically built this driving range. She’s a phenomenal golfer, and I’m a die-hard golfer. So we’d hit gold balls every day before set. She’d also be out there throwing the baseball or football with us.

She was like a guy’s guy, so we had this easy working relationship, even though our characters are at odds in the film. But that made it easy on set to go to those darker places. When we’d go to those places, at the end of the day when we’d yell cut, she’d know who I was. I think Kristen’s very excited about this film, as well. For her, it’s such a phenomenal role.

Q: Like you mentioned, you’re known for appearing on television, such as with your role of David “Tweene” Apolskis on ‘Prison Break.’ Do you have a preference of doing television over films, or vice versa, or do you enjoy acting overall?

LG: I enjoy acting overall; it doesn’t matter if I’m on stage or on TV or in a film. But the interesting thing about TV is the speed of it. Usually one episode of a drama series takes eight days to film. So the speed at which you’re going is pretty insane. With movies, you’ve got a lot more time.

But to me, there’s no difference. If it’s a great story, it’s a great story, no matter what the medium is. I think there’s a lot of great TV now, and it didn’t use to be like this. Now there are so many great shows and characters that are created.

For me, it’s interesting because I started in the business as a screenwriter. Watching the difference between writing a movie and watching the process of that being made, and being a writer in the television format is completely different. It’s almost like the writer’s the king on TV, and the writer means nothing in film. So in the writing standpoint, I like TV more, but in the acting standpoint, I love it all.

Q: Besides ‘Bonnie & Clyde and ‘Camp X-Ray,’ do you have any other projects lined up, whether in films or on TV, that you can discuss?

LG: Well, I just completed the pilot for ‘From Dusk Till Dawn,’ which Robert Rodriguez directed. I think that’s going to be out in March. I’ve always been writing movies again; I just completed another screenplay. so I’m hopefully going to get that up and going this coming year.

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