James Badge Dale & Annabelle Attanasio On How ‘Mickey And The Bear’ Portrays Veterans’ Families, PTSD
The new indie drama Mickey and the Bear addresses the struggles of military veterans from a different perspective: that of their children.
The movie centers on Mickey (Camila Morrone), a young woman from Montana who has a volatile relationship with her widowed father Hank (James Badge Dale), a veteran battling opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder — among other issues. Dale — who goes by the nickname “Badge” — and Annabelle Attanasio, the film’s writer and director, revealed to uInterview exclusively the inspiration behind Mickey and the Bear, the making of the film and how it tackles the subject of military veterans and their interpersonal family relationships.
Attanasio — who is known for her work on the television show Bull and the 2016 Netflix film Barry — revealed the story of Mickey and the Bear is largely inspired by her personal experiences. The writer-director recounted how she traveled to a small town in Montana five years ago after successfully applying for a grant that allowed her to spend time with veterans and their families. Attanasio explained she had to perform extensive research on how veterans’ children and spouses were affected by military members’ return home, as she was unaware of their perspective on veterans’ struggles.
“The research was really important to me because that particular thing was not something from my real life, so I wanted to spend as much time as I could crafting a story that felt honest to the community out there,” said Attanasio.
Dale — the star of series like 24 and films like The Departed — praised Attanasio’s script as “beautiful” before revealing that he also has experience dealing with veterans.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people in the military and I’ve done a lot of different jobs and I just felt like I had something personal to say based upon the personal experiences I’ve had with my friends and the people I’ve worked with over the last 11-12 years,” Badge added.
Attanasio also lauded Dale and Morrone, saying the pair of actors were “gifts to work with.” The writer-director also said she was amazed by Dale’s ability to show both strength and vulnerability in his portrayal of Hank.
“A lot of characters come in with such ego and are like, ‘I just wanna cry and yell,'” said Attanasio. “And Badge is able to have that darkness buried but then have levity and humor too.”
“There’s a flirtatiousness and a pride there,” she added of the actor’s performance.
Badge explained that the film shows how the relationship between Hank and Mickey varies so much that it is often difficult to determine who is the parent and who is the child, as “the lines get blurred” and the relationship occasionally turns more into a friendship.
“It can be complicated, but we know what the actual element really is,” said Badge. “What happens in those moments where it shifts back to what is the true father-daughter relationship that this man has unfortunately eroded and destroyed that over time.”
Attanasio added that when she began writing Mickey and the Bear five years ago, she worked hard to ensure that the subject of opioid addiction among former military members was addressed as poignantly as possible. The writer-director noted that for years, the government has been treating veterans very poorly and taking advantage of them by giving them drugs as a primary treatment solution.
“Something for me that was important in the discussion of a veteran’s family is how pill dependency affects the child,” she said. “I wanted to root it in that person on the other side of the wall.”
“It’s utterly wrong and capitalism at its finest and preying upon people who are really in need,” Attanasio added of the government dealing opioids to veterans.
Badge ultimately said he believes the film makes a strong statement about the importance of supporting veterans and being aware of how their struggles affect not only them, but their loved ones as well.
“It’s important to do veteran outreach and to talk about these things: mental illness, opioid addiction and drug and alcohol addiction,” said Badge. “Especially for the benefit of people have suffered from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries,” he added before mentioning CTE, the form of brain trauma that impacts many football players and boxers.
Badge reiterated how he has personal experience with these struggles given the discussions he has had with family and friends.
“I know what it’s like to be in a dark room,” the actor said. “And you gotta get out of it.”
Mickey and the Bear is out in theaters on Friday, Nov. 13.