Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Evan Katz & Macon Blair… by Uinterview

Small Crimes, a crime-thriller film directed by Evan Katz, stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Joe Denton, a former cop who just got off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder.  He returns home, seeking redemption, but ends up trapped in the mess he left behind.

“[Denton] tried to kill the local DA,” Game Of Thrones star Coster-Waldau told uInterview in an exclusive video interview. “He claims it was a complete accident. And so he’s let out of prison, he doesn’t have a place to stay, so he moves back in with his parents. But his hope is that he’s going to reenter society, and reconnect with his two daughters.”

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau On ‘Small Crimes’

For director Katz, there were many aspects of the story that drew him in.

“I love noir, pulp, just in general,” Katz said. “This book had all of the fun ingredients that I’m pretty attracted to: a bunch of psychotic criminals, people are very self-involved.”

“It’s just interesting to see how long they will follow a guy, even if he’s doing things that are pretty awful. And this seemed like it had a lot of room to play that game,” the director continued.

The screenplay was written by Macon Blair, who has been a longtime fan of Katz’s.

“I would’ve been happy to work on anything that he was working on, but he kind of pitched me his version of the book,” Blair said. “he was into highlighting a very darkly comedic aspect of it… it was fun to take this kind of conventional crime story and blow it up with this weird family dynamic.”

Though the film is titled “Small Crimes,” it certainly isn’t constrained to misdemeanors.

“It does kind of start with a lower scale, and then kind of build,” Katz said. “I think at page eight, he was already getting drunk. So you play up that, maybe it’s going to be a quiet little drama about him and his father, in the kitchen.  These little things, fighting over a truck. But you kind of want it to be a movie that people will watch, so things need to go wrong on a bigger scale.”

Coster-Waldou believes that although Joe commits crimes, he has a way of absolving himself of the guilt — to himself, at least.

“Yeah, I’m going to do the right thing. I’m almost going to do the right thing. I’m not going to do the right thing. But I like the idea of doing the right thing. And the idea is enough. The fact that I thought I was going to do the right thing shows that I’m a good guy,” Coster-Waldou said, explaining his character’s thought process.

Shooting the film was not without its challenges, like the day the crew shoot the complicated final scene. “You’ve basically got half a day, it’s raining like crazy, everybody’s standing in the mud, you can’t have a wide shot,” the director said. “You just shoot everybody in singles, with a giant umbrella over their heads… He’s gotta be fighting a giant Russian explosion and fire, he’s standing in the rain, there’s all these lightning possibilities. Giant rats, there’s a hornet’s nest that could be disturbed.”

Coster-Waldou agreed that the hornet-nest-scene was the most difficult to shoot. “There’s a moment when the stunt coordinator comes to me just before this explosion’s going off, and he’s not telling the rest of the crew. He goes, ‘Nick, just so you know, there’s a hornet’s nest. If I look at you and go, run, then just run as fast as you can.'”

Interestingly, the most difficult member of the cast to work with was not a person, but a feline.

“We had a cat who didn’t really behave. We had an actor cat, who was the most high maintenance actor on set,” the director divulged. “It’s supposed to hiss on command, but it won’t sit still.”

Small Crimes is to be released on Netflix on April 28.


Q: Nikolaj, what is your character's story? -

Well Joe, Joe Denton, he's been locked up for six years. He tried to kill the local DA. He claims it was a complete accident. And so he's let out of prison, he doesn't have a place to stay, so he moves back in with his parents. But his hope is that he's going to reenter society, and reconnect with his two daughters. That's the plan.

Q: Evan, what drew you to this story? -

I love noir, pulp, just in general. All of its trappings. And I do love "man out of prison" movies. Like "Cisco Pipe," "Straight Time." I do like how indulgent they got. After a while, it just, maybe I'm throwing Sean Penn movies under the bus. But I just always imagine a genre of Sean Penn leaving prison, and he just has sex with a bunch of people. And his crimes are sort of vague, but he's forgiven instantly, but it's still pretty dramatic. Maybe that doesn't exist, and maybe that's just in my head. This book had all of the fun ingredients that I'm pretty attracted to: a bunch of psychotic criminals, people are very self-involved. There's a lot there. But I also felt like there was room to push things in a way that was an experiment of audience identification, because that's something that I always have a good time with. Where you choose what you're putting in front of the audience, and they have to go along with it. It's just interesting to see how long they will follow a guy, even if he's doing things that are pretty awful. And this seemed like it had a lot of room to play that game.

Q: Macon, how did you and Evan collaborate on the screenwriting? -

I was a fan of Evan's and he approached me with the project already underway. And I would've been happy to work on anything that he was working on, but he kind of pitched me his version of the book, which was a pretty grim book, and he was into highlighting a very darkly comedic aspect of it, or bringing that stuff to the forefront. So it was fun to take this kind of conventional crime story and blow it up with this weird family dynamic. We were living in different cities at the time, so we just kind of collaborated over email, and on the phone, and would just trade drafts back and forth. It kind of came together like that, it was like this remote project. It was a fun, I was very flattered to get invited to work on this with him.

Q: Why choose the name "Small Crimes" for this big story? -

It does kind of start with a lower scale, and then kind of build. We weren't like, 'Ok, Jaywalking first, then he's going to do." But the script is kind of relatable that a guy who's been in jail for six years might cave, and drink. But it is very quick in the film that he does it. A lot of movies about a guy struggling with their demons. Feels like that's more like a midpoint kind of thing. I think at page eight, he was already getting drunk. So you play up that, maybe it's going to be a quiet little drama about him and his father, in the kitchen. These little things, fighting over a truck. But you kind of want it to be a movie that people will watch, so things need to go wrong on a bigger scale.

Q: Nikolaj, how does your character Joe justify his crimes? -

There are moments early on, when he could, not do it. He could not take the money, that could be a choice. He could just get out. But of course, in his world, there was no way. I mean, how could I not take the money? That would just be inhumane. That would be illogical, that would be crazy. I have to take the money, I earned the money by the way. I spent six years in there. I earned that money. And of course, he has to deal with these little things. And no, I've never tried to kill anyone. And those things about where you go, "no, I don't want to do that." And then you tell yourself, "it's fine, it's just another, just do that just one more month of this, and I'll be fine." And you end up digging yourself deeper. He actually thinks there's an easy fix. But there is no easy fix. The fix for him, fundamentally, would be that he woke up, and realized that I have to reboot myself. And that would take too much work for Joe. I liked him, I liked playing him, he's kind of a nice guy. At the end, you think he's a nice guy. There's a scene, it's like my favorite, mostly because of this little line. It's at the very end of the movie. It's a spoiler, well it's not a spoiler. He has these two daughters. He's not allowed to go there, but he insists that he's going to go there. And finally, he's going to go there, and he says, I'm going to give them the money -- most of it. Which kind of, is just the key to this guy. Yeah, I'm going to do the right thing. I'm almost going to do the right thing. I'm not going to do the right thing. But I like the idea of doing the right thing. And the idea is enough. The fact that I thought I was going to do the right thing shows that I'm a good guy.

Q: Evan, what was the most difficult scene to shoot? -

It was this action scene at the end, because we had no time to shoot it. And I remember always talking, to do this thing, we should have three days and a splinter unit. And all this stuff. Because you always look at these things, is it going to have all this scale, wide shots of people blowing each other away. And then it comes time to do it. You've basically got half a day, it's raining like crazy, everybody's standing in the mud, you can't have a wide shot. You just shoot everybody in singles, with a giant umbrella over their heads. Just make it work in a like a couple of hours. So you go to this junkyard, and you know that there's so much business that you gotta do. He's gotta be fighting a giant Russian explosion and fire, he's standing in the rain, there's all these lightning possibilities. Giant rats, there's a hornet's nest that could be disturbed.

Nikolaj: There's a moment when the stunt coordinator comes to me just before this explosion's going off, and he's not telling the rest of the crew. He goes, 'Nick, just so you know, there's a hornet's nest. If I look at you and go, run, then just run as fast as you can. Cuz they're nasty. But I don't want to scare people. So just pay attention to what I say, ok?'

Evan: Yeah we didn't know it was going to happen, but his belief was that there was enough explosives to incinerate all of the hornets to keep them from hurting anybody. And then it blew up. He destroyed all of the hornets, it's awful. So that's why we don't have the disclaimer at the end of the movie, that no animals were hurt. So that was horrible, there was no time to do it. But I think it fits the nature of the events that transpired.

Macon: I think any of the confessional stuff with Nick and Molly, where he has to kind of articulate this believable case and she has to articulate this, putting her faith in him. And also not tipping our hand that there is something wrong with her as well. Because based on everything we know about Joe by that point, there's no person in their right mind who's going to be on his side by that point of the story. The conversation stuff, that was tricky to write. For me, I got to go up and got to do the action scene, and some fun stuff in the bars, so I was there for a brief period of time. So there was nothing, I would never complain about anything I did up there that was fun.

Q: Who was the most difficult actor to work with on set? -

Evan: We had a cat who didn't really behave. We had an actor cat, who was the most high maintenance actor on set. It's supposed to hiss on command, but it won't sit still.

Nikolaj: This woman comes in with a cat, the cat handler, and I'm supposed to be asleep, and there's a cat. So they put the cat down, and I don't know what's going on, and suddenly the cat goes [hisses], and there's another cat right next to the camera, so she has this little other cat, that the other cat just hates and wants to kill. This poor cat is just here in a box, and coming out like, what's going on. It was weird.

Q: -