Boyd Holbrook has been on the precipice of Hollywood stardom for several years, but there's something about the 33-year-old actor's low-key, thoughtful demeanor that makes us think he'd rather be off writing music somewhere than posing on the red carpet. The Kentucky native has been a fixture in Sundance-approved independents since first getting noticed as a model on the catwalks of Milan and Paris, and in 2013, was poised to reach global heartthrob status as one of the romantic leads of the sci-fi romance, The Host. When that movie underperformed at the box office, Holbrook showed off his chops with strong character work in dark movies like Out of the Furnace and this year's Gone Girl. The multi-talented artist—he sculpts, plays banjo and guitar, and recently directed his first film—is currently starring in Little Accidents, a vivid, heartbreaking drama about the aftermath of a tragedy in a West Virginia mining town. We caught up with Holbrook—who reportedly just ended his engagement to Elizabeth Olsen—to discuss his reasons for making art, the heaviness of his new role, and some exciting upcoming projects.
Before playing Amos in Little Accidents, you played Jeff in Gone Girl. What was working with David Fincher like?
David is a master. It’s really interesting working with David. He keeps constantly working and working and working and sculpting in the performance that he kind of pulls out of you and blends you into. He’s just got such a specific language about him and how he goes and gets you into an environment where it can happen. He’s fantastic.
Looking at all you’ve done artistically—acting, writing, studying film, producing, directing, sculpting—you seem to be something of a contemporary renaissance man.
Why are you interested in so many artforms, and what, if anything, links all your creative pursuits?
Man, I’m just a very curious person—simply that. I have a lot of appreciation for any sort of medium. I don’t discriminate; I appreciate. It’s very easy to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of nothing, so it’s really about the time that you can put into something, and going back to how curious you are about something and how much you want to say about a specific subject, just the idea of a specific commentary or posed question to make someone else think. There are so many different ways through art to communicate. I think that’s just simply art’s job: to communicate. But I don’t know about a renaissance man—that’s a very strong word—but I’m always very engaged in what I do.
Getting to Little Accidents, you play a coalminer named Amos. You yourself are from a coal-mining town in Kentucky, and your father was a coalminer. Do you think that your biographical closeness to Amos helped you play him, or did it pose any difficulties?
You know, I’m not a coalminer. I had a certain levity towards that community and that region because I’ve grown up with people who live there. So I have a certain depth of empathy towards the issues there and what’s going on. So I think, in that sense, yeah, it definitely helped me lend myself to understanding that and engaging in that more. It’s definitely a region that doesn’t particularly have a voice; it’s just kind of sucked out for its resources, and given its geographical location, I think it’s just kind of a forgotten place. And, you know, living in a metropolis, or wherever you are outside of that, I do it too—I’ve lived in New York for a long time—problems become relative, after a while, and I think stepping outside yourself and looking at that, and seeing an importance to an individual who’s gone through a tremendous catastrophe in his life—for me that’s engaging, that’s creative, that’s progressive in my own sort of individuality.
This is my beefiest question, and it might be a bit of a stretch, so bear with me, but in Judeo-Christian history, Amos was one of the Twelve Minor—as in major and minor—Prophets. He came from the southern Kingdom of Judah, and he spoke up against the increasing disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor. Now this may be merely a coincidence, but the Amos that you play has the opportunity to do something remarkably similar: he can choose to speak up on behalf of the poor against the rich. Would you consider the Amos that you play not a minor prophet but a miner prophet, or is that too much of a stretch?
I think, going back to what we were talking about earlier, about mediums of art, like literature provoking questions—like, that’s provoked that particular question in you, which is a fantastic question, and a fantastic thought, and it’s more relative to you because you’ve read literature about this and you’re making these associations. And I don’t want to speak on Sara [Colangelo’s] behalf, but to me that’s really exciting, because now there’s the conversation, now there’s a proper conversation. It’s of value. You’re engaging in value.
You've got a movie coming out that was directed by Terrence Malick. Are you able to say anything about that?
No, not yet. I haven’t spoken to Terry yet. He has another film coming out called Knight of Cups. He did both films back to back—which at the time was called Knight of Cups and The Untitled Austin Project—so I’m in that, the latter. So I think he’s pretty engaged and probably doing Knight of Cups right now. But yeah, it’s fantastic to work for Terry. Terry’s an icon.
And you also have another project ongoing right now. You’re directing a film called “The Peacock Killer,” which is based off a Sam Shepard short story.
We shot it in March, and we’ve just kind of wrapped up stuff. It’s taken from his first book, never published [it actually has been published], which was called Hawk Moon. And I was just fascinated. I worked with Sam on a pilot, and then I worked with Sam again on a film called Out of the Furnace. A lot of people are obsessed with his writing. The short story is like 170-some words, and it’s a full on story about a man and his dog who are terrorized by these peacocks that come into his world. It’s a really sort of dark comedy, but it’s a brilliant story. So we’re just wrapping that up, the short film. I’m really proud of it. We’re looking to submit to festivals and stuff like that. It was a really exciting process.