William H. Macy is making his directing debut with the upcoming Rudderless, and he’s excited about it. So excited about it that he just deemed a scene “wicked cool.”
Rudderless tells the story of a father (Billy Crudup) who loses his son, Josh, to gun violence and deals with his loss by drinking heavily—that is, until he discovers some demos his son recorded and sets off on a mission to learn the songs his son left behind. One of those songs is “Over Your Shoulder”—which is cool enough with its gentle vocals and pretty fingerpicking, but Macy promises it’s even better in the movie. “It’s one of the most thrilling cuts,” Macy tells EW. “Halfway through the song it cuts to a different location without missing a beat. It’s so wicked cool.”
Crudup’s Sam catches a young musician’s (Anton Yelchin) attention when he plays one of his son’s songs for the first time in a bar. Yelchin’s character convinces Sam to start a band, and together, they perform Josh’s songs. “The songs turn out to be the engine of [Sam’s] redemption,” Macy says. “The film is not about music, but there’s a ton of music in it.” And because of that, Macy had to find the perfect music for the film.
He told music supervisor Liz Gallacher exactly what he wanted: “I said I want [the songs] to be catchy and friendly, I want you to be able to hum the hook after hearing it just one time,” Macy says. “And by the same token, I want them to be complicated, so all, or almost all, of them have a bridge, and a verse, and a ‘middle eight,’ as the Beatles used to call it.” She put these requests out into the “indie scene,” and came back with SolidState duo Simon Steadman and Charlton Pettus. The two songwriters ended up writing all but one song on the soundtrack.
“Over Your Shoulder” is the only song that isn’t theirs—Macy heard the track, by English songwriter Fink, and fell in love. Crudup and Yelchin sing lead vocals on the song, which also features musician Ben Kweller, who made his acting debut in Rudderless. “That’s I think my favorite song in the film,” Kweller tells EW. “It’s just such an emotional tune, it really says a lot.”
Kweller was one of the first on board when Rudderless writer Casey Twenter sent a letter through Kweller’s website five years ago asking if he was interested. Despite never acting before, Kweller read the script and was all for it. He was originally set to play Yelchin’s character, Quentin, but once Macy signed on, they decided Kweller would be better fit for the smaller role of Willie. “I was like, f–k yeah, Willie is perfect,” Kweller says. “By the time were rolling the camera, I was Willie. I’ve never really experienced a creative art form like that.”
Though the story premise is quite dark—a grieving father reconnecting with his dead, young son through music—Macy promises “you’ll have a good time.”
“You’ll walk out with sort of a melancholy smile on your face,” he says. “Sad things can be very entertaining.”
Rudderless arrives in theaters Oct. 17.