This Is Martin Bonner
There’s great beauty in quiet moments, especially when it comes to two characters connecting on film. Fellini took advantage of silence, as did Godard and Truffaut. Wordless emotions embedded in someone’s face, their eyes, their movements.
In the case of indie film This Is Martin Bonner, directed and written by Chad Hartigan, and premiering in the Next category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 17-27, the friendship between a 58-year-old prison rehabilitation mentor, Martin Bonner (Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn), who moves to Reno, and an ex-con, Travis Holloway (David Arquette’s brother Richmond Arquette), is filled with emotionally weighted quiet moments. Check out this exclusive trailer for the movie, below, that shows Eenhoorn and Arquette’s characters meeting and connecting, both trying to restart their lives.
EW emailed with both Arquette and Eenhoorn about their roles.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Please describe your character, Martin Bonner, going through a shift in his life professionally, personally.
PAUL EENHOORN: For Martin going through this new development in his life and his story was a continuation of circumstance, for any of us and especially a less gregarious character like Martin, this is fraught with sentiment, missing family and doubting past decisions, even his whole life. Being safely ensconced in a sheltered occupation is appealing to some, Martin being one of them. Being unemployed isn’t healthy for the strongest of us and I think after three years any job is a gift. There is a sense of new beginnings in his work, his move, and his life. I have moved across the Pacific to a new country and I have to say I know how it feels. Moving across a country is something I have done as well. … You leave behind a whole past and you wonder if it ever existed.
What drew you to the role?
What drew me to the role was the demographic first, the fact that it was a lead which I needed to continue my resume, and that it was an ensemble piece about people. I like scripts that deal with human problems and resolutions. It was a well written script for actors who could handle it.
What was it like working with Richmond, playing a mentor figure to his character, a newly released prisoner?
Playing opposite Richmond was a joy, he was always open and reading your face and so centered. He had a handle on the character and the motivations behind Travis’s needs. Richmond made it easy to play the mentor figure through his work as Travis. Martin, I think, was at the stage where nothing else would surprise him, so such an unlikely friendship was natural, considering that they were both thrown together by their past decisions.
What is the importance of quieter movies such as This Is Martin Bonner getting seen at a venue such as Sundance?
I think Sundance is about quieter films, a venue for the meaningful films that form the base of the medium of filmmaking. They are not as much about entertainment as they are about the fabric of life, of relationships, the effect we have on each other, and the chance to reflect on those relationships. Without Sundance, works like This Is Martin Bonner could be lost in the big budget chatter, and the various talents it takes to bring such a film to fruition would be lost with it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Richmond, please describe your character, Travis Holloway.
RICHMOND ARQUETTE: Travis is a man hoping to rebuild his life after the tragic consequences of early misbehavior. He is intelligent, but confused, and feels lost. He desperately wants to “make life work” but really doesn’t know where to start. I think he’s intensely lonely. I think he’s naturally intuitive, but has never had that identified to him by another person so he doesn’t know if he can trust the signals from other people that he picks up. He’s good at heart, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s a highly sensitive person, something he tries his best to hide.
What was it like working with Paul? From the trailer, you guys have this quiet sort of connection between your characters. Was it like that in real life as well?
I think the onscreen relationship between Martin and Travis was informed by the small crew and the relationship we all formed while making this film. I do feel like my relationship with Paul in some ways mirrored the relationship between Martin and Travis in that we didn’t know one another initially but were put in a position of circumstance in which we needed one another to succeed. On set we teased and joke around, something that wasn’t present in the relationship between our characters. I like Paul, as I imagine that Travis liked Martin.
How did you prep to play someone just out of prison, adjusting to life after 12 years behind bars?
Well, I’ve never been to prison, and certainly not for 12 years, so I didn’t presume that I could take that on in a way that was realistic, and besides, the script really covers that, the audience will see him as that by virtue of the story. I have quite a few friends whom I’ve known before and after they served prison terms and I noticed that they all came out with this speech pattern wherein they sort of clipped the end of certain words, so I tried to put a bit of that in there. Mostly, though, when I did the work on Travis, by reading the script over and over and sitting with it, I felt that he was a very vulnerable and highly sensitive person. I imagined how that would be especially difficult in prison, and I imagined how he best would have covered that. I imagined a lot. I tried to identify things within myself that matched Travis emotionally.
How often do you get to work with your Arquette siblings Rosanna, Patricia, Alexis, and David?
We’ve gotten to play together a lot. I’ve acted with each of them, it always feels good and I always learn from them, about acting, about them, about myself. As kids, Rosanna, Patricia and myself worked in a children’s troupe that our father co-directed, and I took his class at Second City. He had a great sense of play and was very creative and inventive. He was a funny, funny man and some of my proudest moments as a child were when I could exact from him a genuine belly laugh. David has directed me several times, he’s a very good director, very open and inclusive, and as he’s an actor he understands actors. Patricia and I have coached one another. She’s really great at honing in on the heart of the character.
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This Is Martin Bonner