To talk to Mark Pellington, director of Truly Moving Picture Award winner Henry Poole Is Here, about movies is to talk to him about music and family and deep personal connections and the universal human condition. His long (and varied) resume includes a career-launching music video for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” and the 2002 Richard Gere thriller The Mothman Prophecies.
But after his wife’s unexpected passing in 2004, Pellington worked through his grief and came out the other side with a conscious decision to make the kind of art that ultimately makes this unpredictable journey each of us is on ever slightly more bearable.
“It knocked me out in a way I could never have imagined,” he recalled of that time over the phone recently. “Art and creating were a great outlet…a great place to put these feelings. It obviously affects you as an artist and a filmmaker, as to what it is you want to make and what you’re drawn to.”
His renewed perspective gave him the guts to partner with first-time screenwriter Albert Torres on an obscure, unknown story then simply called Stain, a move he admits was a giant leap of faith.
“When I committed to try and make [the movie]…you just hope and pray that financiers, actors, all the machinations of the movie business kind of work in your favor,” he said.
The leap was made easier by the undeniable connection Pellington had to the story and characters. Henry Poole is Here centers around a man just given a terminal diagnosis and his instinctive response to retreat from life as he knows it. His determination to seclude himself from the world is challenged when a well-meaning neighbor sees something divine in a water stain on the side of his house. As all the evidence around him points to hope and the good in the world, Poole finds it harder and harder to hold on to his cynical frame of mind.
“At the end of the day, I needed a place to put feelings and this script had humor and hand a character’s journey that I could relate to,” he shared. “I related to…Henry’s journey home to repair some cracks and fissures in his spirit…and I think we all are trying to heal in one way, shape or form.”
The way he tells it, all of Hollywood’s machinations did end up working in his favor, from signing Luke Wilson to the title role (“I could just feel it in my bones that he had the human connection to Henry”) to filling each moment with the perfect soundtrack (“Each song had it’s own story of how it ended up in the film”).
The final product is a decidedly different type of movie that lives in a realm far removed from any other summer popcorn blockbuster. It will make you laugh and think, and if he’s done his job well, it will make you look at life from a slightly shifted perspective.
On Episode 20 of the Heartland Truly Moving Podcast, the complete interview with Mark Pellington. Coming soon! Learn more about Henry Poole is Here, or watch the trailer now: