Interview: Ray McKinnon of That Evening Sun

Actor/producer/director Ray McKinnon (The Blind Side) talked to Disc Dish about his drama That Evening Sun (Image Entertainment, DVD $27.97, Blu-ray $29.97, released on Sept. 7, 2010). Produced by and co-starring McKinnon, That Evening Sun is the feature film debut of writer/director Scott Teems.

The movie concerns hardened and self-absorbed aging Tennessee farmer Abner Meecham (played to perfection by 85-year-old Hal Holbrook, Water for Elephants), who returns to his homestead to deal with a whole bunch of problems that old men don’t deserve, including a family betrayal and the reappearance of an old enemy. McKinnon portrays Lonzo Choat, a not-so-nice neighbor who has moved his family onto Abner’s farm and is trying to take over the lease.

Disc Dish: How did That Evening Sun come your way?

Ray McKinnon: Scott Teems approached me about the project and I have to admit, I was a little reluctant at first. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do another low-budget indie film again. Even if you say you’re going to do one, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to raise the money to get it off the ground. But I liked what I read and was very interested, and I wanted to put the time in, realizing we had four long years ahead of us. Getting any movie off the ground and made takes time.

DD: You really must have fallen for the material.

RM: William Gay, who wrote the short story that the film is based on, created an amazing character in Abner Meecham. That’s why we fell in love with the story. Abner was not your lovable, stereotypical old man. He was bright, he didn’t suffer fools gladly and he had an ability to tell the truth and an inability to not tell the truth. I think Hal Holbrook has that kind of integrity as a human being.

DD: He was amazing as Meecham.

RM: It’s not the kind of role older actors want to take on. It took some courage and Hal’s an incredibly courageous person. We needed someone who had the endurance and who was willing risk himself artistically.

DD: I’m assuming you had a solid relationship with him during the production?

RM: Well, we shot 23 days over five weeks and we really weren’t all that friendly on the set. As a fellow actor and a producer, I just wanted Hal to be as good as could be in the role, and he felt the same way about me. It was still an ensemble piece.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.