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'Land Ho!' interview with Earl Lynn Nelson & Paul Eenhoorn

Earl Lynn Nelson & Paul Eenhoorn
Photo by Larry Busacca

Ever since Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon starred in the "Grumpy Old Men" movies there has not been a great dynamic duo of over 60 on screen for a while. That may change with the just released movie "Land Ho!" starring Earl Lynn Nelson & Paul Eenhoorn. The two men have great chemistry on screen together and one can easily see the two starring in successful future movies together.

I was lucky enough to talk to the two men over the phone while they were in New York promoting the film earlier this summer. We shared a lot of laughs during the interview while we covered topics on how they both ended up working on the project, whether the scenes they did were improved or on script and Earl Lynn weighed in on the New Orleans Saints' chances this upcoming NFL season.

How did the two of you become a part of "Land Ho!?"

Earl Lynn Nelson: I got a phone call from Martha Stephens and asked me if I would go to Iceland for a month.

Paul Eenhoorn: Actually, I want Earl to go to Iceland every bloody day, but he doesn't want to go (everyone laughs). Martha and Aaron saw my work in another film and thought Earl and I would make a good couple for a bromance! We shot a few pages, probably about 10-15 pages in Kentucky in May and we were in Iceland in October.

The movie looked like a lot of fun to make, often, it did not look like two older gentlemen on screen, but a couple of kids playing around? (Both men laugh).

PE: Someone asked me today what it was like to shoot a comedy and I said, "It wasn't funny." I didn't think it was funny at all. It was remote work, remote sets, remote locations and the weather was a lot to contend and deal with at all times, and it ended up being funny. Obviously the directors had a good handle on it. I don't know what Earl thinks of that.

ELN: We saw it for the first time in Sundance. I was amazed because I thought it was going to be funny, but I didn't realize it was going to be as good as it was after it was put all together. I laughed my ass off and also cried. It was just amazing on how well it went together because we didn't shoot it 1,2, 3, 4, 5 you know. We shot some of the stuff at the end and then the middle and the first of the scenes were shot last. It was kind of a weird thing because we didn't know it was going to flow into continuity. I was just amazed on how well they put it together.

The movie was dialogue heavy, but that dialogue sounded "real", was everything scripted or was there improvisation done on the set?

ELN: Yes, we've been asked that several times.

PE: We had a script, but we weren't directed to stay on it. That was really good, it was a luxury. So it looked improved even though we stuck to the backbone of the script.

ELN: As long as we got the point across. There was humor in it. The directors controlled the point in what the idea of what each scene was, but they gave us the ability to use our own words or to change the words to words we that would use ourselves and it worked out. It was like we were friends for life!

PE: So 25% of it was probably improved, but again, it was improved off the script.

What is it like as actors to have two directors instead of just one?

PE: That's a luxury.

ELN: They were unbelievable. They worked together. You know everybody thinks when you have two directors they are going to try to overdo or outdo or shove the other person to the side, but that wasn't the case. Martha and Aaron worked together fabulously. I think that's the reason why the movie went along so smoothly.

What was your favorite scene to shoot in the movie?

ELN: I guess the geyser scene. You didn't see a lot of the geyser scene because of the problems we had of the geyser exploding. To me, that was a fun place to shoot. Also the scene at the river when Paul got splashed with the truck. Those were the really fun scenes.

PE: That's funny. My favorite scenes were the more different ones. The restaurant scene with Earl and I. The popcorn scene I really like that sort of work, getting up close and personal.

Mitch and Colin appeared to be polar opposites of each other, why do you think they mesh so well?

PE: Uh, good acting! (They both laugh)

ELN: Do you want the long explanation?

PE: Colin's character falls very much in the shadow of Mitch because Mitch is this guy and (thinks)... Colin's character falls in by working with Earl Lynn's personality and his character. I think that reads and I mention it because it had to be that way.

What kind of back story did you create for the two of these characters and their relationship prior to the film's start?

PE: I don't do back story. I do what's on the page to tell you the truth. It's not laziness, it's just that in some roles you don't need back story and I think this was one of them. If you talk about a person's age like Earl Lynn, he's already got his back story built into him and I think the same with Colin. The sensibilities of the script very much was the back story. I really didn't need one on this particular shoot.

Earl, from what I looked up, you haven't been acting too long, so what do you like most about it?

ELN: Well, I enjoy people and I enjoy making people laugh and making people have a good time. I enjoy it all. I'm a surgeon by trade. That's my day job. I do surgeries three days a week. So it's kind of a get out of jail free card for me to be able to get out and do acting and be lucky enough to be part of a movie that looks like it's going to be a pretty damn good hit according to what everyone is telling us.

Paul, I saw your short film, "Room 13." I liked it. A prostitution sting that never ends up going down and I was wondering what was the inspiration for the story and what it was like getting behind the camera and directing?

PE: The inspiration came while I was shooting a pilot. I was half asleep, actually I think I was asleep and I woke up with this idea about, "What if a Marine got caught up in a police sting raid. He wanted to meet this woman because she reminded him so much of his love." Yeah, I wrote and directed it and it was filmmaking 101. I made a lot of mistakes. We did get enough coverage. Andy Horvitch edited it and he delivered a good cut. It was too long. It ran at 22-minutes, but we cut it down to 17 for efficiency. He taught me a lot about how hard it is to put something like that together. It's not easy to actually finish a film and I am proud that I finished it. I am also proud of it for a first film. It's not bloody bad, you know. I can say "This is not a bad effort."

To me, "Land Ho!" is why it is so important to have independent films. After the passing of both Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, a movie where the two male leads are over 60 is practically non-existent, what do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing this movie?

PE: I think they'll feel good. I think they'll recognize some of the humanity in the film. They'll see people they can connect with. I really loved "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." I really loved that film because of the performances and I am hoping people walk away from this film with the same feelings.

ELN: I believe that people are going to relate to our film and not just the elderly people because people in the 20s, 30s and 40s can lose their job, can get divorced or lose a loved one to death by accident or whatever and they still got to go on with life. I don't like to pigeonhole, "This is an old folks movie." when I think realistic things is that this is for everybody. They realize that life can be short. You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow and you need to try to squeeze it for every little bit you got. Enjoy what life you have.

Yes, like I said earlier, during the movie when you guys are running around the beach or hillsides in slow motion, just messing around, I could see my 5 and 7-year old nephews doing the same thing. (Both men laugh)

PE: Except hopefully not in a 40 mile per hour sand storm.

ELN: That black beach scene you don't realize the wind was blow 40-50 miles an hour. We're getting sand in our ears, our nose, our eyes, our mouth. It looked like we were having a blast, but believe me we were freezing our ass off. We didn't have to worry about getting a facelift because we got sand blasted. We didn't get a chemical peel or something like that because we got one there on the beach.

PE: It was a miserable day because of that wind and that sand. I tell you what, it was
blowing man. It was blowing crazy!

The it was good acting because I did not pick up on that at all.

PE: Good, good (both men laugh).

One last question for Earl, I know it is only June, but how do the Saints look to you for this upcoming year?

ELN: Well I think we got a few pieces of guys who are going to help on defense. I think it's going to help out the team. I think we can win our division and hopefully get back to the Super Bowl again.

PE: Without getting defeated by the Seahawks. (both men laugh)

"Land Ho!" is currently showing in theaters in South Florida.