Riley Keough is a bit tired. She just got back to Los Angeles from a trip to South Dakota, where she says she was doing some casting for a project that she is writing and may possibly direct as well. She doesn’t say much else in terms of details, but as far as directing goes, she would probably have a good sense of the job since she’s had the chance to watch some of the best and most iconoclastic in the business up close.
In just a few short years, she’s worked with veterans like Steven Soderbergh, George Miller and Lars von Trier, in addition to rising talents like Jeremy Saulnier and Trey Edward Shults. What do all those filmmakers have in common? There’s a vision,” says Keough. “They’re very good at communicating. Communication is really, really, key for me with working with directors, the ability to express what they’re looking for and in a way that I understand, you know, if I’m not doing it right.”
It’s her working relationship with Soderbergh that we’re mainly here to talk about today: Keough appeared in his 2012 film Magic Mike, landed the lead in the cable series The Girlfriend Experience (which Soderbergh executive produced, based on his film) and has now reteamed with the director on Logan Lucky, about a down-on-their-luck pair of brothers (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) who plan and execute — with the help of their hairdresser sister (Keough) and a ragtag bunch of low-rent crooks — a daring heist at a NASCAR track.
The film is being billed as Soderbergh’s return after his much-publicized “retirement” from feature filmmaking in 2013. But between Magic Mike, The Girlfriend Experience and now this, Keough says that she’s never stopped collaborating with the alleged retiree (“I’ve just been working with him the whole time,” she says with a laugh). And she says that the way he asked her to join him on his first post-retirement project was drama-free: “He just sent me an email and said, ‘Want to do this movie I’m doing?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ He goes, ‘Okay I’ll send you the script.’”
The screenplay was written by the mysterious Rebecca Blunt, whom no one has ever heard of before and who, it’s been suggested, is actually Soderbergh himself, his wife Jules Asner, or the both of them (“I might have met her, maybe,” is all Keough says when asked if she’s any contact herself with the elusive Ms. Blunt). Whoever wrote it, Logan Lucky appealed instantly to Keough and she agrees with the assessment that it’s a “hillbilly Ocean’s Eleven” or “Ocean’s 7-Eleven,” as some have called it.
“Totally,” she says. “You watch Ocean’s, you get why they pulled that off. Because they’re all slick as fuck and know their shit. This is like the version that you wish in your real life would happen. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I do remember how to do this random thing that happens to be just e what my brother needs to do for his heist.’ You know what I mean. It’s achievable. That’s why it’s so exciting.”
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The Ocean’s Eleven trilogy were three of Soderbergh’s most successful films, partially because of the effortlessly cool chemistry of the cast and laid-back tone of the movies — two components he has recreated for Logan Lucky’s far more ramshackle gang of not-very-bright thieves. Keough said that Soderbergh more or less runs his set the same way: “The two films I’ve done with him are both just funny. You show up for work at Magic Mike and there’s a bunch of guys in thongs with spray tans, it just puts everyone in a good mood. This kind of had the same similar vibe where it was just fun. The characters were so different and funny, and that was the tone for this film as well.”
In terms of the characters, Keough noted that Soderbergh “kind of lets you go wherever want to go,” which was helpful to her in figuring out who Mellie — the kid sister who turns out to be perhaps smarter than her brothers, not to mention one hell of a driver — was. “He doesn’t really get involved with your acting process,” she said. “If you ask him a question, he’ll answer, but I think he really likes to let actors do their thing. He gives you a lot of responsibility, which is really nice and a little bit scary sometimes.
“I couldn’t figure out who (Mellie) was exactly, which was exciting,” continues the actress. “I couldn’t tell if she was meant to be really girly, or like this tough race car driver. I liked that I didn’t know exactly. She wasn’t overly written to be like this one thing.”
Logan Lucky leaves a lot of room for a sequel, which Keough says she’d “definitely” want to be a part of. And speaking of sequels, the actress says she would also return for a sequel to George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, in which she played Capable, one of the wives/concubines of the villainous Immortan Joe. “I don’t know what they’re doing with sequels and all that stuff,” she admits. “But I would work with George on anything. Forever.”
Meanwhile, now that Logan Lucky is out this week, we can also look forward to seeing Keough in at least three other projects within the next year: Under the Silver Lake, a noir crime outing written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (It Follows); Hold the Dark, a psychological thriller from Blue Moon and Green Room director Saulnier, and The House the Jack Built, a dark exploration of the mind of a serial killer from the notorious Lars von Trier.
In Hold the Dark (based on the novel), Keough plays a woman whose child has been taken and possibly killed by a wolf in a remote region of Alaska. About Saulnier, Keough said, “He’s incredible because at first, I was like, ‘He’s got a cinematographer’s mind. It’s going to be very visual and all that stuff.’ But he’s surprisingly so good as an actor’s director. That was a great experience.” As for bad boy Von Trier, Keough described the film as “grim,” but added, “It makes you think a lot, which I think he likes to do. He’s one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met in my life, which is not what you’d expect.”
Logan Lucky is out in theaters tomorrow (Friday, August 18).