From filmmaker Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), the indie drama Leave No Trace follows a teenage girl named Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) and her veteran father Will (Ben Foster), who have lived undetected for years in the vast woods of Portland, Oregon. When Tom is spotted, it leads to their removal from Forest Park and forces them to try to adapt to new surroundings in the wilderness, which puts them on opposing sides in their desire to be a part of a community.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Ben Foster (who gives a truly terrific and memorable performance in the film) talked about what drew him to Leave No Trace, what he learned to better understand this character, wanting to unplug and appreciate a simple existence, finding your own balance in life, the experience he had working with Thomasin McKenzie, and the uncertainty of being a parent. He also talked about making Galveston (about a dying hitman who returns to his hometown to carry out his revenge) with Elle Fanning, and his desire to get behind the camera, as a storyteller.
BEN FOSTER: Thank you. I’m so glad to hear that.
How did you come to be a part of this film? Was it just a script that you got and read, or did the director reach out to you about it?
FOSTER: The script was circulating town. A much more famous actor than I had already been attached to the job, and then had to pull out. My rep said, “You should read this quickly,” and I did. It’s rare for me to have such an emotional response. It had come on the heels of just finding out that my wife was pregnant, and with a girl, so it felt beautifully timed. I pursued it rigorously and stated my case for why I wanted to do it so very much.
What was it about this story, in particular, that most struck you and made you want to tell it?
FOSTER: When we found out that we were going to have a child of our own, there was the first blush of excitement, and then the scary questions started to bubble to the surface. This film is as much about saying goodbye to your child or to a parent, and how do you do that lovingly? As all these ideas and thoughts and questions started showing up at home, I was thinking back to my parents and how I didn’t thank them enough. I didn’t appreciate what they had done and what they had sacrificed, and I didn’t recognize how difficult it might have been or how frightening it might have been, to be raising someone in this world. So, getting the opportunity to jump forward, in my own imagination and in my own mind, of loving someone so much. How do you let someone go, if that’s the best thing for them? At the same time, we were anticipating the entrance of and the arrival of our daughter. It was a beautiful find.