Ed Harris on Having a Good Time Filming Empire Falls

“It's about the progress of the human soul and it's rich that way. There’s a lot of subtlety in it, and I’m glad we're taking the time to explore these people.”

How has it been working with such an amazing ensemble cast?

Yeah-it's a wonderful cast. I've always wanted to work with Paul Newman. I had a couple opportunities in the past, and I didn't take advantage of it, so it was really fun to be working with him. And you go down the line, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, Aidan Quinn, Robin Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Dennis Farina, Kate Burton, Danielle Pannabaker who plays my daughter... Just a bunch of wonderful actors and what's so neat about it is that, I get a chance to interact with all of these people, playing the character that I do. And so, I get a chance to work with all of these different actors at different times.

And it's really exciting for me, because it's what I love to do, and I like to act with people that know what they're doing, and everybody's so accomplished and so giving and open. We're all having a good time. And Fred Schepisi who's directing is just a great guy, he's got great attitude, he's always focused, he's got great energy, he's funny, he's loose and really bright, really knows what he's doing. So it's been a really great shoot.

Richard Russo, the writer was around during rehearsal, more so than the shooting. It was neat having him there when we were going through the script. I think it was a really valuable time because I think it made the script that much better.

Empire Falls, the fictional town is very similar to the town you're shooting in.

Yeah, we're filming in Waterville, Maine, which I think is where Richard was actually living, when he was teaching at Colby College and he wrote the novel while doing his time there. And then, also Skowhegan, which is just thirty minutes north of Waterville.

They're both relatively small towns with mills that have closed down, you know, rather depressed although good, good people. And they're trying to do their best, but the towns aren't really at the top of their form. But they're wonderful locations, and everybody's been really helpful.

Why is it important to tell a story like this?

Well, it's a great novel, I mean I really enjoyed it, I had read it prior to any knowledge of this film being made and then reread it of course several times. It's just really rich and it's about human beings trying to do their best, it's about progress, you know, it's not about corporate, military-industrial road-building, building cheap houses, building strip malls...that kind of progress. It's about the progress of the human soul and it's rich that way. There's a lot of subtlety in it, and I'm glad we're taking the time to explore these people.

Because all the characters are so rich and so detailed in the book you don't wanna just caricature them, you don't want to just give them a little pop on the screen and not really get a chance that you feel you're getting to know them.

How was the rehearsal process?

It was really neat getting together in New York the first time and reading the script and going through it, you know, everybody had a little... tension or, not tension, more excitement really. And you hear it read but that doesn't compare to getting in and working on it.

I mean even the rehearsal process which was very valuable, once you get on the set, and you're with the camera and you're working with Fred, I mean that's where things start happening, you know?