IN HIS OWN WORDS | Malcolm Venville Shares a Scene from “Henry’s Crime”
by Malcolm Venville
Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan head the cast in Malcolm Venville’s crime caper “Henry’s Crime.” Reeves plays the titular Henry, an aimless schmuck who decides to rob a bank after serving three years in prison for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. His plan, which involves infiltrating a local theater company, hits a snag when he falls for the troupe’s lead actress (Farmiga). Venville shared an exclusive scene from his latest with IndieWire and dished on how it all came together. “Henry’s Crime” opens in limited release this Friday, April 8.
My favorite scene is Julie (Farmiga) and Henry arriving at Henry and Max’s (James Caan) apartment the morning after their night of passion. They find Max waiting in his shorts. The scene establishes the tug of war between Julie and Max with Henry firmly in the middle.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The location was an apartment above a small Victorian bank in Tarrytown that was once occupied by a bank manager who hung himself in the crash of ’29. Despite this long forgotten tragedy, the location worked because it had small windows and good interconnecting rooms.
Thankfully, the apartment was unoccupied so the production designer Chris Jones provided all the texture needed for a threadbare half way house apartment for Henry and Max. The small windows were good, offering only a little light. I didn’t want an abundance of space or sun lit interiors because Henry’s world had to be bleak and impoverished. You see he was still the existential tollbooth operator who didn’t have a dream.
There are key transformations in this scene. First, Max is appalled to see that Henry has now fallen in love. Then he discovers that Julie thinks that Henry is a natural actor. Julie, as the scene unfolds, becomes aware that Max is lying to her.
What is exciting is that both Julie and Max are strong characters in subtle conflict. He’s a confidence man who specializes in beautiful lying and she is a cynical provincial actress. They have things in common and importantly they clearly both love Henry.
Vera Farmiga is in formidable form as she steps into the scene and rips it out of Max’s hands. He’s standing there crushed by her in his shorts holding a razor. What I like about Farmiga is that she seizes the scene with both hands aggressively, like a boxer who wants to finish a fight quickly. She steps in and emasculates him straightway. There is no dawdling or primping in her work, she’s a fast and dynamic actor.
At breakfast, Julie celebrates her sexual conquest in full view of Max and this sends him into a subdued and carefully shaded fit of pique. After her appetite is sated, she investigates the robbers’ motives and this is Max’s cue for a rather fine con.
Throughout their dialogue, there is her growing awareness that everything Max is saying is bullshit, but by now, she’s enmeshed in Henry’s world. Despite her outward confidence and control, she’s become an accessory in Henry and Max’s plan.
Jimmy Caan’s comic timing was inspiring to watch. He is an unhurried actor with a vast experience.
Henry is the silent player in this scene and he’s carefully positioned, sitting between them to illustrate this. I’d considered Henry as the activator, he’s activated Max by getting him out of jail and activated Julie into loving him and he achieves this with typical Reevesian understatement. In the final moment of the scene, Julie turns to Henry accusingly and his response is pure Kasper Hauser.