One of the earliest front runners in this year’s awards season, Wind River was selected for Un Certain Regard at the 70th Cannes Film Festival and had already begun a US campaign when it was dealt a devastating blow by the rape and sexual charges against its original producer, Harvey Weinstein.
The relevance between the film and the rape and sexual assault allegations against Weinstein is overwhelming, Taylor Sheridan scripting and directing a thriller that pointedly shines a light on the rape and exploitation of Native American women on reservations, and the subsequent glaring irony that it would be released by a company whose former chairman has since become Hollywood’s pariah of sexual misconduct.
But Sheridan moved swiftly to scrub Weinstein’s name from Wind River so that its awards campaign is now fully funded by the film’s principal financier, Acacia Entertainment, an entity backed by the Tunica-Biloxi tribes. A further deal is in the works that will earmark any future profits to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Centre, serving abused Native American women.
Breaking his silence for the first time, Renner told FilmInk, “Wind River is a very personal film to me, and it becomes a very timely thing now, almost bittersweet. The film was made to bring awareness to indigenous women and the treatment of them and how they’ve been pushed in all the darkest corners of the planet and how they’re sort of left alone to the criminal. And then the things that happened with Weinstein is ironic because it’s the opposite of what we were talking about,” says the 46-year-old actor, best known as Hawkeye in the Avengers movies although he has earned respect for roles in smaller movies such as The Hurt Locker, American Hustle and The Town.
“Fortunately, we were able to acquire the movie back, which we were very happy about, and the tribes were able to buy the movie back and now we’ve got our film, and it’s really been an honour how the film has been received so well. It’s probably the most important and special movie that I’ve ever done.”
Talking about working with the tribes on re-financing, he says they immediately grasped the post-Weinstein situation. “I think it was pretty obvious. They financed the movie because they thought it was a wonderful and realistic interpretation of the plight on the reservation in today’s modern world – not Indians and cowboys shooting each other with bows and arrows and that sort of stuff. It’s a very realistic story about life on the modern reservation and that’s why they wanted the movie put forward.
“But when it came to it – everybody else said, ‘I’m going to take my name off it’. ‘I’m out, can’t use my name’, so we knew we were going to have to walk away from it or capture the film back. Happily, we captured the film and perhaps we can be a bigger voice now because of it,” says the actor who is currently shooting the fourth Avengers movie, flying into Macao for 48 hours.
If Renner might not seem an obvious choice to promote an Asian film festival, IFFAMacao, now in its second year, Renner talked about how he first visited Beijing six years ago while promoting the first Avengers movie.
“Coming from the west where it’s so insular and isolated, and having the chance to be over in the east, especially in China, I figured there were a lot of amazing opportunities and things that I was very unaware of.
“Art and human emotion is what we all share in common, and so I focus not on any cultural differences, but on all the things we have in common. I saw a lot of cross sections that make sense, especially in film, and I’m always amazed when I visit here.”
The Weinstein scandal and current political climate in the US, he says, made him pause for reflection. “We almost had a female president and that’s worthy of talking about – breaking glass ceilings in that way. I think it’s important to speak up about equality and more importantly, to act on, that’s all I care about – to be actionable.
“I’ve done that in all my life. I grew up with all women and still currently in my life it’s just women,” he says, referring to his four-year-old daughter. “So, where I’m at might be different to most people’s lives but I’ve always supported women.”
Talking about how he probably wouldn’t have accepted a role in Arrival, if it wasn’t for his good friend Amy Adams, he says, “She’s a superhero in that film but because of her brain, compassion and heart and mind. She’s not a victim, she’s a powerful strong human and I wanted to support that. I want to support women in both my professional and private life. Women need to be in powerful positions.”
Wind River, he says, “remains an important movie and story to be told, and wouldn’t have been made if I wasn’t a superhero I guess.”