Scott Haze is the Dallas-born actor and filmmaker, who got his first big break in James Franco’s 2013 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God. Since then, he’s gradually built an impressive body of work, appearing both on stage and in films as diverse as Midnight Special, Venom and Only the Brave.
The next twelve months looks set to be big for Haze, 27, with roles in Scott Cooper’s Antlers and Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion, but there’s another side to his creativity. First screened back in 2015, his directorial debut Mully tells the remarkable story of Charles Mully.
Founding MCF (Mully Children’s Family), the Kenyan-born humanitarian has rescued a staggering 18,000 children from the streets, an operation vividly captured by Haze in this drama-documentary, now being released for free across the world on February 14, 2021.
When you first heard about Charles Mully, what did you think?
“I couldn’t believe that this was a true story. Because this is the type of story that you hear on a one-sheet or a little clip, and you’re like, ‘That’s not real!’ Or you know that person only because that person’s Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King or Gandhi! The idea of rescuing this many children and providing all he does for them is just unheard of.”
Mully opened in the US back in 2017, but now you’re releasing it for free. What was the thinking behind that?
“The world that we’re living in right now is divided, and there’s a lot of strife and, and I always reference Mully, and I just wish people across the globe knew of that story and could turn to that story for hope and inspiration. And I think that the team decided that we wanted to put the movie out there for free. We wanted to have a larger audience see this film. This film isn’t about making money, this film is about sharing this story across the globe. And what better way to do that, to give such a microphone to his story, if you will, than to give it away for free? That’s the hope – that everybody in the world sees the story now.”
Are you still in touch with Charles Mully now?
“I talked to him this week. I talk to him all the time. He’s become my friend, a collaborator, a mentor. And in a way a lot like a father-figure for me. I lost my father when I was young. So, the relationship I have with him is sacred to me. It took a lot for him to trust me. And I don’t take that lightly now. And I still work with MCF USA. And I try to help in every way possible with this story and this movement.”
What is happening with Mully and the MCF now?
“He has seven locations now. I’m thinking about helping him tell the story with a second documentary. This film’s about changing the world one child at a time. And his vision is changing the world one village at a time. Last year, I went to a place called Turkana; it’s where Wakanda was in Black Panther. It’s actually that location. It was remote, desolate and barren… these people had not seen white people, they didn’t even know what a camera was. It was as far removed from anything as possible that I could conceive. And I went with Charles, to understand what he does. He goes, he’ll find water, he’ll provide a school, he’ll provide a form of health care. And then he’ll train a few people in that location: how to take care of these kids and teach them and give them education. And then that school will be the school for a 100-mile radius. And so, he’s literally re-shaping Kenya, one village at a time. It’s miraculous what he’s doing. Like those scenes in Star Wars when you see Luke Skywalker walking in the desert… Charles will build a school there. If you build it, they will come and they do. And you see these kids who now are in school who never thought about going to school, never even thought education was a possibility. He’s just involved in so many different things that are really changing the world.”
Talking of mentors, early in your career, you acted for James Franco on films like Child of God and As I Lay Dying. How much has Franco influenced you?
“I mean, he’s been hugely influential on me. We went to the same acting school and I used to do play after play after play… I couldn’t get an agent and I had to find different ways to create. That’s why I built my own theatre in North Hollywood and in my early twenties, I would just write and direct play after play. And he was somebody who was my friend, and he’d come see those plays. So, when he had the opportunity to make Child of God, he’d seen me really grind on a stage that I created for myself, just so I could tell stories and learn how to write and direct, and he gave me that shot. And I’ll forever be grateful for that.”
You’ve been popping up recently in some very cool indies, often in small roles, like the Golden Globe-nominated Minari and Wild Indian, which just premiered at Sundance. What governs your choices?
“Listen, I’ve been really fortunate over the past few years to be working in movies like Venom or Antlers or Jurassic World. [But] I love supporting new filmmakers that have a voice and have a story to tell. Minari is one of the best movies I could ever be a part of. I love Minari. It’s really cool to hop into stories like Wild Indian or especially Minari. I really feel lucky that I get to do that. I’m fortunate.”
You mentioned Scott Cooper’s horror Antlers, one of the many films delayed by the pandemic. You lost a tremendous amount of weight for that role. How was that?
“When Guillermo [del Toro] and Scott asked me to join Antlers, I don’t think that they knew I was about 220lbs at that moment. So, I ended up shooting the film at 139. It was non-stop, every day – I’m not going to break this diet. And I’m going to go walk as far as I can walk and take my salt, take my magnesium and take my potassium so my heart stays healthy. There’s a whole scientific thing involved. But I loved that process, actually.”
With Jurassic World: Dominion, how was it stepping into a huge movie like that?
“It was by far the biggest film I’ve been a part of. It was the best experience I’ve had making a film. I loved my role. There’s not one negative thing I have to say. Literally. Colin [Trevorrow] is the nicest, most talented leader ever. The way he [took] care [of] us all on the journey of Jurassic World and how he listened to us and how collaborative he was and how we became close friends… just the atmosphere that he created during our filming… it was a family environment.”
You’re coming up in 12 Mighty Orphans. What can you tell us?
“My friend Brinton Bryan produced that film. And he asked me to come in and do it. He knew I knew [Robert] Duvall. I did a film [by Franco] called In Dubious Battle where I got to work with Duvall, who was one of my childhood heroes. And that was just the most fun getting to know him. 12 Mighty Orphans… I’m from Texas. I knew that story. It’s a football film. It was a no-brainer.”
Was Duvall a big influence on you?
“Oh yeah…Duvall impacted me when he said, ‘Just don’t be too precious with everything.’ I remember when he said that… that freed me overall. And that’s something that Franco had too – just don’t be too precious. And I think we all kind of geared towards cracking our careers that way; if it’s a good project, I should do the project, regardless of the role.”
Who are your other heroes?
“I’m a huge fan of Kobe Bryant, and it’s a tragic thing what happened, with his passing… I just really admired his Mamba mentality and what his work ethic was and how he approached everything. And if somebody had asked me what my approach to Mully or acting or anything [was], I would say the Mamba mentality. That’s what it is. And I learned that from studying guys like Kobe and the focus and dedication it takes to be great. [This] is why I do what I do for movies like Antlers or Child of God, or these parts that are just really demanding… I go all in and say: ‘What would Kobe do?’”
Mully is available worldwide for free from February 14. Visit www.mullymovie.org.au for more details