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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

A film by David Lowery.

Rooney as: Ruth Guthrie
Genre(s): Drama | Crime | Romance
Written by: David Lowery
Directed by: David Lowery
Other Cast: Keith Carradine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker
Release Date: August 16, 2013 (Limited)
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $1.03m
Filming Locations: Shreveport, Louisiana and Austin, Texas

  • Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara), an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration. Set against the backdrop of 1970’s Texas Hill Country, director David Lowery paints a poetic picture, evoking the mythology of westerns and saturating the dramatic space with an aching sense of loss. Featuring powerful performances by Affleck, Mara as well as Ben Foster and Keith Carradine, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a story of love, motherhood, and searching for peace while faced with an unrelenting past.

    Production Info

  • Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara were all director David Lowery’s first choices for their respective roles.
  • The title is director David Lowery’s “mondegreen” – a mishearing of a song lyric – and has no actual meaning.
  • Rami Malek originally auditioned for the role of Sweetie, but the role went to Nate Parker. However director David Lowery was so impressed with Malek’s audition that he decided to give him the small role of Will later in the film.
  • Production took place in Texas and Louisiana. Filming took place on location between July 9, 2012 and August 15, 2012.
  • Quoting: Rooney Mara

    On her character: I think Ruth, in the parts that come before the film starts, had to kind of grow up fast and is sort of caught in between the nostalgia of wanting to go back to her old life and also being a mom and being protective. She’s caught in between two love stories – the love story with Bob and the love story with her daughter and she has to choose one, which is a very difficult choice to make.

    On her attraction to the role: I was really drawn to playing Ruth because she’s a mom and that’s not something I’ve ever done before. She’s in a very complicated situation. There are sort of two different love stories going on: she has her love story with Bob and then she has the love story with her child and it’s very conflicting. She’s really torn.

    On her attraction to the script: I loved the whole world. I loved where it took place and the time period in which it took place. I really loved the roots – the stuff that you don’t see in the film. I felt like the whole script was very poetic. It felt like a folk song. Then, when I met David (Lowery) and I saw “Pioneer,” his short film, I had this feeling that he was going to make something special and I wanted to be a part of it.

    On filming in Louisiana: We shot the film in Louisiana in August and it was 105 degrees every day. There’s really not a whole lot to do there, but I just kind of loved how easy and simple it was and loved being there and would love to go back to shoot another movie. I don’t think most people would say that but there’s something about it that I loved.

    On working with Casey Affleck: You know, I really didn’t know him at all before this. He shot all of his stuff first and then I came to Shreveport and we shot our stuff together and then I shot my stuff alone and he went off. So, I think our first day shooting together we shot one of the opening scenes in the car. He has this long, beautiful monologue about our future. I had read the script so many times at that point and loved that monologue and when we did it together, I never imagined the way he was going to do it, which is very rare. Usually you can imagine how an actor is going to do something, especially if you’ve read it many times. It was so alive and in the moment and that’s what it was like working with him. He’s a fantastic actor.

    On working with David Lowery: Working with David is fantastic because he’s not precious about anything and would have dropped anything if you gave him a good enough argument and would come up with something right on the spot. The way he wrote the script, like I said, was so poetic and very musical. I think a lot of the dialogue and monologues have kind of a musical quality and he wanted the film to feel like a folk song and I think that’s definitely what the script read like. We made a lot of last minute changes so it obviously was great having the writer right there.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director David Lowery: My first thought was, This actress is at the top of the world right now, and there’s no way she’d want to do a tiny film in Texas. She is so intelligent, so sharp, that you can see the wheels turning in her head—it’s almost as if you can feel her judging your direction as you give it to her.

    Critical Response

    Sebastian Doggart, The Guardian: The performances, too, are superb. Casey Affleck, as Bob, shows himself again to be a master of the criminal outsider. He’s more subtle than he was in The Killer Inside Me, where he played a sadistic sheriff, and even seems to reference this transition when Bob calls out: “I used to be the devil and now I’m just a man.” Mara, freed of her dragon tattoo, combines grace with groundedness, speaking to single mothers everywhere when she complains: “I haven’t slept for four years and am so tired.”

    Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist: The performances are all top notch. Mara and Affleck’s brief romantic sequences are moving, and the entire cast delivers pitch-perfect turns such that there’s not a false note within.

    Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: Mara is the captivating center of the film, all the emotions of the men and the child hinge on her moods. She continues to be one of those actresses able to shape-shift into different places, times and characters. None of the edge she brought to Lisbeth Salander for David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is here. It’s more that the actress has taken a different measure of Ruth, a flighty girl forced by circumstances to toughen up.

    Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: Pretty quiet through most of the film, Mara has a gravitas that makes her rewarding to watch no matter what, or how little, she’s doing.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Rooney has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards – Best Actress