Forrest Goodluck

by Jon-Barrett Ingels

“And this was the Best we Could Come Up With. Enjoy.”*
“You’re 15 years old,”*.1 in high school, hanging out with friends, then suddenly you find yourself in the Canadian wilderness working alongside some of the most venerated actors and being led by an Academy Award-winning director. That happens, right? It did for Forrest Goodluck, a wise-beyond-his-years young man from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who debuts as an actor in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest masterpiece, The Revenant.

Goodluck plays Hawk, son of famed trapper Hugh Glass, portrayed by Oscar favorite (again) Leonardo DiCaprio. “It was a lot of auditions,” he says, “I started last year in the summer, when I was fifteen, and got the part when I was sixteen and finally wrapped the film when I was seventeen.”

Goodluck found a camera in his hands at a young age and has been directing movies with his friends and classmates ever since. This role will no doubt bring attention to him as an actor as well, but more than anything, what he received watching Iñárritu, DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and the award-winning cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, was an absolute master apprenticeship in film making. Goodluck speaks about immersion in the art, and about the way that inspiration always finds a genesis in copied ideas.

So, you were 15 years old and you get this opportunity to audition for this movie, at the time did you know who was involved in it?

We knew that it was being directed by Alejandro, of course. Me and my brother are film nuts so we were familiar with Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Biutiful, and Babel. His works are phenomenal, so we were very excited to be auditioning for his film.

What was the experience of finding out you got the job?

So about two weeks before we started shooting—and I’d auditioned quite a few times before that—Alejandro took me and my mother into his trailer. He tells us, one, that Hawk is a character that’s very quiet, very thoughtful, torn between two worlds and this character really is the living, breathing and beating heart of this film. Then he goes on to say that he would like me to play that part… And then we were just like, “Oh my god!” and freaking out. He tells me I have the part and he wants me to play it and he thinks I’ll do my best at it. That was the moment I was welcomed on the set and the start of my journey.

What did you learn from working with such an extraordinary cast and crew?

Alejandro is a man of complete truth. Everything that you do in front of him for the film has to be completely truthful and if it’s not he can tell in an instant. He said… he told me that’s his gift. He may not be the best cameraman, he might not be the best editor, he might not be the best scriptwriter, but he can tell in an instant when someone is not being truthful and that’s really his gift.

On set watching Chivo Lubezki and his work. I call him ‘The Monk With A Camera’ because he’s completely meditative when it’s just him and a camera. He blocks out everything else. It’s like watching someone do Tai Chi when he has the camera in his hands. So it’s just little things like that that you learn from each person.

Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, just watching him be so natural when he’s in front of that camera. He’s just unstoppable. I did a really intense scene with Tom Hardy. Everything has to make sense to him, he talks everything out, he talks out the whole scene with the actor he’s with and every little movement he makes, every line he says, he goes through each beat and everything has to make sense to have that domino effect, and to have that final climax of the scene that he’s going for; every domino has to be placed just right to get the ending he wants.

Will Poulter is just—he’s a very good friend to me on set. He is just so kind and takes everything in stride. And when a difficult scene comes up he never says anything negative and never complains, he just does the job. It’s little things from each person that you learn from, and you can take a lot out of it.

With your own films that you’ve made, do you feel like you’ve borrowed from them or taken ideas from them?

Yes, of course. I forget who said this but he said, “All art is stealing.” It’s just who can steal better, you know?... Right now, of course, watching Chivo do his work, I’m experimenting with really, really wide lenses and long takes. Going on set and learning so much from these people definitely, even subconsciously, very much affects how I’m going to direct and improve my work.

Working in such harsh conditions and having the director demand a level of authenticity and demand what they envision the film to be on to you definitely gives you an empathy towards actors that you never would have had if you had never acted in a situation like that before. It’s the whole aspect of it. I would be in a makeup chair every morning for about two hours and an hour in the evening taking it off to get this burn prosthetic on my face. And working with those artists, you feel  empathy for the hard work that each person on set gives and how you have to give to receive, if that makes sense.

As the director, as anyone on the film, if you want something from somebody you really have to be a giving person. It’s almost biological—like watching a cell work. This whole entity is working towards this one final goal. It all has to work in unison. When you see each department on the set of a film, there’s just a level of things they have to do to get the one big project done. It wasn’t just Alejandro, it wasn’t just Chivo, it wasn’t the head actors creating this film. There are so many people behind the scenes doing do much work. You learn everything, a little piece of information, a little gold nugget, if you will, from each department and all of that comes together and creates something beautiful.

And clearly you love what you do.

I love what I do every day and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be an actor, I wouldn’t be a filmmaker. Ever since the day the camera fell in my hand and I figured out about acting and directing, I think I found the one thing that rings true to me. I don’t know. I think this will take me as far as it can take me until maybe I want to do something else but I don’t think I ever will.

Photographer: Yoshino for maavven.com

Stylist: Juliet Vo for like-agency.com

Groomer: Elie Maalouf for jedroot.com using Oribe

Location: The Dream Factory Studio, Los Angeles at thedfla.com

[Night Posm Films]. (May 2014). Paint - A Film by Forrest Goodluck.

*.1 Swift, T. (2008). Fifteen [Recorded by Taylor Swift]. On Fearless. (2008).