Connect with us


‘Jungleland’ Director and Co-Writer Max Winkler on the Creative Process Behind this Boxing Drama [w/ Audio]



Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, Jungleland arrived on Premium Video-On-Demand and for purchase on digital November 10th, from Paramount Home Entertainment. Vertical Entertainment will release the film in over 100 theatres beginning last Friday.

A gripping and moving film centered around brotherhood bonds, Jungleland is a love story between two brothers whose bond gets tested as they hustle their way towards their biggest payday ever. Stanley (Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy) and Lion (Jack O’Connell, Unbroken) play brothers struggling to make it in the underground world of bare-knuckle boxing. When Stanley fails to pay back a dangerous crime boss (Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country), the brothers get tasked to deliver an unexpected traveller (Jessica Barden, The End of the F***ing World) to her fate en route. At the end of their journey across the country lies a high-stakes fighting tournament called Jungleland.

Jungleland is a lovely film. It’s well-written, well-directed, cast, acted, and edited. It’s the movie audiences need right now, boasting a clear message with a tight 90 minute fat-free running time. As the film’s director, Max Winkler has topped himself once again. Winkler took out a few minutes of his day to talk some more about Jungleland with us a few days ago. Enjoy the audio from the interview included here via SoundCloud.

Can we maybe start with you talking about the early days of Jungleland? How the original story ideas and the early draft came about?

Max Winkler: “Yeah, it was originally something that I had talked about with my friend and frequent collaborator, Jake Johnson. They were characters that had been living in his head for a little bit in the form of a play that he wanted to see if I wanted to run with. And so I kind of quickly fell in love with the idea because it reminded me of one of my favourite books, Of Mice And Men, about these two brothers whose home is on the road. But it’s not the home they want; they kind of really envision finding a place where they can actually settle down and live and have some sense of what a home would feel like.

It’s kind of like The Boxcar Children or something like that. And as the idea developed and I brought on these writers that I really love, Teddy (Theodore) Bressman and David Branson Smith, we continued to kind of work on it, and it became a movie, and it was something we really loved. We started writing it like eight years ago, maybe longer, and the movie went through different iterations. But it wasn’t until we kind of put this cast together that it really kind of made sense to me.”

Did you ever consider doing it as a play? Was that the original intent?

“It was the original language. The characters were living in Jake Johnson’s head, but I never thought about doing it as a play, no. But I do love Clifford OdetsGolden Boy, which was something I read a lot when I was writing the script.”

How quickly does a project like Jungleland find a home? Was Romulus Entertainment involved early on, or did that happen much later?

“No, they came on right as we were prepping. The movie had different homes as far as producers go, but it wasn’t until I met Jules Daly, who was working at Scott Free Productions at the time, that actually made the movie happened. She was kind of my fairy godmother on this, and she quickly got her company involved, and we developed the script quickly. She was my commercial agent at the time but had produced movies that I’ve really loved, and Romulus came on before we made the movie. Jules Daly, Scott Free, and Big Red Films were the creative forces behind it.”

Did you have actors in mind for these lead roles? Was it always going to be Hunnam and O’Connell? Or did you think of other actors as well?

“No, I really loved both of them for the parts. Yeah.”

Nice. Now, this film showed at TIFF last year, did your distribution get sorted out after that Toronto showcase?

“We sold the movie in Toronto. Because of what’s going on with the world right now, everything was kind of up in the air until this summer, where we figured out how best to get the movie out to as many people as possible.”

Interesting. Did you do a table read with all of the key actors to kind of run through the entire draft of the movie, or did you send scripts out to them?

“No, there was no table read. We just offered them the parts.”

How long was the shooting schedule for Jungleland?

“I believe it was 26 days.”

The cut of the film that I’ve seen; is that all the final footage? Were there any scenes that were maybe cut out for continuity and quickness?

“No. Was it slow for you?”

No, not at all. When you see something, and it comes in at 90 minutes… I’ve seen some pretty rambling movies. And I always think, “Was there stuff that was pulled out? Was there some development that maybe happened around some of the tertiary characters that maybe got clipped for pace reasons?”

“So you mean in that final cut? There were definitely some scenes in the movie that didn’t make the final cut because I either didn’t direct them well enough, or they didn’t work once the movie becomes what it becomes through the edit. But every scene in the movie is just there because we felt like it needed to be there.”

No, the movie worked for me. I liked it. It was concise, there was no fat on it, it was just, “Here are some characters in a story, and it had a good ending.” Do you know what I mean? So I had no problem with it.

“Good. Great.”

You had talked a little bit about the pandemic and it affecting the release of Jungleland. Has that now gone on to affect projects that you’re working on after this film?

“Totally. It’s affecting everything. But I feel lucky to get to release, lucky that our movie is coming out. I know so many people with great movies that are just stuck in a kind of purgatory. Everything is different right now. I can’t wait to see those movies that are being held wherever they’re being held until the time comes that they are going to release them. So everything is up in the air now. I’m doing reshoots of a pilot in Dallas in a post-pandemic world. And it’s just, everything is different now, and I really hope that we get to go and see movies in theaters again sometime really soon.”

Is the next release that you’re going to put out Our Thing?

“No, that project hasn’t been worked on for probably ten years, I think. That would be something that, as they say, is dead.”

Can you talk a little bit about your journey to Hollywood? Did you start out as a character actor?

“No, I’ve never acted before. I’ve done two things for a friend, but I just went to film school at USC and graduated and started writing stuff and making stuff, and that kind of led to where I am now.”

Nice. Can you talk about some of the things that you try to do as a creator to remain authentic?

“I try to just tell the truth, and I try to give my actors that I get to work with the space to have the freedom to try whatever they want to try that tells the story of their character.”

Would you mind naming a film that you repeatedly watch, something that continues to impress you on multiple viewings?

The Last Detail.”

Ok, and what is it about that film that keeps bringing you back to it?

“I love the performances; I love the music; I love the directing; I love the emotionality; I love the writing.”

Film Poster for ‘Jungleland’

I really enjoyed Jessica Barden as Sky. I had never seen her in anything prior to this, and she was cool.

“Oh, wow. You should see The End of the F***ing World on Netflix.”

Yeah? Alright, I’m going to check that out.

“She’s really great. Yeah, Amazing. She just won the BAFTA this year. She’s incredible.”

She’s got great eyes.

“She’s one of the best actors I’ve ever met. Amazing eyes. She’s an amazing talent. I saw her in Joe Wright’s Hanna in a supporting role, and I remember being in the theater thinking this person is on another level, and I hope I get the opportunity to work with her.”

That’s awesome. I dug Jonathan Majors as well. I just finished watching Lovecraft Country, and I hadn’t seen him in anything prior, and it was nice to see him in a different role in this movie.

“Yeah, he’s in everything. He’s just an immense talent, and I felt lucky to get to work with him.”

Awesome. Do you know if there are any plans to release Jungleland as physical media? DVD, Blu-ray, and that sort of thing down the road?

“Yeah, there is. I don’t know them exactly, but there is. It’ll be in theatres on Friday, and then it’ll be on everyone’s television to watch however they want on VOD. And then be there will be Blu-rays available.”