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THE DEAD DON’T HURT: Danny Huston On Tapping Into His Family’s Rich History For Viggo Mortensen’s New Western!

Danny Huston may be the son of legendary director John Huston and half-brother of Anjelica Huston, but he has spent the past decade blazing his own trails in Hollywood. His career started behind the camera, following in his father’s footsteps, but soon evolved into playing a plethora of roles. Over the years, he has become one of the most sought-after character actors in the industry. So, when director Viggo Mortensen was casting his latest passion project, Huston was a perfect fit.

‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ is a story of star-crossed lovers on the western U.S. frontier in the 1860s. Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps) is a fiercely independent woman who embarks on a relationship with Danish immigrant Holger Olsen (Viggo Mortensen). After meeting Olsen in San Francisco, she agrees to travel with him to his home near the quiet town of Elk Flats, Nevada, where they start a life together. The outbreak of the Civil War separates them when Olsen makes a fateful decision to fight for the Union. This leaves Vivienne to fend for herself in a place controlled by corrupt Mayor Rudolph Schiller (Danny Huston) and his unscrupulous business partner, powerful rancher Alfred Jeffries (Garrett Dillahunt). Alfred’s violent, wayward son Weston (Solly McLeod) aggressively pursues Vivienne, who is determined to resist his unwanted advances. When Olsen returns from the war, he and Vivienne must confront and make peace with the person each has become. Both a tragic love story and a nuanced depiction of the conflict between revenge and forgiveness, ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ is a portrait of a passionate woman determined to stand up for herself in an unforgiving world dominated by ruthless men.

Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently sat down with Danny Huston for a quick chat about his journey as an actor, his time on the set of ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt,’ and what speaks to him as an actor.

You’ve spent a lifetime bringing unique characters to life. Your family history and resume speak volumes. What speaks to you about the craft, and has it changed over the years?

My father, John Huston, was a great filmmaker, as you know. My sister, Anjelica, and my grandfather, Walter Huston, were all involved in the world of filmmaking. I tried to resist it for a while but found I was somewhat doomed. [laughs] I’m very lucky to be working on films, telling stories, and continuing the family name. It’s an honor for me to be part of this family whose business is making films. How have things changed? Well, they have a lot. At the same time, the essence of it all is storytelling, the written word, and good screenplays. While the approach might differ, at the core, it is always a good story.

That’s a great perspective. That certainly holds true for the latest project you are a part of, Viggo Mortensen’s ‘The Dead Don’t Hurt.’ What spoke to you about it?

The producer, Jeremy Thomas, is a friend of mine. He was kind enough to slip the script to me. I then had a conversation with Viggo, which was mainly about scheduling! [laughs] I was really thrilled at the opportunity to be part of it. I loved the screenplay! It’s beautifully crafted. It’s told out of chronology, which creates a certain suspense. The characters are archetypes. It’s sort of like a Greek tragedy; you know where you are. There is a poetic nature to what a good Western is, but also a savagery in a new land where the characters also discover themselves.

What did you bring to the character that might not have been on the original written page?

For my character, I enjoyed reading him and bringing a little bit of that Huston touch to it! That cigar-smoking kind of guy reminded me of some of the characters that my father played in the films that he was in, because he was also a great actor. I just approached him in a very playful way.

Viggo Mortensen on the set of "The Dead Don't Hurt.'
Viggo Mortensen on the set of “The Dead Don’t Hurt.’

Viggo Mortensen’s fingerprints are all over this film. What was it like working with him to bring his vision to life?

I like to describe it as if he is embracing the film with both hands. I say that because he wrote it, but he also wrote the music and stars in it. So, collaborating with him on this film, I really felt as if it were an embrace from him. I felt secure, and the script had a real clarity to it—very clear archetypes. It was a joy working with him in Mexico and Durango, which gave it an atmospheric quality—which is a Western!

What does the future hold for you as an artist?

I just continue to tell stories. It’s an ancient craft dating back to the times when we would cast shadows on walls by a fire in a cave. It’s something that is basically part of our makeup. What’s interesting is the ability to shoot on digital and not necessarily have a big circus act with so many people involved. Anybody can make a good film if you have a good story, and I think that’s pretty exciting!

Thanks so much for your time today, Danny. I wish you continued success. 

Thank you very much, Jason. Take care!

‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ hits theaters on May 31st via Shout Studios! Visit the official website of the film at www.thedeaddonthurt.com for tickets.