After 30 years as an actor, Neal McDonough is finally playing by his rules. McDonough typically portrays villains due to his refusal to participate in sex scenes due to his Christian faith and love for his wife, Ruve. In his latest film blessingMcDonough not only stars, but also serves as co-writer and producer.
Directed by Derek Presley (Red stone) McDonough plays Nick Boon, a mercenary trying to escape his former life as a cold-blooded killer. While hiding from an FBI agent in the Pacific Northwest, Boon meets widowed Catherine, played by Christiane Seidel (godless) and her teenage son. When Catherine gets into trouble with the local criminal organization led by Mr. Fitzgerald, played by Tommy Flanagan, Boon must choose between staying calm or stepping in and blowing his cover.
With the movie When McDonough arrived on April 1, he sat down with Digital Trends to discuss blessinghis association with Presley and the advice he received from Clint Eastwood.
Digital Trends: This is your second appearance as Nick Boon Red stone. What made you so special about this character that you wanted to expand his story?
Neal McDonough: In the first film you meet Nick Boon. When you first see him, you think he’s some kind of terminator who just wants to kill people. He’s obviously a villain, but you quickly realize that’s not the case. He’s just the killer because of things he’s done in the past. It’s the only job he really thinks he can do. He soon has that call to faith. What am I going to do with this 15 year old kid? Am I killing him or am I doing the right thing? And of course he finds his heart and starts doing the right thing and has to take out all the bad guys.
The first was more of a thriller film. The second is more of a pure action neo-western film. We want to start with the third film [it] in the city, so the character has a very different feel. But with blessing, I loved getting into this one because I had to produce it with my wife Ruve, but we also had to tell a story of me about having a romance in a movie, which I don’t usually do because I don’t do sex scenes . Now that I’m producing, writing and creating these things with Derek Presley and my wife, I can kind of do it my way. I can finally be the hero. These guys, like all of us, struggle with their faith. Everyone knows I’m a devout Catholic, but we all struggle with our faith. We all make mistakes. We are all sinners. I think when we go to the movies I like to watch a guy who has to deal with these things and ends up dusting himself off and getting the job done. And in this case, it’s all about bringing down baddies.
I love the genre. I grew up with that. I loved watching John Wayne especially in his later films like The cowboys or The shooter. With films like this he has to deal with what is the right thing to do here. When you have characters like that versus guys like Tommy Flanagan, who knows how to act in front of a camera like anyone I’ve ever played with. He’s so talented and so keen to do the best he can on every take. He finds those beautiful moments as a villain that really resonate not only with my character but with the audience because [they] I can truly say, “Gosh, I hope this guy has the guts to stand up to this absolutely despicable guy and bring him down.”
That’s the great thing about these westerns and neo-westerns. They are simple messages. These simple, faith-friendly settings of almost biblical proportions at times, and I think that’s what really draws people. I am blessed that Cinedigm [Boon‘s studio] gave us a chance to make these films and to do more of these films in the future. And I get to do it with my wife Ruve, so I couldn’t be happier.
in the blessingyou’re not only the star, you’re also a co-writer and producer, so now you have a more hands-on approach to these projects. How has your creative process changed?
It’s very different. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring where you’re always like, ‘okay, what’s my next job? What’s my next thing as an actor?” years ago when I did it flags of our fathers, Clint Eastwood took me aside and said, ‘Look, you’re amazing at what you do and you know how to behave on set. You understand the film making process. You need to stop being a hitman and start creating your own content.” I said [to myself], “Yes, yes, yes, that’s great.” But I kind of took it to heart when we did it Greater years ago. That was the first one I jumped on as a producer and was able to have a creative say in the process. I said, “Hmm, that’s pretty good because I kinda know what works and what doesn’t work.”
Then we did it The Arrest Warrant with INSP and it was such a success for them. Then came Red stone, and I had to really immerse myself in the character. but blessing Here we kind of broke it up where I could call all my friends from Tommy Flanagan to Jimmy Madio to JPG [John Patrick Jordan] to Christiane Seidel who is fantastic, Christina Ochoa. You know, all these actors that I think are so amazing, and we’re like, ‘Hey, let’s go play. Let’s have some fun.” Demetrius Grosse just walked in and wrecked it…Pat Monahan, the lead singer of Train, opens the movie. You know, we’ve talked about being in movies together for years.
Now Ruve and I can raise the funding. Do it our way. Make a great film at a great price and launch it now and see how it goes. I’m really excited that I’m not just the actor. I have creative say with my wife and how these things are made, along with my other producing partner Jason Starne and Derek Presley who wrote and directed these with me. It’s a great time for me. I love doing stuff like this myself. And you know, I keep saying if I never do a movie for anyone else for the rest of my life, then I’m fine. If I can make them with the team we’ve now created and the support of Cinedigm, I’ll be incredibly blessed.
In your collaboration with Derek, how did you co-write the film? Exchange ideas and say, “I’ll take this scene and you take this scene?” Take us into the writing process of blessing.
I drive Ruve crazy. I’ll wake up in the middle [of the night] and say, “Honey! I had this great idea for a movie.” I don’t really have the talent or the time to sit down at a computer and just write pages because we have five kids and I’m always acting or coaching something. Derek is like this child prodigy. With the script that we’re writing right now, this idea came to me about a Cain and Abel style story in the west, and really, it’s brutal, you know, fantastic stuff. It’s been in my head for years and I introduced it to Derek and said, “Okay, let’s start working on it.” And then we have these sessions for hours and we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk , talk, and suddenly, the next morning, 15 pages are sent to me. What do you think? Great. let’s move on Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Another 15 pages.
We wrote these blessing so fast We write these [Cain and Abel story] called Believe. We started writing it about five days ago. We’re a little over page 50 now, so we’ll have the first draft ready, probably Friday afternoon, to send to Cinedigm for viewing. We work very fast and we know that we have created something really good. He’s my director and co-writer. I’m its star and Ruve is the one who gets the funding and makes sure the cast is as great as it can be. Jason Starne does all the magic behind the curtain. He’s the Wizard of Oz for us. It’s a great combination. Then we have Cinedigm behind us.
I want to make films like this over many years and put our kids in it or more friends and make them Mercury players like Orson Welles did all those years ago. In that last movie I made the arrest warrant, which we just wrapped up on Saturday, there are certain people from this crew that I’d like to pick. Now we’re building a team.
I remember flags of our fathers, I spoke to one of the guys there and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m one of the new guys on Clint’s team.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, really? Is this the first?” He says, “I’ve been with Clint 13 years, but Jim’s been with him 27 years and Paulette 28 years.” That’s how he built his company with Malpaso, and the McDonough Company is trying to do just that to do the same, building with players we love working with and writing great stories that audiences want to see.
Would you like to visit this character for the third time?
Oh yes, Nick is great. He’s the onion with a gun. You know, you just keep pulling off these awesome layers like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that about him. Oh god he’s tough. Oh, he’s a darling of a guy. Boy, he can fight.” So it’s all those things. [For the next movie], we’re going to play it in Chinatown and he goes back to his sensei and after that all hell breaks loose. Then we have another one where he finally gets away from it all and goes to Martha’s Vineyard for the fourth film.
We’re always thinking about what’s a new area to put Nick Boon in where he’s a fish out of water but still running away from the past. But of course the past catches up to him every time. We may have played with it as a TV series or just as a wheel where we just keep making these movies. Anyway, I enjoy playing Nick Boon because there’s a lot of me in Nick Boon and [in] the guys I grew up with, especially back in Boston and Cape Cod. They’re like this guy. He’s always trying to do the right thing, and sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy. Nick is one of those guys who is ready for it and I love that about him.
blessing will be released in theaters and On demand and digital on April 1, 2022.
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