“The Drop,” a dark crime drama set in Brooklyn, is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts’ third film with his Oscar-nominated countryman, director Michaël Roskam.
Schoenaerts plays the movie’s primary villain. A psychopath, Eric Deeds stalks Tom Hardy’s easygoing, soft-hearted bartender, Bob, and Noomi Rapace’s ex-addict immigrant, Nadia.
Schoenaerts played the lead in Roskam’s 2011 Belgium film, “Bullhead.” He also co-starred with Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard in the Oscar-nominated French-Belgian drama “Rust and Bone.”
Speaking from the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend, Schoenaerts expressed his enthusiasm for “The Drop,” Roskam’s American film debut.
“Michaël did a really secure, mature, well-balanced piece of work,” Schoenaerts said.
Roskam, a director who usually writes the films he directs, didn’t write “The Drop.” It’s based on novelist and TV writer Dennis Lehane’s short story, “Animal Rescue.” Even so, Roskam’s signature is all over “The Drop.”
“Michaël loves crime dramas,” Schoenaerts said. “Guilt, redemption and sin, those are all the things that always come back in his films. And he loves actors. You can tell that by the performances in the film.”
“The Drop” was a project Roskam had been interested in for years.
“Michaël was getting tons of scripts,” Schoenaerts recalled. “So we were going back and forth and I said, ‘OK, is there anything you like?’ He said, ‘Yeah, this ‘Animal Rescue’ thing is something I really, really, really like.’ But then there were other directors attached to it. So, many years later, this project came back to him.”
“The Drop” being Roskam’s first American project, stakes were high for the Belgian filmmaker.
“He knew he was entering a new universe,” Schoenaerts said. “That was an enormous challenge, scary. But he was courageous enough to take it on and give it all he has.
“Once he started to work, Michaël was matter of fact about it. ‘OK, let’s work. Let’s prepare, let’s do the work.’ There was no time to lose yourself in philosophical interior monologues. You have to work. Now that the movie is coming out, he’s starting to reflect on what it possibly means for him.”
In “The Drop,” Schoenaerts’ second American film, he had the pleasure of working with the late James Gandolfini.
“I saw many things he did,” Schoenaerts said. “I was always struck by the authenticity and sincerity in his performances.”
Gandolfini’s role in “The Drop,” as bar manager Marv, is his final film performance.
“My very first scene, actually, in the film,” Schoenaerts said, “the first day of shooting for me, was the scene with James in the pizza place.”
Before the scene, Schoenaerts and Gandolifini met in the makeup trailer.
“We had a little chitchat and then I sat in my chair,” Schoenaerts said. “I noticed myself looking at James, double-taking. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Am I really gonna play a scene with James Gandolfini?’ It really touched me. I loved it.”
“The Drop” contains totally convincing performances by an international cast of actors playing American characters, including Schoenaerts as the frightening Deeds.
“I’m really happy that there are no giveaways in there,” the actor said. “People totally go with the reality that we translate on screen and believe it.”