“The Drop,” a dark crime drama set in Brooklyn, is Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts’ third film with his Oscar-nominated countryman, director Michaël Roskum.
Schoenaerts plays the movie’s primary villain. A psychopath, Eric Deeds stalks Tom Hardy’s easygoing, softhearted bartender, Bob, and Noomi Rapace’s ex-addict immigrant, Nadia.
Speaking from the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend, Schoenaerts expressed his enthusiasm for “The Drop,” Roskum’s American film debut.
“Michaël did a really secure, mature, well-balanced piece of work,” Schoenaerts said.
Roskum, a director who usually writes the films he directs, didn’t write the “The Drop.” Instead, it’s based on a short story called “Animal Rescue” by novelist and TV writer Dennis Lehane. Even so, Roskum’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 Roskum 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.”
It’s Roskum’s first American project and stakes for the Belgian filmmaker were high.
“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 had.”
In “The Drop,” Schoenaerts’ second American film, he had the pleasure of working 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, doubling-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 convincing performances by an international cast of actors playing American characters, including Schoenaert 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.”