Jeff Nichols’ third film, Roadside’s “Mud,” screened April 21 at MoMA, and it’s very much an homage to a great writer from the South.

“As soon as I read the ‘Mud’ screenplay, I said to Jeff, ‘You totally stole from Mark Twain, didn’t you?’” producer Sarah Green recalled at the Harlow after party. “And he admitted it, to his credit. Complete blatant rip-offs….” Like, Sam Shepard’s character is called Tom Blankenship. “That’s the name of the real person Tom Sawyer was based on.”

“Twain was the one,” Nichols said. “Twain captured what it was like to be a child and I wanted to try my hand at that. He also did it with wit and style and humor and with amazing characters. I have a lot to aspire to. I’m not saying I achieved any of it, but that’s a really great guy to try to put on a pedestal and try and strive for.”

Green also has a thing for the writings of Shepard. “His plays really changed my life when I discovered them just coming out of college. I would read them out loud because of the rhythms and I would feel the power of those words,” she said.

Pic’s Matthew McConaughey said he “didn’t do much reading growing up, nor movie watching,” and that his favorite storyteller is actually his oldest brother. “It was more in our family, which is also typical in the South, and why there’s some great Southern writers: storytelling. It’s the spoken word passed around at mealtime. It’s the story that gets passed around when you head out for a drive and you’re not even sure where you’re going and all of a sudden two days later you come back and tell a story about what you got into that you didn’t plan on getting into.”

Costar Reese Witherspoon, a very late arrival on the red carpet, was noticeably absent at Harlow following her weekend arrest.