×

10 Directors to Watch: Matt Ross Returns to Sundance with ‘Captain Fantastic’

Character actor turned helmer Matt Ross taps into Viggo Mortensen's back-to-nature spirit with fantastic family drama.

Before making his writing-directing debut at Sundance 2012 with the infidelity drama, “28 Hotel Rooms,” Matt Ross was already at work on his sophomore effort, “Captain Fantastic.”

Now he’s headed back to Park City to unveil the final product.

Ross has been ruminating for years over the story about a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his six children, who live deep in a forest in the Pacific Northwest and their rocky adjustment to society after they are forced to leave paradise. However, while Ross grew up with a “hippie” mom, lived on a few communes and has slept in a teepee, he insists that the film is not autobiographical.

“It has less to do with the back-to-land movement and more to do with exploring what it means to be a parent,” the father of two says. “It’s much more about my personal grapplings with being a dad and my desire to be a good one.” Mortensen’s character, he says, is in some ways a fantasy version of himself. “We all straddle our professional and personal lives. I fantasize about being able to devote my entire existence to my kids.”

Even so, Ross, a veteran character actor with a resume that includes “American Horror Story,” “Big Love” and “Good Night, and Good Luck,” insists that he never had any desire to cast himself in the film. Instead he waited two years for Mortensen’s schedule to clear.

“I write to direct, and Viggo was always my first choice,” insists Ross, who put off casting the child actors until he had his star. Still, backers were skeptical of the way he envisioned the role.

“The script read funnier,” Ross recalls. “So when I began showing the screenplay around, everyone was suggesting comedic names for the lead. I just kept thinking, That’s so wrong. (The father) doesn’t have to be funny. More than anything the audience has to believe that this guy lives (off the grid). And there was nothing that I could have thrown Viggo that he hasn’t done himself.”

Age: 45
Influences: Francis Ford Coppola
Agency: WME
Lawyer: Sloane Offer Weber & Dern

More Film

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • The Lion King

    Box Office: 'The Lion King' Roars Overseas With Mighty $269 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” certainly felt the love this weekend, generating $269 million at the international box office. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the classic Disney cartoon now holds the eighth-biggest debut of all time overseas, even with China opening last weekend. Combined with a stellar $185 million start in North America, “The Lion King” [...]

  • Scarlett JohanssonMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Scarlett Johansson Reveals What We'll Learn About Black Widow in Stand-Alone Movie

    Scarlett Johansson can finally talk about her upcoming “Black Widow” movie. While she can’t divulge spoilers, she let out a big sigh of relief after the film was officially announced on Saturday during the Marvel Studios presentation at Comic-Con. “I feel like a weight has been lifted,” the Oscar nominee told Variety. “Black Widow” is [...]

  • The Lion King Box Office

    Box Office: 'The Lion King' Rules With $185 Million Debut

    Simba and Mufasa reigned supreme this weekend as Disney’s “The Lion King” dominated box office charts. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the animated classic collected a massive $185 million from 4,756 North American theaters during its first three days of release. In yet another win for Disney, the movie landed the best domestic launch for [...]

  • Creative-Producers-Indaba-Cover-Image-1920x1080-px-2

    Realness, EAVE, IFFR, Sundance Launch African Producers Network

    DURBAN–South Africa’s Realness Institute, EAVE, the Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam, and the Sundance Institute are joining forces to create the Creative Producers Indaba, a professional training program designed to support emerging African producers. Inspired by initiatives such as the EAVE Producers Workshop and Sundance’s Creative Producing, the program will bring together 15 participants to develop [...]

  • BOTM-Eve-Viper-Gang

    Director Angus Gibson: My Audience is ‘Young, Black South Africans’

    DURBAN–Sophiatown, 1958. On the outskirts of Johannesburg, as the apartheid police prepare to demolish the community at the heart of black South African cultural and intellectual life, a notorious gang leader is determined to make a last stand. Resisting the forced evictions that will transport the residents of Sophiatown to a desolate township miles away, [...]

  • marvel

    Marvel Phase 4 Plan Revealed, But Comic-Con’s Big Winner is Disney Plus

    In a triumphant return to the San Diego Comic-Con main stage, leadership at Marvel Studios managed some splashy surprises and showed off risky creative bets for the next two years of content coming from the superhero operation. But the biggest takeaway from the Saturday presentation inside Hall H was how important Marvel will make Disney [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content