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Danny Huston Discusses the Significance of ‘Last Photograph’

In the decades since Danny Huston made his feature directing debut with “Mr. North,” his 1988 film adaptation of the Thornton Wilder novel “Theophilus North,” he has kept busy in front of the cameras as one of film and television’s most versatile and sophisticated character players. In just the past year, small-screen viewers have been treated to his essential work on “Yellowstone” and “Succession,” and big-screen aficionados have watched him move deftly from intimate Guillermo Arriaga’s “No One Left Behind” to the blockbuster hit “Angel Has Fallen.” Perhaps closest to his heart is the recently released film “The Last Photograph,” which he directed and stars in.

You have something from the film to show us.

Yes, it’s “The Last Photograph” of the title. It’s the center of the story because it represents something that means something significant to one person unlike its meaning for anyone else. We all have something like that, a sweater, a book, and in this case a photograph. It has the power to spin out the past, to trigger a kind of post-traumatic stress response.

As a director, was it “The Photograph” that pulled you into the project?

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Simon Astaire wrote the script and gave it to me to read, and I could immediately grasp the concept that this photograph could trigger a tapestry of flashbacks, and it was the director’s job to piece it together. Lockerbie, Scotland, is just one piece of the puzzle. But that drive to the airport is the spine of the story. What is, at first, a fairly banal conversation, later reveals to itself to have more meaning.

It’s only your fifth directing project across 30 years, but you stay incredibly busy with acting. Do you keep searching the skies for more directing opportunities?

It’s great to be back in the saddle and I must say I have this terrible habit of optioning things I fall in love with. And I’m always tweaking things, preparing them for the screen. There is a Kent Harrington book, “Dia de los Muertes,” and Guillermo Arriaga has a project called “Border Stories.” I’m really drawn at the moment to stories about immigration and the issues around migrations and migrants, as it feels to me that this is the center of the moment we’re living in.

And you’ve been given some great roles to keep the acting fires burning.

“Yellowstone’s” Taylor Sheridan is a wonderful writer. That show is a portrait of an America that Taylor really understands. It’s a place where several America’s collide: the businessmen, the Native Americans and the bold ranchers. And “Succession’s” Jesse Armstrong is the master of killer lines that are magical in how effortless it seems for the actors to bring them to life. And “Succession” is a portrait of yet another America.

You’re moving between film and TV but your movie will probably be seen by its biggest audience on the streaming services. There’s been a lot of talk by great filmmakers lately about “real” cinema as opposed to something less. Your father, John Huston, was one of America’s greatest filmmakers. What do you think he’d make of all this disruption?

He would definitely be active. He never approached filmmaking as something to be static and orderly. I remember him experimenting with his DP Oswald Morris on “The Man Who Would Be King” and I remember on “Under the Volcano,” how excited he was about using a Steadicam. “Look, Danny! I can do all of this and we don’t have to lay any track!” He loved all of the changes.

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