Originally planned to shoot in early 2020, before COVID-19 lockdowns made that an impossibility, director Thomas Torrey’s “All the Names We Buried” is pitching in the Proof of Concept section of the Frontieres Platform at the Cannes Marché du Film, looking to reignite the project’s pre-COVID buzz and recuperate lost financing. In a move likely to aid those goals, Torrey has shared with Variety that “First Cow” lead John Magaro, one of indie cinema’s hottest actors going today, will star in the film.
Set to join Marago in the film’s other lead roles are “Winter’s Bone” standout Dale Dickey and Caity Brewer, who most recently impressed with her work in Amazon’s “Uncle Frank.” Promising young “Promising Young Woman” actor Ray Nicholson (Prime Video’s “Panic”) is in talks to fill out the film’s other key role.
Like so many filmmakers raring to go last spring, Torrey was gutted when shooting on “All the Names We Buried” became impossible under COVID restrictions at the time. But now, “I’m at peace with everything that’s happened to our production,” says Torrey, who is optimistic that this fall he can shoot the film “how it was always meant to be.”
Described by the writer-director as a Southern thriller, “All the Names We Buried” turns on a traveling insurance adjuster, played by Magaro, who is involved in a deadly car accident in the countryside of the deep south. When a young drifter (Brewer) is killed in the crash, the now vehicle-less traveler must rely on a simple-minded local (Nicholson) who happens on the scene.
Wracked with guilt but having no means to leave the nearby local community, Magaro’s character is forced to interact with members of the closest town, including the local sheriff (Dickey) investigating the accident.
“Thankfully, all cast and crew has remained attached over the last 18 months, so it’s really just a matter of finding the right financial partner to re-greenlight the project,” says Torrey. “Getting accepted into the Frontieres Proof of Concept platform at the Cannes Market was a big win for us toward that goal, so we’re looking toward the fall with optimism.”
On the film’s origins, Torrey recalls a “single image that inspired this story for me, way back in 2007. There was something so evocative about Roger Deakins’ framing of Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell in a wheat field, in Andrew Dominik’s ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ that I instantly had a sense of tone and place for what would become, at the time, my first feature screenplay, post college.”
In the decade and a half since, through rewrites, time spent on other projects and the ill-timed COVID-19 layoff, that image stayed at the heart of Torrey’s plans for “All the Names We Buried.” Along the way, he and DP Christopher Calnin looked to other cinematic favorites for inspiration as well, with films like “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “Hell or High Water,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Mud” all likely to make a visual impact on the finished film. Narratively, Torrey plans to shoot a self-contained thriller along the lines of “A Simple Plan,” “Blue Ruin” or “Shotgun Stories.”
“What impacts me the most with these films, more than a visual style or sense of place or even genre subversions, is the rich, human thematics that these stories explore,” Torrey explained. “And at the end of the day, that’s my goal as a filmmaker: to tell a good story, firmly within genre, but one that has something to say about who we are and why we’re here.”
Torrey’s Frontieres Proof of Concept pitch goes live on the Marché du Film website Saturday July 10.
“All the Names We Buried” is produced by Torrey (“Minor Premise“) himself, Noah Lang (“The Climb”) and Chadd Harbold (“Villains”) at Bad Theology Pictures Inc.