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Why The Green Mile Was ‘A Real Luxury’ As A Filmmaking Experience, According To David Morse

When thinking about what an actor does, it’s easy to default to the romanticized idea that playing a character means living a whole different life through the production of a project – but that notion fades when you know how the sausage is made. Because of budgets, scheduling, and a whole array of moving parts, movies are very rarely filmed in sequence, meaning that performers have to repeatedly reset their emotional state for the context of what’s being shot on any given day.

That in mind, any actor who does have the opportunity to shoot a movie in sequence must surely relish the opportunity – and one such example is David Morse’s work on The Green Mile, which is an experience he recalls as being “a real luxury.” (He most certainly enjoyed it more than making the TV miniseries The Langoliers.)

Because The Green Mile is a story that unfolds primarily in one location – the titular location, to be exact – director Frank Darabont was able to shoot a great deal of the movie in sequential order, and it was a way of working that David Morse had a lot of appreciation for. I learned this while speaking to him last week during a virtual press day promoting the brand new 4K home video release of the Oscar-nominated film, and he discussed it in contrast to what he typically does in his line of work:

It's so unusual to do something like that. I mean, almost always, it seemed like... when I got my script and there's the most emotional scene in the movie, that would be the first thing they want to shoot. You know, I don't even know everybody's names. I haven't met them, but somehow I have this relationship with them, and I've gotta be emotional about all of them. But because of money and budget and time, that's how we do it.

Brutus 'Brutal' Howell, the prison guard played by David Morse in The Green Mile, isn’t a character that undergoes a massive personal arc over the course of the story, but what he most definitely does experience are events that ultimately upend his world view – specifically the miracles performed by the gentle giant John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Brutal’s mindset at the end of the movie is highly evolved compared to where it starts, and Morse got to play that progression naturally thanks to the special capacities of the production.

Or as the actor himself put it,

It's a real luxury to have your world unfold together, and get to live it out. So it was great.

You can watch my full conversation with David Morse – in which we cover the full breadth of his career working making Stephen King-related projects – by clicking play on the video below.

The Green Mile on 4K was released this past Tuesday, and is on sale (opens in new tab) wherever you buy movies (and if you want a particularly beautiful edition, allow me to recommend the Best Buy exclusive SteelBook (opens in new tab)). To learn more about the long and awesome history of Stephen King movies and television, check out my weekly Adapting Stephen King column, and for a glimpse at what’s ahead from Hollywood, check out our Upcoming Stephen King guide.

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.