Three Great Things: Caleb Landry Jones

The multihyphenate artist, who won Best Actor at Cannes for his new film Nitram, on what's most important to him in life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the March 30 release in theaters, on digital rental and AMC+ of Justin Kurzel’s powerful new drama Nitram, starring Caleb Landry Jones, Essie Davis, Anthony LaPaglia and Judy Davis, Landry shared some of the things that matter most to him in life. — N.D.

Room for Bold, Emotionally Challenging Films
We made Nitram when a lot of people didn’t want us to, and didn’t want to go back and relive these events through a film. Some of them were very angry at anybody who thought making this film was acceptable, and tried to shut it down in different ways. So when Nitram was invited to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and then won a major award, Australia and the Australian film industry had to look at it and say, “Do we support this or are we against this?” And they said, “We support this.” That then opened the film up for other people who would have never given it a second chance, and who now had the ability to watch it.

Caleb Landry Jones in Nitram. (Photo courtesy IFC Films.)

I think the fact that a film like Nitram can be made and embraced as it has been is truly great for cinema. It says that there’s a space for work like this, a space for film to still be about things that matter to us as humans, and not just garbage. In fairness, I’m not watching just Criterion Collection movies all the time, but it’s amazing to me that so few films being made now will affect you in your life, or can help you look closely at either something in yourself or some aspect of your life. There’s part of me that, as someone who watches movies, doesn’t want that and is afraid of that. But there’s another part of me that wants that so badly from cinema, all the time.

I think we in the movie business are catering so much to stuff that’s safe, things we’ve made 50 times before, where an algorithm has said it’s OK and the numbers are there. So, as an actor, to be a part of something like Nitram and to work in the way that Justin asked me to work, and then to see the reception the film has had in Australia, is fucking amazing.

My Girlfriend
I love my girlfriend, Katya, who’s a very good artist. Because we both are creative people, we’re able to talk about the many similarities we share, although there are aspects that are very different for both of us, but we’re trying to understand what those are. I think it’s true when people say that actors only know what it’s like being an actor, and I’m sure the same goes for every medium.

Caleb Landry Jones with Katya Zvereva. (Photo via Instagram.)

Katya gave me great strength which helped me be able to do Nitram. I haven’t had too many jobs where I’ve been in a relationship at the same time, and this is the longest relationship I have ever been in. Knowing Katya was there and loved me and would be there when I came back, allowed me to be more fearless and explore aspects of playing Nitram that I wouldn’t have if I was alone, like normal. It allowed me to go into territory that I maybe wouldn’t have otherwise, because I would have been afraid of how people would see me, because I was so self-conscious. I felt more freedom, just knowing that this love was there for me.

Making Music
Having my folks’ place in Texas to return to – getting to go there and see them and make as much music as I can in their barn – has kept me sane over the past 12 years. The only reason I’m still working is because I can get away from everything and put myself into my music, see my family and forget everything outside of that for a few months, until another job comes up.

After I put out my first album in 2020, I read some of the reviews and realized everybody wanted a particular thing from my music, but even by trying to give them that with what I did next, it didn’t turn out that way at all. It’s still what others would probably call a “chaotic mess.” In the end, I still followed my creative process, so the music didn’t change much, except some songs were shorter and there were more of them.

After doing Nitram, I came back to Texas to be with my girlfriend, my mom and my dad, and I recorded 31 tracks, which I sent to Justin Kurzel, Shaun Grant and Nick Batzias [the director, writer and producer of Nitram, respectively]. It was probably some excess from the film that I put in the music – it was rougher, there were more guitars and it was a little more angry and less melodic.

After that, I exhausted myself by writing a few other albums, and then just watched a shitload of television. I find that when I finish shooting a film, I feel like I’m done, but emotionally, I’m not done. There’s stuff still inside me sometimes, and music is a great way to release that. And then once it’s all gone, I don’t know what to do with myself and I’ll just put on Gordon Ramsay for the rest of the year!

Named one of “Ten Actors to Watch” by both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Caleb Landry Jones just received the Best Actor Award at Cannes 2021 for his performance in Nitram, which is out now in theaters, on digital and on AMC+ through IFC Films. In 2019, Landry Jones was a recipient of both the SAG award and Critics Choice Award for Best Ensemble for his work in Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, opposite Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. He also co-starred in Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out and Sean Baker’s Oscar-nominated The Florida Project. His additional credits include Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Heaven Knows What, John Boorman’s Queen and Country and Neil Jordan’s Byzantium. (Photo courtesy IFC Films.)