Late Monday afternoon, tucked away in the Crosby Street Hotel, we caught up with producer, writer and director Austin Stark. The New York native is currently getting ready for the release of The Runner, which marks his writing and directorial debut.
The Runner, which stars Nicolas Cage, is a political drama that is centered on the infamous BP oil spill, where an estimated 170 million gallons of oil flooded into the Gulf after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oilrig.
Partially inspired by sex scandals of our time, i.e. Clinton, Spitzer, Ensign, Edwards, etc., Stark began writing the script in 2011.
“Originally, I decided to set the film in Louisiana due to its rich culture and scandal-plagued political history. The spill wasn’t a part of the early concept for the film. But, when I went down to the Gulf Coast to do research for the project in the summer of 2011 – a year after the Macondo well had been capped – I didn’t expect to see the continued suffering and impact that I witnessed.” He continued, “It seemed that the mainstream media only showed an image of a region that was recovering. I got to meet fishermen and other business owners in the area, and it became clear to me that those communities hadn’t recovered and that it was still very much a real issue. It occurred to me that making the spill prominent in my story would feel organic, while also drawing attention to a tragedy that was being swept under the rug.”
When writing, Stark envisions actors reciting the script to help the dialogue feel organic and real. As he penned The Runner, it was no doubt in Stark’s mind Cage was the perfect man for the role.
“Nick was that actor for me when I was working on The Runner screenplay. He’s absolutely perfect for the role. I also went to Nick because he’s just an incredible actor, who as of late has been terribly under appreciated. Another thing that intrigued me about Nick is that he’s done so many films, yet he had never played a politician. I felt that casting him would be interesting and unexpected,” Stark explained.
The film has an incredible line up of talent including Sarah Paulson, Connie Nielsen and Peter Fonda, to name a few.
“I must say, it was pretty surreal working with some of the most talented actors of our time. Authenticity was always most important to me, and they gave my characters gravity and complexity I could only dream of when writing the script,” he said.
Apart from watching the Academy award-winning actor in his first political role, there are a number of reasons you should go see The Runner.
“I think people will see this as one of Nicolas Cage’s strongest performances, certainly in the past 10 years. I also think that the film is very timely. With the recent news that BP settled with five Gulf Coast states for $18.7 billion and the fact that it’s campaign season once again, there has never been a better time for The Runner. I hope that I’ve made a film that first and foremost is entertaining, but also one that makes people think about the issues, even if just for a moment,” Starks said.
The Runner hits theaters Friday, August 7th.
Below are Stark’s favorite places in the Big Apple.
Where were you born? New York City
Where do you live now? Soho / New York City
Best Italian: Babbo
Best dessert: Momofuku Milk Bar
Best place for a romantic date: Raoul’s
Best Sunday brunch: Crosby Street Hotel
Best place for a power business meeting: Soho House
If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? Depends on who it is. For a friend around my age, The Bowery or The Mercer.
Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Barney’s
Best place to buy Jewelry/Watches: For someone I’m dating? Finn Jewelry
Favorite Charity Event: I don’t attend many events.
Favorite Cultural Event: Central Park Summer Stage
Favorite Cultural Institution: The Guggenheim
Best Steakhouse: Peter Luger
Best Gym/Athletic Facility: Equinox Soho
Best Massage: Great Jones Spa
Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Central Park
Describe NYC in three words: alive, diverse, home
All-around favorite locale in NYC, whether a neighborhood, restaurant, venue, or other: West Village (I live in Soho, but unfortunately it’s become too commercial to call my favorite neighborhood, though I do still love the area.)
Best aspect of NYC: Restaurants