If you’ve read or heard anything about Mud, writer/director Jeff Nichols’ tale about two boys who encounter a fugitive hiding on an island in the Mississippi River, it’s most likely been about Matthew McConaughey, who gives an electric performance as a handsome rogue named Mud who’s wanted by the authorities after a crime of passion. But as deserving of praise as McConaughey is, the movie wouldn’t work without Tye Sheridan, the 16-year-old who shoulders the emotional weight of the story as one of the young river-rats, Ellis. With his parents’ marriage collapsing at the same time that he takes his own clumsy first steps into the minefield of teen romance, Ellis forges a bond with the idealistic Mud that threatens to put the boy and those he loves in harm’s way.
Nichols needed Sheridan to do a lot of heavy lifting, and he took a chance on the then-14-year-old, based on a recommendation from producer Sarah Green, who was working with Sheridan at the time on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Sheridan had been cast as Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s youngest of three sons in that film after a talent search of 10,000 candidates. “On the Malick set, they referred to him as the Torpedo,” said Nichols, when he spoke to EW at the Sundance Film Festival, where Mud had its American premiere. “When things got a little flat or just needed to be mixed up, they’d send Tye in and he’d just shake it up. No scripts. He just had this natural energy that people responded to.” READ FULL STORY »