It’s not every day that a homeless person gets to star in a movie opposite an Oscar winner. In David Gordon Green’s dark Southern gothic indie, Joe, Nicolas Cage stars as a good-intentioned but self-destructive ex-con who can’t resist helping his dirt-poor protege, Gary (Mud‘s Tye Sheridan), the product of a broken home. The desperate teen turns to Cage’s Joe for a job, and when the kid shows up the first day with his dear-ol’ dad in tow, it’s apparent to Joe that Gary is in a hopeless situation.
Gary’s father, Wade, is an alkie degenerate who’s quickly fired for his laziness, but it soon becomes clear that it’s not safe to turn your back on him. He beats Gary for his day’s earnings, he pimps out his own daughter for booze money, and woe to the fellow drunk who’s savoring one last sip in his bottle when Wade craves a toot. It’s a haunting portrayal of ugliness and depravity from an actor you’ve never seen before but will likely have a hard time forgetting.
Gary Poulter was living on the streets of Austin, Tex., when a casting director recruited him to audition for Joe. He’d never really acted before, and decades of addiction had laid waste to his appearance, if not his spirit. “He just had this personality and charisma that you can’t find, that you can’t access with an actor who hasn’t lived it,” says Green. “There’s a look in his eye and a texture of his skin, and he’s missing half an ear. There’s just some beautiful qualities in him that for our purposes, brought out an authenticity of the role.”
At the Toronto Film Festival this week, Green and his two Hollywood stars were present after screenings to take bows and answer questions about Joe. Gary Poulter, however, wasn’t there to bask in the applause that he certainly deserved. He wasn’t back in Austin either, trying to find a safe shelter to spend the night. Gary Poulter was dead. READ FULL STORY