Jon Hamm Leaves the 1960s for Feature Film Role
Jon Hamm had no problem putting his retro Mad Men threads in the closet for his first lead role in a feature film, while co-star Josh Lucas had a very personal reason to throw on an outfit from yesteryear.
The two actors play emotionally distressed fathers in the independent mystery thriller Stolen, directed and produced by first-time filmmakers Anders Anderson and Andy Steinman. Inspired by the real-life "Boy in the Box" murder case in late-1950s Philadelphia, the story follows modern-day policeman Tom Adkins (Hamm) as he searches for his missing son and finds a dead child in a box at a construction site.
Then the film flashes back 50 years to a parallel story in which a grieving widower, Matthew Wakefield (Lucas), fights to keep his family together under the most grim circumstances.
Opening this month in select cities, Stolen is available on cable providers' video-on-demand service throughout the month.
Because of his iconic role as an ace adman in the 1960s-centric Mad Men, Hamm, 39, says he wanted to play someone contemporary "rather than keep myself in the past."
Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, American Psycho) wasn't going to fight him for the role. From the beginning, the role of the '50s father connected because he had lost his own grandfather not long before filming began in 2007.
"He was a construction worker and his situation was nothing like this, but he definitely had to face some very painful elements of his life and face them with this incredible, quiet dignity," Lucas, 38, says. "There are moral reserves that a man of that period of time had in a very different way than men do today."
Each of their acting styles - Hamm's intellectual approach vs. Lucas' emotional intensity - helped differentiate the time periods as well. "You all of a sudden start realizing just how subtle these guys can be with their looks and everything," Anderson says. "That brings so much more to the production than just the words on the page."
Hamm has dealt with loss in his life - his mother died when he was very young, and his father when Hamm was 20. "I don't have children, so it's hard for me to say, but I think there is a specific nature to that sort of loss that is incredibly difficult to deal with," he says.
Lucas doesn't have children, either, but the filmmakers saw him emerge as a father figure on the set with his young co-stars. "When it came to doing an emotional scene, he could go into that emotionality of it," Anderson says. "But at the same time, there was always this thought of, 'Well I need to also make sure I take care of these kids.' By approaching it that way, it kept him in the role of being more realistic as a father instead of just a single man who can go down that dark path."
Even with such sad material, Hamm can keep his work as a separate entity. "We deal with quite a lot of heaviness on the Mad Men set, too, and we're a pretty lighthearted group of people," he says.
But for Lucas, whose character deals with his wife's suicide, he needed his on-screen kids to keep his head on straight off-screen. "They keep you honest, they keep you on your toes, and they keep you remembering that this is a job that is about playing. It's cowboys and Indians," Lucas says. "That's what I found with my grandfather at times - his ability to look on the bright side even with some stuff that is so difficult."