'Hold the Dark' Explained: Jeffrey Wright Talks Character Russell Core

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Jeffrey Wright stars as Russell Core in Netflix's new film, "Hold the Dark." Netflix

When a writer decides to search for a missing 6-year-old boy who was taken by wolves in the Alaskan wilderness, he soon discovers the mission he was hired for has twisted into something much more sinister. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Netflix's Hold the Dark is a mystery that borders on horror.

Jeffrey Wright stars as Russell Core, the film's titular character. A man who is unfulfilled in parts of his life, he responds to a letter from Medora (Riley Keough) when she asks for his help. What he doesn't know are the dangers that he faces when he enters the wild, especially when Medora's husband, Vernon, (Alexander Skarsgård) returns home from fighting in Iraq to find out his son is dead.

Mysteries and secrets envelop the fictional village of Keelut and it's up to Core to uncover what lies beneath. Wright sat down with Newsweek to provide some insight into Saulnier's new film.

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Jeffrey Wright stars as Russell Core in Netflix's new film, "Hold the Dark." Netflix

Can you tell me a little bit about your character in the movie?

Russell Core is in some ways an old brokenhearted wolf who has been estranged from his pack and heads off into the wilderness to get away from it all. He's a skilled man, but an ordinary man, who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and finds himself on a road through this strange crucible that he either has to survive or not. Somewhere along the way, he's confronted with the opportunity for a strange redemption. In a way, he's the guy that you see pumping his gas at the corner convenience store who is asked to be a hero. I love that idea, particularly within the context of so much of the storytelling on film now wherein the hero is superhuman who capable of all things. That's great. That's fun. But I like the idea of the ordinary, perhaps, "hero."

One of the things I thought was interesting at the beginning of the film was that Medora helps him out by giving him shoes and a jacket. Then, when Core meets Vernon he says, "Oh, are those my boots?" Can you talk about the purpose or the symbolism of that?

There's huge symbolism there. I think if the audience goes on this journey with Core and with us, and walks in those boots as well, there's a wonderful exchange in the culminating scene between the three of them, in which Core says to Vernon Sloane, "They're looking for you." And he says in return, "But you found me." There are massive resonances and massive symbolism within that, and it speaks to what Core's journey has become about, and also speaks on a cryptic, mythic level about what Sloane actually represents. It's not probably what you might expect, but if you take that into consideration when you watch it, it's fun. It's a fun exercise.

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Jeffrey Wright stars as Russell Core in Netflix's new film, "Hold the Dark." Netflix

Yeah, because the premise that Medora lures Core to Keelut under isn't the true reason she wants him there.

Right. Medora is the catalyst that brings Core toward Vernon. She catalyzes and facilitates his walking in [Vernon's] boots. And Core, too, as well as Mariam, and that setting represents kind of the fullest humanness that we find within the film. There's a lot of stuff there. There's a story of redemption.

Is that one of the things that attracted you to the film, all these different stories?

I think what attracted me to the film first and foremost was the script and Jeremy [Saulnier] and the collaborative partners gathered around the script. The script was beautifully laid out, almost poetical in its descriptiveness. It was just a great read. Watching Blue Ruin, Jeremy's first film, I loved the ways in which he was exploring lawlessness and isolation in Virginia. But, after having read Hold the Dark, that Virginia setting seemed constrained. To explore that same type of isolation in the backside of civilization in the Alaskan wilderness gave room for the infusion of the symbolism and the mythic elements. It heightened the epic dangers and heroism.

One thing that surprised me is the film starts off as a murder mystery, then a thriller, an adventure tale, and then there are pop-up elements of horror here and there. It's a cinematic carnival in that way. It's a really steep drop on the roller coaster. If you like to be freaked out and taken on an epic journey it's a nice home for you.

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Jeffrey Wright (pictured above with Riley Keough) stars as Russell Core in Netflix's new film, "Hold the Dark." Netflix

I read it was negative 11 degrees Fahrenheit when you were filming. How did the weather affect your acting?

It helped. In that part of Canada, you get chinooks during the winter every now and again, these warm blasts that come through. You'll find overnight that three feet of snow have melted. Those are the most disappointing mornings because nature is a primary element. So we wanted ice to crystallize in my beard. We wanted steam vapor from the mouth. We wanted the shiver. We wanted to be feeling it in the bones because that's what the characters are up against. Of course, we were pretty darn toasty throughout. We were layered up and everything and just wishing the snow would start driving sideways. The times that I was in the caribou coat and boots, I was sweating by the end of it. I was sweating in an hour or so. Caribou don't generally freeze to death. It was great fun. I don't mind the cold, I grew up skiing, I knew how to protect myself.

Here's a fun question: What do you think Trump would be like if he were in Westworld?

I think he would wanna get out of there as quickly as possible.

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Jeffrey Wright, pictured with Riley Keough above, stars as Russell Core in Netflix's new film, "Hold the Dark." Netflix

"Hold the Dark" is currently streaming on Netflix.

'Hold the Dark' Explained: Jeffrey Wright Talks Character Russell Core | Culture