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Super 8 – How Kyle Chandler knew he was in good hands

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Super 8 - Kyle Chandler
Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Kyle Chandler has had a successful career both in movies and television. He starred in the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights, also starring in the popular series Early Edition. His film work includes The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Kingdom, King Kong and Mulholland Drive.

He is currently starring in JJ Abrams’ new movie Super 8. Co-produced by Steven Spielberg, Chandler portrays Jackson Lamb, a deputy in a small Ohio town. Set in 1979, Lamb’s son Joe (Joel Courtney), along with his friends, is making an amateur zombie movie for fun on their super 8 camera. While shooting one of the scenes, they witness a horrendous train crash which they soon come to realize was not an accident.

Shortly after the crash, inexplicable events begin to happen in the town, and Deputy Lamb must race against time to figure out what’s going on.

What was it about this project that attracted you to it?

Super 8 - Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Ron Eldard
Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) and Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

First of all, you know you’re working with JJ Abrams and you know as you read the script you can get a sense of its scope and scale. But also within the scope and scale you’ve got these characters that have these emotional through lines that you as an audience will grab on to. It’s just another reason to sit and want to be with these people.

Visually as well it’s beautiful. You know the special effects are going to be incredible. You know you’re in good hands with the director, you know you’re in good hands with the producers, you know you’re in good hands all the way around, so basically I got the feeling that this is a no-brainer. I’m very fortunate to be part of this group.

Can you talk a little about Jackson and Joe’s relationship?

Jackson’s wife has passed away and now he has to care for a son who he doesn’t understand all that well. He wants to protect Joe as much as possible, but he also sees that Joe is growing up and he’s going to go on adventures with his friends, whether Jackson likes it or not.

Super 8 - Kyle Chandler
Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

The communication between Jack and Joe is not very good. His son is 14 years old, which is an interesting time in a young man’s life. It’s a bad time as far as I’m concerned. I only lost my wife about six months ago, and he lost his mother, and I don’t think in this household that enough has been said, or that either of the characters know how to let that go. And so a lot of it has to do with the divide between the two, them being in their own little worlds and not sharing their grief.

Throughout the film it’s a nice process for my character. In the course of the film, I can’t find my son, and if I don’t find my son I’ll never find myself.

How did you and Joel bond as father and son?

In the beginning it’s interesting because people ask, ‘What did you talk to Joel about? Was it about the acting, as he’d never acted before?’ And we didn’t. JJ pretty much stayed with [the kids], and I thought that was good because we didn’t communicate too much until the end, and then we were far more in a communication as two actors, and that worked out good as well, because there was that distance.

What was it like working with Joel as he was a newcomer?

I can only imagine what it would be like to come onto a large, intimidating, complicated set like this, having never worked on a movie before. Joel handled it so well, meeting every challenge.

What are some of Jackson’s challenges in this?

Super 8 - Zack Mills and Kyle Chandler
Preston (Zack Mills) and Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Slowly but surely I start getting calls, something in town is wrong. Things are missing. People’s property is starting to disappear. At one point I find out that the animals are starting to be found in counties way too far away. And then people start disappearing, and you start finding places that are destroyed and none of it is making sense.

Meanwhile, you’ve got the Air Force, they are in town because of this train crash, this derailment, and trying to get the manifest from the train, Jack Lamb is shut down. They won’t reveal the manifest. So already there’s something suspect. The army starts sweeping through the town looking for something, but no answers are given. So there is this question of what’s going on, meanwhile everyone’s freaking out. That’s how the adventure rolls on. It’s a question, wrapped in a question, wrapped in a question, and that’s the ride we go on.

People in the town start doing what we all do when we can’t solve a mystery – they start pointing fingers at each other. A shadow starts to pervade this little Ohio town and then you have these young kids who are right in the thick of something huge, even as the police are trying to figure things out.

This was shot in Weirton, West Virginia, doubling as a small town in Ohio. What was it like filming there?

Super 8 - Ron Eldard and Kyle Chandler
Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) and Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

It’s not often that you get a chance to step into one of those places where people are so willing to let you be part of their lives. I immediately hooked up with the local Chief of Police, and spent a day driving around with him, meeting all the other deputies. They gave me a real sense of what it’s like to live in a small town.

Any last thoughts on the movie?

This movie has everything, it’s got a heart, it’s got a soul, it’s got these transitioning characters, there’s mystery, there’s scary parts, there’s adventure and it’s just a like a non-stop train that keeps moving faster and faster until boom. At the end you’re going to sit and say, ‘Wow, I wish that lasted a little bit longer. I enjoyed that,’ which is the same thing I said with every Steven Spielberg movie I’ve ever seen, ‘I wish that had lasted a little bit longer.’