Decaying steel town gets movie star turn in 'Out of the Furnace'

Thu Dec 5, 2013 7:06pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - A brief drive through Pittsburgh's down-and-out steel mill borough of Braddock at the time of the economic downturn in 2009 was all it took, and director Scott Cooper knew where he wanted to set his next film.

The problem: He didn't have a story.

Now, the distillation of the time spent among Braddock's working-class single-family homes and rusted-out iron furnaces along the Monongahela River has delivered the elements Cooper needed for "Out of the Furnace" - a tale of brothers and revenge. Starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, it will be in wide release in U.S. movie theaters on Friday.

"I was struck by how cinematic (it was) and how it dripped with atmosphere," said Cooper of Braddock. The borough reached its economic peak in the 1950s and '60s but went into a steep decline in the early '80s, when the area's major blast furnaces closed.

Braddock's population today stands at around 2,100, and it has lost more than 80 percent of its residents since 1960.

"I knew that I wanted to shoot a film here and I wrote it specifically for Braddock," Cooper added. "I wasn't going to make the movie if I didn't shoot it there."

"Out of the Furnace," distributed by independent studio Relativity Media, tells the story of steel mill worker Russell Baze (Bale) and his younger brother, Rodney (Affleck), an Iraq War veteran haunted by his tours of duty, who would do anything to avoid working in the mills like his brother and father.

What struck Bale about the Russell character, a good man to whom bad things happen, was the change in Braddock's fortune and how Russell was determined to stay despite the odds.   Continued...

British actor Christian Bale poses for a portrait while promoting his upcoming movie "Out of the Furnace" in Los Angeles, California November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni