Slattery swaps Manhattan for 'God's Pocket' in directorial debut

Fri May 9, 2014 5:55pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When "Mad Men" star John Slattery chose to direct his first film, he moved a world away from Manhattan's Madison Avenue to ponder the plight of the working class in "God's Pocket," featuring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles.

Best known as silver-haired playboy Roger Sterling on AMC's hit 1960s ad-world drama "Mad Men," the 51-year-old Slattery recruited Hoffman and "Mad Men" co-star Christina Hendricks for his tale of a man down on his luck in a blue-collar enclave.

"God's Pocket" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opens in limited U.S. theaters on Friday.

Slattery adapted the script from a 1983 novel of the same name by Pete Dexter, drawn to "how people behave in a fishbowl" like God's Pocket, located on the gritty outskirts of South Philadelphia, where everyone's history is embedded in the small neighborhood.

The portrayal of the seedy community is infused with black comedy moments as fights break out, from long-stewing grudges to alcohol-fueled fisticuffs.

"There's a fatalistic sense of humor that all these people have because they know everything," Slattery said. "That dark sense of humor in conjunction with the sort of heavy circumstances of what happens I found very appealing."

In the late 1970s, a young man who is a racist is killed at a construction site, and his stepfather, Mickey (Hoffman), finds himself stuck with the body because he can't afford the burial.

As Mickey races against time to raise funeral funds with the body of his stepson hidden in the back of his freezer van, his wife, Jeannie (Hendricks), mourns her son's death and turns to a veteran alcoholic newspaper columnist to get answers, only to find the reporter has other things on his mind.   Continued...

Actor John Slattery, from the series "Mad Men," arrives at the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 27, 2013.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif