The Integrity of Joseph Chambers Star Clayne Crawford on Playing a ‘Monster’
Feb 21, 2023
Following the success of The Killing of Two Lovers, Clayne Crawford and Robert Machoian joined forces for yet another acclaimed indie film. Now in select theaters and available on demand, The Integrity of Joseph Chambers follows the titular character, who is an insurance salesman and family man (played by Crawford) during an inner quest to acquire the skills to take care of his family in case of an apocalypse. He decides to go deer hunting by himself for the first time ever, despite objections from his wife (Jordana Brewster). Setting out into the mountains with a borrowed rifle, Joe roams the woods aimlessly in his search for deer. His boredom is short-lived, however, when in the blink of an eye, he undergoes a traumatic experience. What starts as an experiment to prove himself as a capable father and husband turns into a nightmare as Joe finds himself faced with a terrible choice that he must make.
We recently caught up Crawford to discuss collaborating with writer-director Machoian on multiple acclaimed projects and an upcoming film of his that also stars Jenna Ortega and Tommy Lee Jones.
On Playing Joseph Chambers
MW: Could you talk about your character Joseph Chambers, what he represents, and why you were interested in playing him?
Clayne Crawford: You know, I started making, financing films, and producing for a couple of reasons. One, there were actors I wanted to work with, and there were writers and directors who I felt needed an opportunity. And then selfishly, there were characters I desperately wanted to play. With [my previous film] The Killing of Two Lovers, I’d never been able to play someone that vulnerable, you know? I would have played the boyfriend role, the guy that beats the other dude up, right? And I really wanted to kind of stretch myself. And also, I was at a bit of a crossroads when I turned 40. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue making films or acting period. And if I was going to, I kind of wanted to try it on my own terms and have an opportunity to play a guy or a character the way that I wanted to play it, without any kind of outside interference.
So we have a little success with [The Killing of Two Lovers]. And it came out right as COVID hit, you know, we were at Sundance 2020. And it came out, and we were all sitting at home watching Netflix and day-drinking. And I was like, “Man, I need to go be creative. I need an outlet.” And [writer-director] Robert Machoian and I had been developing this material at HBO with Melissa Bernstein as a limited series. And [The Integrity of Joseph Chambers] was kind of like the first episode. And I dusted it off in 2021 and was just kind of looking at it. And I felt that there was a little movie in here, and there was an opportunity to explore kind of what we did with the first film [The Killing of Two Lovers], which is, “What defines a man nowadays?” And I thought, what better way than to take a guy who had been born and raised in an urban environment, a small city, and now he’s relocated to rural America, a small town. And the definition of man is very different in those two locations. And I think he was struggling a bit, as we all are, with what that definition means, you know?
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We grew up being told, “This is what’s a man.” And now, we’re learning that it’s a little different, and the pendulum continues to swing. So we’re just trying to find that happy medium. I think [my character] Joe is in that place. And we find him in a city that morning, where he’s planned this trip for quite some time. He’s bought these clothes, he’s got his hunting outfit… he has a plan. And he’s tired of being told “no.” And I also thought there was an opportunity to kind of look at guns in this country… I was 12 years old when I was given my first rifle. I come from a military background. I grew up in a very small town… I was just one generation removed from a man who had to provide for his family by hunting and fishing every day. So it was interesting to explore a guy who is trying to do the right thing. You could even argue it’s admirable to want to provide for his family in this way. But he still shouldn’t have a gun in his hand…
And Peter Albrechtsen, our sound designer, was so incredible at helping with this, that you kind of feel like maybe Joe is going to be the victim of something awful, right? What’s going to happen to this poor idiot in the woods as he’s fumbling around? And then, as the film kind of slowly unfolds, you realize that Joe’s the monster in the story. And I thought that was a great opportunity to just kind of shine a light on, I think, a majority of our problems in this country, which is a lack of education in whatever the situation may be.
On Collaborating and Future Projects
MW: Do you hope to collaborate with Robert Machoian on more projects in the future?
Crawford: The couple of films that he had directed previously, he always had a partner. And they had had a falling out for whatever reason, and Robert desperately just kind of wanted to direct on his own. And when we got on set of The Killing of Two Lovers, I remember, at one point, I’m like, “What is your path, as it relates to kind of talking to actors?” And he’s like, “Oh, [my former partner] talks to the actors, he works with the actors. I work with the camera”… [Robert] is a photography professor. So that’s why he’s so incredibly brilliant when it comes to framing. I mean, it’s beautiful, what he’s able to create in that lens. So for me, it’s as perfect as someone who was wanting to create characters without any outside influence. I was just truly curious of what my capabilities were after working in an industry for 20 years… And Robert is really wonderful at just stepping back and letting us kind of do our thing and find the blocking of it. And then he may just adjust the camera a little bit to capture it. And then again, the way he writes, he leaves so much open to interpretation.
MW: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
Crawford: Right after I shot this one, I immediately went into another project with the same producer that I worked with on this. His name’s Bo Clancey, and we made a little film called Best Clowns. And we sold it to 1091 Pictures, and they’ll release it this summer. They did What We Do in the Shadows, and it’s kind of in that vain. It’s like a comedy mockumentary… So I’m excited about that. And then just as an actor, I have a film that I just did [Finestkind] with 101 Studios and Paramount+ with the incredibly talented Brian Helgeland, who did Mystic River and wrote L.A. Confidential. He did Legend with Tom Hardy. He’s just a really talented guy. So I’m excited for that film. It’s got Tommy Lee Jones, Jenna Ortega, Ben Foster. A great cast.
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers comes to us from Gravitas Ventures.
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