The truth is stranger – and more horrifying – than fiction in DARK WATERS, the powerful new thriller from Todd Haynes that dramatizes the very real and disturbing case of a small West Virginia town taking on one of the largest corporations in America. In the late 90s, it was discovered that DuPont, the legendary chemical company, was dumping dangerous toxins into the water supply of a town next to one of its plants, effectively poisoning many of its residents and cattle. A corporate lawyer named Robert Bilott, who was used to defending corporations like DuPont in situations like this, took on the case of the people and took DuPont to court. That battle lasted 20 years.
Bilott’s story is prime material for Hollywood, with Mark Ruffalo – an activist in his own right – was the first to take up the reins and steer the movie into the right hands after reading about the case in the NY Times. We recently had the opportunity to talk to a few of the main participants in this important (and, of course, award season-ready) film.
Sitting with Ruffalo and the man he portrays, Rob Bilott, is a rather neat experience. For his part, Bilott seems to be taking everything in stride, though even he admits the situation’s a bit surreal. We talked about what it was like for Bilott to watch his life story play out in front of him, what made the project so important to Ruffalo, how much of Ruffalo’s performance is actually based on Bilott, and more.
Todd Haynes has a very eclectic filmography, with titles like VELVET GOLDMINE, FAR FROM HEAVEN, I’M NOT THERE and CAROL have solidified him as one of the trusted and beloved voices in cinema these last few decades. So to see him tackle a film like DARK WATERS, a legal thriller in the mold of THE INSIDER or ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, is a bit surprising. But to hear Haynes tell it, he’s been looking for something like this for a while. I spoke with Haynes and Tim Robbins – who plays Bilott’s superior and really needs no introduction – about the allure of such a grim tale, Robbins’ relationship with the man he portrays, the surprise of seeing corporate lawyers depicted as noble in a film for once, and shooting the film in the locations where it all actually happened.