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Revisiting Our Conversation With “First Cow” Star John Magaro

With the acclaimed A24 title First Cow coming to VOD next week (July 21st, to be exact), now seems like a perfect time to re-post the chat I had with star John Magaro. We talked plenty about the movie, to be sure, but also just about what interests him as an actor. Sitting down in a Manhattan coffee shop with him, we spent over a half hour talking about not just his career, but the directors he’s worked with, how he sees the job of an actor, and what the future of the industry might hold. He was even a bit surprised to hear how fond I was of his roles in Liberal Arts and Not Fade Away, two performances that helped put him on the map, along with high profile films like The Big Short. It was a wide ranging chat, but one enjoyed by both sides. First Cow (review found here) is potentially going to be an under the radar Academy Award player, so don’t sleep on this one. Even removed from Oscar consideration, it’s just a high quality indie flick.

In case you forgot, the film is largely a two hander, looking at an unlikely friendship. After a modern day prologue, we meet Cookie Figowitz (Magaro). Working as a cook as he heads west, he’s very much a loner, never connecting with anyone. Having joined a group of fur trappers on the way to, and in, the Oregon Territory, he’s seen mostly as an annoyance. One day, he meets and makes a connection with a Chinese immigrant named King Lu (Orion Lee). In short order, a bond is formed. The two men plan out a business, hoping to team up and make a life for themselves. However, having limited means, it’s very much a shoestring operation, heavily reliant on the help of a wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow. For a spell, it all seems to be working, but when their collaboration is threatened, what will they do? Reichardt directs and co-writes with Jonathan Raymond, adapting his own novel. Christopher Blauvelt provides the cinematography, while William Tyler composes the score. Supporting players include Ewen Bremner, Lily Gladstone, Toby Jones, Alia Shawkat, and Scott Shepherd.

A combination of Kelly Reichardt’s skills and the performances of both of her leads (especially John Magaro) make this one of her most accessible movies. Orion Lee and John Magaro put forth deeply human turns, instantly becoming people you want to spend time with. In particular, Magaro proves just as effective in a period piece as he has in more modern fare. This is further evidence that he’s going to be a star in short order. It’s a question of when, not if. Under the direction of Reichardt, he spreads his wings and is able to fly. This is subtle work, but altogether captivating.

Here again is our interview with John Magaro. Enjoy:

First Cow comes to VOD on July 21st!

(Photos courtesy of A24)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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