'The Kid' Director Vincent D'Onofrio Talks Westerns, Coming-of-Age Tales, and Directing His Daughter

From Wilson Fisk (Daredevil) to Detective Robert Goren (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) or Edgar the Bug (Men in Black), actor Vincent D'Onofrio has shown incredible range over the span of his career. Come this weekend, the actor will put on his director's cap in his first large movie, The Kid.

Starring the likes of Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), The Kid follows the age-old tale of Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and Pat Garrett (Hawke) as they play a game of cat-and-mouse all over the budding American Southwest.

Intertwined with the classic semi-biographical tale is an intriguing new story featuring the Cutler family as Rio (Jake Schur) and Sara (Leila George) go on the run from their abusive uncle Grant (Pratt).

It marks D'Onofrio's first major feature release after making his official debut with the indie thriller Don't Go In The Woods some nine years ago. Distributed through Lionsgate Entertainment, The Kid is set to be released in over 250 theaters across the country beginning this weekend.

ComicBook.com had the opportunity to sit down with D'Onofrio and dig deep into the story involved and the directors preparations heading into the film.

ComicBook.com: This movie obviously features the legendary showdown between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, but it also includes this really intriguing fictional story arch featuring the Cutler family in addition to this almost semi-biographical tale.

Vincent D'Onofrio: Yeah, I wanted to tell a coming-of-age story from the point of view of a young man, and how meeting other men in his life would affect him, and how it could affect him. And so, I thought it would be perfect to have these two kind of yin and yang characters like Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.

And so, you know, the stories about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are very easy to track. Most information available is about those two, as far as bandits. I think it's because Garrett was a law enforcer, and a lot of his movements through New Mexico were recorded, and Billy stuck around his home, which was his downfall in the end, but he did like to return back to where he was wanted for some reason.

So, they were, like, the perfect characters to take this fictional young boy and put him into a factual situation. And, the idea of meeting these... And, you know, romanticize it a little bit, have him meet these kind of iconic characters that are going to teach him and influence him to become the man that he ends up to be. That was the idea behind the story.

This isn't necessarily your directorial debut per se, butobviously it is your biggest. What made you want to take on this movie? Now, as I understand it, you both directed and had a hand in scripting or with the story, correct?

The story is mine, it's a story that I thought of, and then I had to find Andrew [Lanham], who's amazing, and get him to agree to do it with me and write the screenplay. And so, while I was doing The Judge in Boston with the Downey's, Andrew came out and stayed at the same hotel I was at, and we structured the whole film out. And then he went away and wrote, and he'd deliver pages, and we'd make changes, and then he'd go back and write again, so, yeah. But, basically, it's his screenplay and it's my story.

How did this all materialize? When did you know you wanted to take on this, as you called it, coming-of-age tale, and make this gritty Western flick?

Well, the films that I had made before were never really, you know, they were just things that I felt like doing with my friends, just to have some fun with talented people, and so, you know, they were out of my pocket. They were, you know, one was shot in my backyard upstate, you know, it was stuff like that, one is a short about Orson Welles, but ... Another story that I came up with that a writer wrote for me... But, none of them were financed and none of them had any kind of responsibility attached to them, you know?

This was my first endeavor at, like, actually finding a writer, getting financing, getting a company behind it, and putting it out there, you know? And, I just wanted to make a film, I wanted to make what I consider a real film, and it was just something that I felt like I needed to do.

So, you know, this was a story, I thought a Western would be a good idea, and this story had been on my mind. I had been examining my own life, you know, looking back at the men that influenced me, the people that have influenced me in my life, in bad ways and in good ways, and that kind of reflection led me into this kid Rio who's, you know, when you first meet him he's in a bad situation and he goes on the run, and he first meets Billy and then meets Garrett, and it's through those two guys that he becomes who he ends up to be.

Right. And, speaking now about kids, your daughter is in this.

She is.

She has a pretty substantial role. Especially, she has a heartbreaking, uneasy scene towards the end there. What was that like? This is your biggest film yet, what was it like having your family involved?

Well, having Leila involved was amazing. You know, she's a very talented girl -- I know it's coming from her father, but it's true the proof is in the pudding. And, she's very well prepared, she's a studied actress, she's not goofing around, she's very serious, and we fell right into a director/actor relationship on set. But, at the same time, you know, for those really harsh scenes where she's very upset and bad things have happened to her, yeah, it's tough as a dad to watch her do it, but that was the task at hand, you know?

Most of the film takes place in Santa Fe, and as I understand it, that's actually where this film was filmed at?

Yeah, basically, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and all the hills and spaces between is where we shot, and that's exactly where these guys rode. And so, that's kind of cool, just kicking up the same dust they did.

Right, can't get much better than that. I think that the decision to film there was kind of a no-brainer.

Yes, exactly. Yeah. They tried to get me to shoot somewhere else, but we put our foot down about it. A lot of Westerns are done in Calgary. And, it's just not the same look, you know, as New Mexico. So, I wanted it to have the real New Mexican look.



The Kid opens with a limited release Friday, March 8th.