In “Joe,” which stars Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan, I saw one Oscar winner, one up-and-coming actor who just worked with an Oscar winner, and one great character actor, Ronnie Gene Blevins, who’s worth more than any Oscar nod. Blevins was the last actor to appear on-screen with the late Peter Falk. According to Blevins, whom I recently spoke to, he learned a lot from the experience.
Blevins plays Willie Russell, the guy who never got the girl. “Joe” is a story about the ex-con of the title, played by Cage, who befriends young “Gary” (played by Sheridan) after he comes to him looking for a job. Going toe to toe with Cage was no easy task for Blevins, evidently, but he held his own. He was handed the part of Willie Russell—who, thanks to good make-up looks like a redneck Scarface—after director David Gordon Green saw him in “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“I don’t know what genius he saw in the few lines I had in that film,” muses Blevins. But apparently there’s proof in the adage that there are no small parts, because after a couple of taped auditions Green called Blevins and told him, “call me back.”
Blevins was thrilled to be working with Cage, whom he counts among the few thespians on his bucket list of people to act with. Of course what made the experience even better was how giving an actor Cage was. “He’s a great guy who liked to include me in everything,” Blevins told me.
Of course this included the intense realism Cage insisted upon in their traditional bar fight scene, which actually left Blevins with whiplash. “I got the shit beat out of me in this film,” he commented. As this reporter put it, “It’s cool to get beat up by Nic Cage—but the kid from “Mud”? Of course, to make the latter believable is a testament to Blevins’s acting. Another is that his role was actually expanded from the original script after Green saw the great chemistry between him and Cage.
Blevins, born in Texas, learned his craft after graduating college and traveling to Los Angeles. “I decided I needed to learn how to act,” Blevins said. He studied with acting teachers like Stephanie Feury and Jocelyn Jones for almost a decade.
He immediately started getting work in episodic television with roles in “ER”, “Californication” and “CSI.” To break into film more he wrote, produced and starred in the feature “American Cowslip” which boasted a cast of old school favorites including Bruce Dern, Rip Torn, Cloris Leachman and the aforementioned Falk.
“Peter made you prove yourself as an actor” Blevins mentioned, and he did just that by giving Falk something to react to in his coverage in a scene previously shot. “I made him laugh and after that he accepted me.” Although the film wasn’t mainstream material it gave Blevins a chance to work with great people, all of which spoke the language of classic Hollywood. Other film roles followed including “Seven Psychopaths”, “Jobs” and the just completed upcoming thriller “Crawlspace.”
With a good attitude, respect for his peers and talent, Blevins has lots of great work ahead of him.