Nick Offerman and Brett Haley discuss the themes and emotion of “Hearts Beat Loud”

Chris Duncan

Showing at SXSW, “Hearts Beat Loud” is a warm and comforting tale about human emotion. Reflecting real life’s hardships and small victories, the film as directed by Brett Haley stars Nick Offerman as Frank Fisher, a divorced father to Sam Fisher as played by Kiersey Clemons. Offerman sheds the manly reputation placed on him from his “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson, a meat-loving and stalwart libertarian, playing a character who struggles to express himself in any other way but music. The Daily Texan sat down with Nick Offerman and Brett Haley to discuss the upcoming film.

The Daily Texan: Brett, I wanted to talk to you about the inspiration for the film. Looking at your past, it seems like something that you could closely relate to, any truth in that?

Brett Haley: I’ve never been in a band. I always sort of wanted to be in a band, so I made a movie about it. I love music though, and my brother educated me early on about what I consider to be good music. There’s a lot of that in the movie. You know, like the Tom Waits album is a nod to my brother, and I grew up listening to Tom Waits while everyone else was listening to Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. But I still do obviously love the Backstreet Boys, in certain contexts.

But I think I’ve always wanted to make a band movie. I grew up doing musicians, and I love musicals. This is my sort of version of a grounded musical, even though it’s not a musical it’s music driven. So I knew I wanted to make something around music, and have that be the storytelling element. I start from a place of theme over a place of personal experience, there were themes in this movie I wanted to explore about the creative process, letting go, about parents. There were a lot of themes I wanted to work in.

DT: Yea, the father-daughter bond is very strong in the movie.

BH: Yea, those relationships are super important. Some people have great relationships with their parents, some don’t. Some new parents are scared, some are about to let go — it’s relatable. I tried to make their relationship real, but also likeable and enjoyable [laughs].

DT: There were moments of truth to the relationship, and I wanted to talk to Nick about that. How do you prepare for something like that, especially considering you don’t have kids?

Nick Offerman: I don’t have kids, but I do have parents. That was a good resource. But, you know, when the writing is good, that does a lot of the work for you. So once Kiersey [Clemons] arrived, we started forming a real life friendship and seeing how that would form our relationship in the film. And the two had a lot of similarities. Much like a dad and a daughter, I also was interested in gaining her approval. I wanted her to think I was cool. And so, naturally, and it bled into the film, I paid attention to her. I cared about her, I felt parental. When we’d leave rehersal, I was very invested in how she was getting back to her apartment and if she would be safe. And a huge part of the equation is that she’s a hugely talented, empathetic actress. So she opened herself and gave me the availability to plant all of the fatherly roots that feel necessary.

DT: So now that the movie’s over, do you feel like something’s missing in your life?

NO: No, but I do miss… We’re friends, but now we’re 47-year old dumb guy and she’s 23-year old superstar. So some of the relationship is being perpetuated, where I’ll text her and try to make her laugh with an emoji choice, and she just always tells me I’m dumb.

DT: That’s just something that happens to most fathers though.

NO: Yea. Which I take to mean ‘I love you.’

BH: And I have the same type of relationship with Kiersey too. I’m cool, I’m only 11 years or 12 years older than her. I try to get her to follow me on Instagram and she won’t….

DT: If you want to try to be the cool uncle, you have to set some kind of restriction.

BH: You know what, I should make her work for it, I should unfollow her.

NO: You should get off social media.

DT: I wanted to talk about the emotional weight in several of the scenes in the movie, especially with Frank who’s a little immature. How important is it to you to emphasize that these complex relationships still exist in today’s world?

BH: I think moments of relatability, whether they be vulnerable or humorous, are hugely important in any movie in the sense that they’re real, the audience can relate to it. So my goal is to create those under the most realistic circumstances possible. I want to make it feel honest and authentic.

DT: Nick, this is your second time working with Brett. What made you want to come back?

NO: The first time. I had seen Brett’s previous film “The Hero,” and we (Offerman and his wife Megan Mullally) loved the film. I became friends with Sam Elliot as well, and Sam got ahold of me to tell be about “The Hero” and that they wanted me to play the role.

Brett’s done this three times now, where he takes an actor that he feels hasn’t gotten enough to carry the show and writes a beautiful piece for them. Being a part of that with Sam, I would be happy to consider those scenes the peak of my career if somebody said I had to retire today. And so that was incredibly fun…

This is the only role that has been written for me, it’s the only time I’ve gotten to be the lead in a film. And particularly that it’s not within the parameters of my stereotype. People want to see me chop wood and eat barbeque. In the grand scheme of things, in this social time where we’re in a healthy way being forced to redefine manliness, as someone who’s perhaps been inaccurately accused of being particularly macho or manly, I’m thrilled to represent a sense of vulnerability and a notion that true manliness resides not in the bravery to be violent of taciturn, but the guts its takes to be vulnerable and emotional.

DT: Brett, your first three films were indie success stories. What do you think will make this film achieve the same success, if not more?

BH: In my mind, it’s a success already. I made the movie I wanted to make with the people I wanted to do it with. And all the things I wanted to accomplish, I feel like we did. Of course I want the film to get good reviews and for people to see it, but all of that is out of my control. It’s sort of like having a kind. I don’t have a kid yet, and I don’t know if I will have kids, but movies are a lot like children. My movie, my kid, has left the nest. She’s out there in the world, and I can’t help her anymore.

NO: Tom Waits talks about that in his songs a lot. You bring them up, and release them out to the world. Some write home once and awhile.

BH: [Laughs] And some of them you never hear from.

NO: And some of them go south.

BH: I think this movie has the makings of… young people like this film, older people like this film, the music is great to relate to. I hope people go out and enjoy it. But in the end, what can I do?

DT: What do you want people to get out of the film?

BH: I want people to have been moved and feel good about the small things we take for granted in life. That’s it. Just remember there are a lot of people who love you, and give them a call once and a while.

NO: The film has catharsis, it always makes my cry, and that combines with the really effective original music and Kiersey’s superstar delivery — I feel like, walking out of the theater, people feel like things will be okay. If you have loved ones and you’re treating them right, things will be okay.

BH: And there’s an inherent nature of love. I hope people walk away feeling full. I laughed, I cried, I grooved.