When film studio A24 and director David Lowery began brainstorming ideas for how to make the release of The Green Knight: Collector’s Edition special, Lowery didn’t pull any punches. The Dallas native didn’t have a secret director’s cut of the film squirreled away, but he had an idea for an entirely new short film that could be included as an exclusive feature for the Blu-ray release. A24 gave him the green light and Oak Thorn & The Old Rose of Love was born.
The short, which runs 20 minutes, was screened at the Texas Theatre last Wednesday, followed by a Q&A with Lowery and a screening of The Green Knight.
Lowery said that working on the short gave him the opportunity to revisit aspects of The Green Knight without having to repeat himself.
“[Oak Thorn] has a tertiary relation to [The Green Knight] in that it is based on another Arthurian myth. So that connection is baked in,” says Lowery. “And there are some stylistic similarities. The visual language is somewhat the same and the set design has certain parallels. And the language itself that the characters are speaking… I really enjoyed writing The Green Knight and writing its dialogue, and this was a chance for me to dip back into that well a bit.”
It is not often that filmmakers are given the opportunity to revisit their previous work the way Lowery has with this project. But 2021’s The Green Knight has remained in the popular consciousness in a way few independent or arthouse films do.
“I think the movie, whether you like it or not…has got a stickiness to it. And that’s something I always try to do with my movies,” says Lowery. “I always want there to be something that doesn’t go down easy, that you have to wrestle with, or that sticks in your craw a bit. Because those are the movies that I always wind up enjoying the most: the ones that I have to stay awake in bed at night thinking about. And I think, for better or worse, The Green Knight does that.”
Once A24 agreed to Lowery’s idea, the project came together quickly. “I had a week in the summer between projects where I knew that I could pull this off,” he says. “We started from zero. We tried to figure out where we could find a sound stage to shoot it on and started calling agents asking if they had any actors that might be down to do something crazy over the course of three hot days in Texas. It was all very last minute, but in the very best way possible.”
As Oak Thorn came together, Lowery knew casting would be critical for his dialogue-heavy short film. Ultimately, Jackie Earle Haley and Sylvia Hoeks joined the project, and Lowery was effusive about their contributions.
“They brought everything [to the film] because this project was centered around the idea of two great actors going head to head for 20 minutes. It’s almost entirely dialogue and I knew I needed two incredibly talented actors to carry the material.”
While Oak Thorn & The Old Rose of Love had its world premiere as a surprise screening at a Belgian film festival in October, Lowery said that the screening at the Texas Theatre was its first official outing in North America.
The director gave away copies of The Green Knight: Collector’s Edition at the screening, along with what he had termed “Green Knight-related ephemera.”
“I’ve got an archive of bits and bobs from all of my movies, and every now and then I think I need to thin out the supply,” says Lowery. He gave away a screen-used prop letter from The Green Knight, a crew shirt they made for the movie, and a piece of the wardrobe from his 2013 film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
If you couldn’t make the screening but still want to see Oak Thorn & The Old Rose of Love, the short will not be available for streaming. It is included on The Green Knight: Collector’s Edition, which can be purchased on the A24 website.
As for what Lowery has coming up next, the writer/director just wrapped post-production on Peter Pan & Wendy, a retelling of Disney’s Peter Pan, which is planned for release in 2023. He will also be returning to the Texas Theatre on January 7 to host a Q&A with filmmaker Andrew Bujalski, who is screening both his new film There There and his 2002 indie opus Funny Ha Ha at the venue.