Words by Mr Freddie Campion
Get ready to see a lot more of Mr Scoot McNairy. Having spent the past 10 years hopping between guest TV appearances and cantankerous but likable leading roles in low-budget indie flicks, the 32-year-old Texas native (real name John, but he's gone by Scooter, or Scoot, for as long as he can remember) now has four films lined up with four high-profile directors - who all share a taste for moody cinematography and gritty realism, as well as a knack for making cantankerous but likeable renegades look good on camera. First he plays an amateur thief set upon by Mr Brad Pitt's notorious hit man in Mr Andrew Dominick's Killing Them Softly; then a US foreign service worker trying to escape from 1979 revolutionary Iran in Mr Ben Affleck's Argo; then a slippery circus hand in Mr Steve McQueen's 19th-century Shame follow-up, Twelve Years a Slave (also with Mr Pitt); and finally, a role in Mr Gus Van Sant's touted Oscar winner Promised Land, next to Mr Matt Damon and Mr John Krasinski.
The last one holds particular resonance for Mr McNairy. "I play a farmer," he says from his LA home, a few days after returning from the Toronto International Film Festival, where Argo was screening. "Because of my childhood, I feel as though I knew that guy."
Although he mostly grew up in Dallas, he spent holidays and weekends on his parent's ranch in rural Paris, Texas. It's where he got a love for the "wide open spaces, wildlife and nature" that he still relishes today, and why, just as Hollywood seems to be waking up to him, he and his wife (actress and fellow Texan Ms Whitney Able) now divide their time between LA and a plot of land they bought in Texas last year.
We really wanted a house in the middle of nowhere, where we can be as loud as we like and shoot guns
"I always knew I never wanted to stay [in LA]," Mr McNairy says. "And having met my wife she was of the same mind-set... We really wanted a house in the middle of nowhere, where we can be as loud as we like and shoot guns."
Did he get his wish?
"Well, picture this," he says. "You wake up in the morning, brew a nice cup of coffee, walk out onto the back porch and just start firing off firearms in your boxers."
So how did this no-nonsense Texan (he says the only similarity between his LA and ranch wardrobes is that he "doesn't really care" about either of them) end up releasing not one, but two films with Mr Pitt in just 12 months?
The answer is somewhat reluctantly.
In his early twenties Mr McNairy moved to Austin, Texas, and found himself cast in his first film role, Wrong Numbers in 2001 - a teen drinking comedy written and directed by friend and frequent collaborator Mr Alex Holdridge. The small film won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival, but Mr McNairy, it would seem, still wasn't taken by the prospect of becoming an actor. "I thought I wanted to be a wildlife photographer or cinematographer," he says, citing his previously mentioned love for the great outdoors. "So I moved [to LA] to go to film school."
Mr McNairy stars as Andrew Kaulder in the 2010 sci-fi thriller
cannes film festival
Messrs Ben Mendelsohn, McNairy and Brad Pitt at the Killing Them Softly premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival, France, May 2012
Clockwise from left: Messrs McNairy, Ben Affleck, Rory Cochrane and Chris Denham in the 2012 political drama
For whatever reason, it didn't last, and after a year he dropped out and began making an income doing odd jobs in the film industry - he worked as a carpenter, building film sets, and as an extra, until eventually finding steady work starring in TV commercials.
"I did something like 200 commercials," he says. "I can't even remember them all. Everything from Chevy to Taco Bell and Bud Light."
When his agent suggested he start auditioning for theatrical roles too, Mr McNairy began taking acting more seriously, throwing himself into classes wherever and with whoever he could.
"It's my personality," he says. "If I'm going to do something, I want to do it to a T."
In fact, as we speak, he's waiting to hear if he's got another big role, and although he can't say exactly what it is, he does say that if he were to get it, he'll be spending the better part of the next month preparing.
"Everything else goes on the back burner and I put in as many hours and as many days as I can," he reveals. And this process certainly rings true for Argo. Based on actual events, he plays one of six US embassy workers hiding in Tehran for several months, and in order to accurately depict their claustrophobia and isolation, he and the five other actors portraying the group moved into the house they filmed in for nearly a week, deprived from any contact with the outside world.
Twelve Years a Slave, the story of a man who spent more than a decade in slavery after being kidnapped in Washington in 1841, was similar, if not a little closer to home. "The place we have in Texas has an 1850s Civil War cabin on it," he says. "So I just moved in there a week before [filming started]."
So is he praying for more Western roles?
"Yeah, and it'd be great if they came and shot them on my land too," he says. "Then I won't have to go anywhere."
Killing Them Softly is out now in the UK, 11 October in Australia and Hong Kong and 30 November in the US
Argo is out on 12 October in the US and 7 November in the UK