How do you cast a cow? I believe I saw her name in the credits was Bessie.
Reichardt: It's Evie.
Ah, sorry. Embarrassing.
Reichardt: She now has a little calf named Cookie. It's a lot like casting a person: you get headshots and full body shots. We narrowed it down so we knew we wanted a Jersey cow, just for the physical size of a Jersey cow. They have these huge eyes. Then the animal trainers go out and make some videos, so they start sending you the casting tapes. As soon as we saw Evie, it was a no brainer. Everything about her was so awesome. So that began our long training process with her because cows don't swim, so getting a cow onto a ferry and all that was a lot of work.
So that was the big cow challenge?
Reichardt: That was the big challenge. I found out on Certain Women when we were working on this horse ranch, most of the animals I'm working with aren't trained. This was the first time I was working with trained dogs, and it was not as rewarding because there's not a connection between the actor and the animal. There's this in-between person [the trainer], and they always have the gaze of the animal because they want to know where the treat is. It's like a machine. There's no interaction and there's no spontaneity. They're not going to do some crazy dog thing like roll in the mud, and it's too bad because in the past the actors would adapt and play off the behavior of the animal, which is a great thing. But if you just have a little robot dog, it's not the same. So we started calling our friends and having them bring their dogs to swap some of them out.
But certainly the bird on René Auberjonois's shoulder and the cow, Evie, needed to be trained. Still, all the same, like most of the horses in Certain Women, the animals weren't trained and we became a super pared down crew, doing these slow motion movements to learn to communicate with our eyes. Then when it was time to shoot with the cow, we completely forgot about it and you just go through this frustration. There's so much activity and you're always pushing a film crew to go faster but when you're dealing with an animal you have to pull back and say, "We're not determining the speed of this and it doesn't matter what our schedule is -- we have to chill out." In a way, the animals train the crew. Everyone has to be trained to deal with these animals or you can't get anywhere. It's challenging.
I need to ask you about the oily cakes because they looked so good and they're so essential to the story. What type of research went into the look of those?
Reichardt: Our friend Patrick Long helped us and some of our friends who cook helped us do research because [the oily cakes] would've come from Europe. It was actually Jon's partner's idea. It was a matter of thinking about what ingredients you could get and then working from there. There was donut research, and the oily cake would've existed in that period. At the time, there was either baking powder [available] but not baking soda? I'm forgetting which one it is. The film is correct -- Cookie says it and I just can't remember what it is. We made hundreds of oily cakes.
Were they as good as they looked?
Reichardt: Oh, totally. They never went to waste. It's like what you get at a fair. It's just fried bread.
It reminded me of a funnel cake.
Reichardt: Yeah, and John Magaro got quite good at making the oily cakes. Toby Jones actually really loved the oily cakes, so when he says his line about liking them, he really had something to work off of because he enjoyed them.