Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Juno Temple and Matthew McConaughey star in KILLER JOE, a film directed by William Friedkin. Picture courtesy LD Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Killer Joe

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Based on the Play:
  • Killer Joe
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* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Killer Joe (2011/2012)

Also Known As: Killer Joe: A Twisted Redneck Trailer Park Murder Story

Opened: 07/27/2012 Limited

Theaters (66+)07/27/2012
AMC Empire 2507/27/2012 - 08/23/201228 days
Sunshine Cinema07/27/2012 - 08/16/201221 days
The Landmark08/03/2012 - 09/06/201235 days
Clearview Chel...08/03/2012 - 08/14/201212 days
Playhouse 708/10/2012 - 09/06/201228 days
Kendall Square...08/10/2012 - 08/23/201214 days
Cinema Village...08/17/2012 - 09/20/201235 days
Fallbrook 708/17/2012 - 09/06/201221 days
Claremont 508/24/2012 - 09/06/201214 days
Monica 4-Plex08/24/2012 - 08/30/20127 days
NoHo 708/31/2012 - 09/13/201214 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Crime Thriller

Rated: R for for strong and disturbing violence, sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language.

Love. Lust. Loyalty. Treachery. Innocent. Profane. Greed. Revenge. Family.


When 22-year-old drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash stolen by his mother, he has to come up with six thousand dollars quick or he's dead. Desperate, he turns to "Killer Joe" (Matthew McConaughey) when he finds out that his mother's life insurance policy is worth $50,000. Although Joe usually demands cash up front, he finds himself willing to bend the rules in exchange for Chris' attractive younger sister, Dottie (Juno Temple), who will serve as sexual collateral until the money comes in... if it ever does.

About the Production

When 22-year-old Chris (Emile Hirsch) finds himself in debt to a drug lord, he hires a hit man to dispatch his mother, whose $50,000 life insurance policy benefits his sister Dottie (Juno Temple). Chris finds Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a creepy, crazy Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. When Chris can't pay Joe upfront, Joe sets his sight on Dottie as collateral for the job. The contract killer and his hostage develop an unusual bond. Like from a modern-day, twisted fairy tale, "Killer Joe" Cooper becomes the prince to Dottie's Cinderella. Based on the play by Pulitzer and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, "Killer Joe" is a garish, provocative black comedy from Academy Award-winning director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) and stars Emile Hirsch, Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, and Gina Gershon.

Friedkin notes, "There's a thin line between good and evil and there is the possibility of evil in all of us." Friedkin relished exploring that interplay especially when more sinister inclinations take the lead. "Killer Joe" depicts the definitive dysfunctional family that gives in to its basest instincts and is forced to face the hidden truths about themselves that they've been avoiding for years. It's not an entirely heartless reflection, however; more noble aspirations hide among the cruder ones. As Friedkin puts it, "I myself have felt all of the emotions in my films at one time or another. I was drawn to this project as it's about innocence, victimhood, vengeance, and tenderness."

"Killer Joe" premiered as a stage production in 1998 at the famed Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. The play led to acclaimed productions in New York, London, and other cities around the world. In total, "Killer Joe" has been performed in 15 countries and 12 languages since its Chicago debut. When the play found a home at the Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, Texas, The Austinist announced, "It's like someone took Macbeth, 'All in the Family' and Sylvia Plath, tossed them in a blender and splattered them inside a beat-to-fuck trailer out in Dallas County." Some have called Letts' work the lovechild of Tennessee Williams and Quentin Tarantino. The Oklahoma-born Letts, a fan of Southern Gothic tradition, calls Williams one of his inspirations, in addition to William Faulkner and Jim Thompson. These influences, combined with Letts' distinctive storytelling, come together to form a play that is shocking, blatant, poetic, and completely cinematic.

Producer Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures was one of the story's early advocates. Friedkin, who also saw the play's big-screen potential, got a draft to Chartier, and the latter was thrilled to work with Friedkin. "He's just brilliant," Chartier says simply of the filmmaker.

Fellow producer Scott Einbinder adds, "Billy knows what he wants and how to get it. It was amazing to watch him work - he really believes in allowing the actors to sink their teeth into their character, but he also believes in a spare amount of takes, so the performances are really spontaneous. He tried to keep the cameras invisible to provide an atmosphere where the actors could do their best work."

"Killer Joe" attracted McConaughey, who was drawn to the enigmatic title character's moral duality. A charming, soft-spoken, and eloquent gentleman on one hand, Killer Joe is also a stone-cold killer with alarming sexual proclivities. Indeed, McConaughey did not entirely wrap his head around the character until he met with Friedkin.

"The first time I read the script, I couldn't quite see the character clearly," says McConaughey. "Then I met with Billy Friedkin and his affection for the love story and the blasphemous humor within this wickedly dysfunctional family helped me understand Killer Joe."

Emile Hirsch was cast next as Chris, the well-intentioned but often bungling drug dealer who would otherwise be the family savior. Hirsch was eager to work with Friedkin and was not disappointed.

"Every day was exciting working with Billy; he's so energetic and he's so passionate. It really feels like you are part of something. At the same time, he has this unbelievable attention to detail, it's incredible. You'll be doing a scene and he'll be checking every little aspect, even elements of your own character that you may not have even noticed. He has this extraordinary mind in that way - he's able to hold all the different elements of the production in his mind's eye while at the same time he has this strong vision for the movie in its entirety. He is a master and working with Billy was an extraordinary experience," Hirsch says.

The most difficult role to cast proved to be that of Dottie Smith, Chris' fragile younger sister who becomes the lynchpin of the movie. The role ultimately went to Juno Temple, for whom Friedkin was a staunch advocate. Friedkin worked to win her admiration, and the bond was critical when Friedkin filmed scenes in which Temple was literally and figuratively exposed.

"Working with Billy was amazing. I trusted him implicitly and he made me feel comfortable, regardless of the scene. He made me feel like I was perfect for the role and that I could just go for it. I wasn't afraid to take risks largely because of him," she says.

Temple adds that the film's location also contributed to her sense of liberation and ease. While the movie is set in Texas, the production filmed in New Orleans.

"I love New Orleans! I would happily move there. You get an incredible feeling of freedom and lust for life there. It's an alive and electric city," Temple says.

Producer Scott Einbinder adds that while New Orleans' tax credits for filming were enticing, the city itself was the ideal location and, as Temple suggests, set the right tone.

"Tax rebates aside, our filming location had to reflect the mood and atmosphere of the story. New Orleans has so many different faces it proved to be the perfect backdrop for the story," he says.

About the Cast

Matthew McConaughey ("Killer" Joe Cooper)

Matthew McConaughey is one of Hollywood's most sought after leading men and a huge box office draw. His numerous films have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide at the box office.

He is a Texas native who, while attending the University of Texas in Austin, planned to be a lawyer. After discovering the inspirational Og Mandino book "The Greatest Salesman in the World" before one of his final exams, he suddenly knew that he had to change his major from law to film.

McConaughey began his acting career in 1991, appearing in student films and commercials in Texas and directing short films. It was a chance meeting in Austin with casting director and producer, Don Phillips that led to an introduction to the then up-and-coming film director Richard Linklater. Linklater cast McConaughey as the unforgettable Wooderson in the cult classic Dazed and Confused. McConaughey has appeared in over 40 feature films and has portrayed an athlete, a police officer, a football coach, and a lawyer. He has worked with Hollywood greats such as Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Sandra Bullock, and Al Pacino to name a few. In addition to acting, McConaughey is a producer, director, and philanthropist. Known around the world for his work, McConaughey is ground by his Texas roots and "j.k. livin" philosophy.

McConaughey recently wrapped production on Lee Daniel's The Paperboy, opposite Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, and Zac Efron. McConaughey will appear as the title character in Jeff Nichols' drama Mud, and is costarring alongside Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming indie drama, Magic Mike.

In 2011, McConaughey starred as Mick Haller in the legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer, adapted from the hit novel series by best-selling author, Michael Connelly. McConaughey was also recently seen in Richard Linklater's latest dark comedy, Bernie opposite Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine. Bernie premiered at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Matthew starred as Connor Mead in the hit romantic comedy, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opposite Michael Douglas and Jennifer Garner in 2009.

In 2008, McConaughey appeared in the ensemble cast of Ben Stiller's wildly successful action comedy, Tropic Thunder. Earlier in 2008, he headlined opposite Kate Hudson in Fool's Gold, for director Andy Tennant. He also produced and starred in Surfer, Dude a comedy that featured music from his own j.k. livin recording artist, Mishka.

Previously, McConaughey portrayed real-life college football coach Jack Lengyel in the critically acclaimed drama We Are Marshall, the inspiring story of a small West Virginia town's struggle with devastating loss.

In 2005, he starred with Penelope Cruz and Steve Zahn in the action-adventure comedy Sahara - the first major motion picture produced by his production company j.k livin productions. He earned a People's Choice Award for his role in the film, which opened at the top of the weekend box office. Later that year, McConaughey starred opposite Al Pacino in the drama Two for the Money and was named as People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" for 2005.

Additional film credits include: the popular romantic comedies Failure to Launch, with Sarah Jessica Parker, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, opposite Kate Hudson; the sci-fi adventure Reign of Fire, with Christian Bale; the ensemble drama Thirteen Conversations About One Thing; the horror thriller Frailty, written and directed by Bill Paxton; and Adam Shankman's hit romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, opposite Jennifer Lopez.

McConaughey also starred in the World War II action drama U-571, Ron Howard's EDtv, Steven Spielberg's Amistad, Robert Zemeckis' Contact, and Joel Schumacher's critically acclaimed courtroom drama A Time to Kill, as well as Lone Star, Angels in the Outfield, The Newton Boys, and The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

McConaughey's production company, j.k. livin, executive produced the feature documentary Hands on a Hard Body, and is currently in development on numerous projects with various studios and production companies.

In addition to his film career, Matthew is dedicated to giving back to the community through his philanthropic work. In 2008, he started the j.k. livin foundation which is dedicated to helping teens lead active lives and make healthy choices to become great men and women. The core message of the foundation is that each child will benefit given the opportunity for a healthy lifestyle. The j.k. livin foundation works with schools throughout the United States and in other parts of the world to reach the maximum number of children with the greatest needs. The official website is:

Emile Hirsch (Chris Smith)

Emile Hirsch recently took time off from acting to work on a humanitarian journey that took him through the Congo, Zimbabwe, and the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Following those incredible experiences Emile had a fire to get back to acting and he's been busy ever since. First came The Darkest Hour, a sci-fi action thriller directed by Chris Gorak set in Russia about a group of kids who struggle to survive after an alien invasion. Immediately following that, Hirsch went to New Orleans to work with legendary director William Friedkin on Killer Joe. Following Christmas break, Emile jumped into The Motel Life, based on the novel by Willy Vlautin, starring opposite Dakota Fanning. He recently finished working on Oliver Stone's Savages with Blake Lively, Taylor Kitsch, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Salma Hayek, and Benicio Del Toro. Hirsch will next shoot Venuto al Mondo in Italy, based on the best selling book by Margaret Mazzantini, which will star Penelope Cruz and will be directed by Sergio Castellitto.

In 2008, Hirsch was a Screen Actors Guild Award nominee as part of the ensemble of Gus Van Sant's Milk. In the movie, Hirsch starred as real-life activist Cleve Jones opposite Sean Penn's Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award-winning performance as Harvey Milk. The following year, Hirsch worked on Taking Woodstock, directed by Ang Lee and based on James Schamus' adaptation of Elliot Tiber's memoir.

In 2007, Hirsch garnered attention for his captivating performance in Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn. Based on the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer and adapted for the screen by Penn, Into the Wild starred Hirsch as real-life adventurer Christopher McCandless. His portrayal earned him the National Board of Review Award for Breakthrough Performance by an Actor; the Rising Star Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival; Gotham and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Best Actor; and two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, in both the lead actor and ensemble categories.

Following Into the Wild, Hirsch became an Oxfam Ambassador and in June 2008 travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with Oxfam. He spent five days visiting this country, which has suffered one of the most deadly conflicts since World War II. Hirsch was featured on the cover of the January 2009 Men's Journal with a photo spread and a heartfelt diary about his experience. Hirsch has also participated in Summit on the Summit, an expedition to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of the need for clean water in the world.

Hirsch's other feature films include the Wachowski Brother's Speed Racer, Nick Cassavetes' Alpha Dog, and Catherine Hardwicke's Lords of Dogtown, opposite Heath Ledger.

Juno Temple (Dottie Smith)

In just a few years, Juno Temple has firmly established herself as one of the most versatile and talented young actresses in Hollywood.

Temple recently wrapped production on Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in the Batman franchise. Temple stars alongside Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine. The movie is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures on July 20, 2012. Temple is also starring in an independent film entitled The Brass Teapot about a young broke couple that steals a teapot that produces cash whenever someone feels pain.

Additionally, Temple is starring in Jack and Diane, a love story between two teenage girls, one of whom occasionally turns into a werewolf as a representation of all-consuming love and desire.

Temple can also be seen in Killer Films' Dirty Girl, in which the actress plays a notorious high school slut who journeys from Oklahoma to California to find her father. The Weinstein Company purchased the film for distribution at the Toronto Film Festival, and released it on August 5, 2011. Temple also starred as the Queen in Paul W.S. Anderson's The Three Musketeers, which was released by Summit Entertainment in October 2011. The cast includes Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen and Milla Jovovich.

Temple had two films premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. She starred as Lily Hobart opposite Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann in Elgin James' Little Birds, which Millennium Entertainment acquired for distribution in fall 2011. Her other film, Kaboom, is Gregg Araki's sci-fi tale about the sexual awakening of a group of college students.

In 2009, Temple appeared in the independent drama, Cracks, directed by Jordan Scott. The film explores the dark side of female relationships at an elite, English boarding school. Temple plays Di Radfield, a student who becomes obsessed with her teacher, played by Eva Green. In 2010, Temple appeared in Focus Features' relationship dramedy, Greenberg, directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Ben Stiller.

In 2008, Temple was seen in The Other Boleyn Girl, opposite Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Temple played Jane Parker, who marries Anne Boleyn's (Portman) brother. Parker's accusations of incest between the two ultimately led to the executions of both George and Anne.

In 2007, she appeared in the Academy Award-winning film Atonement, opposite Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. Temple played Lola Quincey, who changes everyone's lives when she is raped in the garden and Briony (Ronan) erroneously names Robbie (McAvoy) as the rapist.

Temple's breakthrough came in 2006 when she won the role of Cate Blanchett's daughter in the Academy Award nominated film Notes on a Scandal. Temple played Polly, the rebellious daughter of Blanchett's character Sheba.

Additional credits include Mr. Nobody, Year One, 1939 and British box office hits St. Trinian's, Wild Child and Pandaemonium.

Juno is the daughter of director Julien Temple and producer Amanda Temple. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

Gina Gershon (Sharla Smith)

Gina Gershon recently spent two seasons on HBO's hit show How To Make It In America as classy, sexy, Nancy Frankenburg.

She is next set to star in The Unknown Son alongside Val Kilmer, Eric Roberts, and David Anders. She recently starred in Taylor Hackford's Love Ranch opposite Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci. Gina's other work includes such films as Richard LaGravenese's P.S. I Love You, Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls, The Wachowski Brothers' Bound, Robert Altman's The Player, Alex Steyermark's Prey for Rock & Roll (which she went on tour to promote and ended up producing the documentary Rocked for IFC), Michael Mann's The Insider, and John Woo's Face/Off. She has also had television roles on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Rescue Me, and Eastbound & Down.

Overseas, Gina worked with Danny Glover and an all-star Turkish cast in the highly anticipated Turkish film Five Minarets in New York and Olivier Assayas sought her out to play the role of Elaine Si Gibril in the French film Demonlover.

Gershon is not only a versatile film actress, but has also had proven success on stage. After appearing in off-Broadway and regional theater productions, she made her Broadway debut in Sam Mendes' revival of Cabaret in January 2001. For six months, she played the key role of Sally Bowles and then returned again that October to reprise the role for another month. In 2008, she once again appeared on Broadway in the revival of the farce Boeing Boeing, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival. Her other Broadway credits include the revival of Bye Bye Birdie where she starred in the role of Rose.

Gershon is also a singer/songwriter releasing her first eclectic album entitled In Search of Cleo (which she then turned into a one-woman show) in 2007. Gershon went on to release with a kids' album, Beardo & Baddo - The Good, The Bad, & The Hungry. Gina is also a children's book writer. In 2008, Putnam Juvenile published her Camp Creepy Time, a tale of a boy who discovers aliens at his summer camp.

Thomas Haden Church (Ansel Smith)

Thomas Haden Church received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Jack starring opposite Paul Giamatti in Alexander Payne's critically acclaimed film Sideways.

The Fox Searchlight Pictures' release premiered at the 29th Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win numerous awards in 2004 and 2005, including a Golden Globe for Best Comedy Picture, Broadcast Film Critics award for Best Picture, a Screen Actors Guild / SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast and 6 Independent Spirit Awards. Church was also honored as Best Supporting Actor by the Broadcast Film Critics and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Church most recently starred in the Disney Pictures' sci-fi, adventure John Carter opposite Willem Dafoe, Bryan Cranston, Samantha Morton and Taylor Kitsch. Previously, Church was in Cameron Crowe's We Bought A Zoo, which was released on December 23, 2011 by 20th Century Fox. The film also starred Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Patrick Fugit, and Elle Fanning. Church also starred in Another Happy Day opposite Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Ellen Burstyn, which was released November 4th.

In 2010, Church was seen in Sony Screen Gems' Easy A, a comedy co-starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci, Penn Badgley, and Patrica Clarkson with Will Gluck directing. The film opened to critical accolades and has performed exceptionally well at the worldwide box office.

In 2009, Church starred opposite Elisabeth Shue and Melissa Leo in Don McKay, which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Two other movies starring Church included 20th Century Fox's dark comedy All About Steve, opposite Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper and Paramount Pictures' family film Imagine That, starring Eddie Murphy.

In 2007, Church gained worldwide appreciation for starring as the villain Sandman aka Flint Marko in the third installment of Sony Pictures franchise, Spider-Man 3, which was 2007's largest box-office success. That year, Church also starred opposite Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker in the Miramax art-house film, Smart People.

Church won an Emmy Award and received a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild nomination for his role as Tom Harte opposite the legendary Robert Duvall in the western epic, Broken Trail. The movie, directed by Walter Hill and premiering on AMC, was critically acclaimed and a huge ratings success. In 2006, Church utilized his unique voice in two voice-over roles; first as the cow in Dreamworks' Over the Hedge, and then as the crow, Brooks, in the remake of the classic, Charlotte's Web, released by Paramount Pictures.

Church made his feature film debut in the legendary film Tombstone in 1993. Church first gained prominence for his role as the bucket-headed mechanic, Lowell Mather, on the long-running NBC series Wings. He is also known for his lead role in the FOX series Ned and Stacey, in which he starred opposite Debra Messing as the self-righteous Ned Dorsey. In 1997, TIME Magazine proclaimed Ned Dorsey as "One of the six reasons to watch television." That same year, and for the same performance, Church was declared "unfit to live with dogs" by National Public Radio.

Church has also had roles in numerous feature films, most notably opposite Brendan Fraser in the box-office blockbuster George of the Jungle, and the straight-to-cable Free Money, opposite the brilliant and (bizarre) Marlon Brando.

In addition, Church was the co-screenwriter and director of the film Rolling Kansas, which premiered as an official selection to the Sundance Film Festival in 2003.

Church resides on his ranch in Texas.