Riley Keough and Gina Gammell discuss Award-Winning Debut War Pony on The Awards Tour Podcast

The best friends and production partners break down their creative friendship and winning the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

by | December 19, 2023 | Comments

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A few weeks ago, we spent the day with Gina Gammell and Riley Keough to chat about their directorial debut, War Pony. In doing so, we got an intimate peek into a lifelong friendship that began on the lawn of the Cinespia Outdoor movie theater here in Los Angeles and eventually found its way to the awards podium of the Cannes Film Festival. We spoke in-depth about the genesis of the project, which they co-wrote with their friends and collaborators Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy, but also about how friendship was at the heart of not just the film but the ethos of their joint production company, Felix Culpa.

Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: I love how this whole story was born of a friendship that first started with American Psycho, took a detour through American Honey, and ended in the American Midwest with the Lakota tribe.

Riley Keough: That’s emotional.

RT: I mean, friendship is what kind of brought you here. If you didn’t have these friendships, if you didn’t have these relationships, we would’ve never gotten War Pony. So I’d love for you guys to talk about the journey of friendship that brought this film.

Keough: Well, Gina and I have been friends for a long time, and when I was filming American Honey, I met Frank and Bill in South Dakota in Rapid City, and they were brought in to do day player work in a scene, and the scene got pushed, and we hung out in a room all day and just talked and became close. And it was just one of those friendships that — I think I was 25 or 26 and they were 23, and we were having a really fun time together, and I left and I just really wanted to go back to South Dakota. It’s such a beautiful place, and it was summer, and it’s so beautiful there in the summer — the landscape, it’s just magical. And so I called Gina, and I was like, “Do you want to go back to South Dakota with me and hang out?”

There were no plans. We weren’t as busy as we are now. We didn’t have our production company. We were still hanging out in our mid-twenties, so she was sure. And so I was in Toronto, she was in LA, and she met me in Rapid City. Chief arrived there and felt the same connection I did to my friends, but also to the lands and the state itself. South Dakota is so special, so we just ended up hanging out with Frankie, Bill, and other friends, and there was no movie. It was just hanging out. And then our friendship just grew over time, and I think we were all in it at a point in our lives where we were feeling like we wanted to be creative, and Frank was singing and rapping, and we were throwing out ideas like, “Oh, we’ll come and have somebody film you and make a video.” And we brought a VR camera there, which is really bad.

It was awful footage. And so we were having fun, and I think we were also trying to figure out a way to stay hanging out with our friends while having a purpose, because it got to a point where we were there so much that it was like, “OK, well, we kind of need an excuse to be here.” We live in California. We were looking at trying to live there. We were just loved and fell in love with it. And so we started writing things down; Frank and Bill are such incredible storytellers. There’s a quality in Bill that you never know if he’s telling the truth or not. I think that really inspired us. He’s so mischievous. Yeah, he’s cheeky and mischievous, and you never know if he’s an unreliable narrator.

Watch the video for the full interview with Riley Keough and Gina Gammell. 

War Pony (2022) is available today on VOD.

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