Ben Foster Really Likes a ‘Gentle’ Sheriff

Actor Ben Foster attends BAMcinemaFest 2013 and The Cinema Society host the Opening Night premiere of "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" at BAM Harvey Theater on June 19, 2013 in New York City.
Ben Foster. Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

To prepare for his role as a Texan sheriff in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Ben Foster spent some time with real-life Texan sheriffs — gentle ones. “The gentleness which I witnessed in these men, we don’t see in law enforcement in films and in the press,” he told us earlier in the week, at a screening of the movie hosted by the Cinema Society. These guys “carry a weapon and care about their neighbor and are operating out of a tradition of ethics, in what we’ll call a gentlemanly way,” he said. “It’s just trying to do right by your neighbor. Lit a flame in my heart.”

In one particularly civil ride-along, Foster pointed out a guy at a gas station who didn’t look right to him. “His eyes were fucked up,” he said. The sheriff took the actor’s tip, pulled over, approached the shady-looking man and his friend, and “very gentle, he asks the guys where they’ve been, what they were up to,” Foster says. “And [the sheriff] said, ‘Can you look at me?’ and [the guy] said, ‘Yeah, well I have a glass eye’ — and he popped out his eye and goes, ‘Sometimes it rolls; it’s a cheap one.’  The sheriff said, ‘Ben, that’s what you were seeing’ … He didn’t throw anyone against a car. He wasn’t accusatory. And I appreciated his way. It was gentle. As hard as you can be — it was gentle.”