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Ben Foster Really Likes a ‘Gentle’ Sheriff

Actor Ben Foster attends BAMcinemaFest 2013 and The Cinema Society host the Opening Night premiere of
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.”