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Texas Native Tye Sheridan Talks New Film ‘The Tender Bar’ with Co-Star Lily Rabe

Now playing in theaters, the George Clooney directed picture also stars Ben Affleck and Christopher Lloyd

The Tender Bar is a story that oozes with sweetness. Directed by George Clooney and based on the best-selling memoir by J.R. Moehringer, the film set in the 70s tells the tale of a fatherless boy named J.R. (Tye Sheridan) who’s raised by his mother (Lily Rabe) and her family of colorful characters. Despite the abandonment of his father there’s no shortage of love in J.R.’s upbringing, which primarily takes place between the run-down home of his grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) and the cozy bar owned by his wise and witty Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck).

Affleck, who recently moved to Austin to shoot another upcoming project titled Hypnotic, just nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for his touching role as the father figure in J.R.’s life. The film has a familiarity to it with its timeless conflicts and messaging, however, the gleaming performances from a stellar cast make the movie stand out.

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Tye Sheridan plays J.R., the film’s main character.

This November, we sat down with two stars of The Tender Bar, Tye Sheridan and Lily Rabe.

Sheridan, another Austin resident (he cites Uchi as one of his all time favorite restaurants), has rapidly taken the big screen by storm with his roles in Ready Player One and the reboot X-Men film series. Meanwhile, the Tony Award-nominated Rabe has long been a stand out with chilling performances in the American Horror Story franchise. The duo recently came to town for an intimate preview screening and Q&A at Violet Crown Cinema, where they touched on the pleasure of completing the sentimental project surrounded by so many gifted actors.

“It was awesome to be there working with such exceptionally talented actors and getting to watch them do their thing,” shares Sheridan. “When you have someone opposite you that’s giving it all they got and genuinely pouring their heart out, I think it allows for the scene to take that step up.”

Lily Rabe alongside Danile Ranieri, who plays a young J.R. in The Tender Bar.

Each of the members of J.R.’s family have close, unwavering bonds which adds a wonderful warmth to the film. This clear chemistry between the cast members can perhaps be partially credited to the dynamic of creating a project in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.

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“When you’re shooting during Covid you know that at any moment the set could get shut down,” says Rabe. “So that preciousness of what it is to be able to work together … Those moments were all heightened. The state of being that we were all in making that movie was just a tremendous amount of love.”

While the film definitely falls into the feel-good movie category with it’s loving characters, there is no ignoring the tragic absence of J.R.’s father and the lingering feeling of dissatisfaction it causes in his life. But painful abandonment eventually leads to a stronger, more realized version of J.R.

“There’s something so wonderful about this idea of looking for something, I think it’s very identifiable,” Rabe explains. “And then to realize that the thing you’re searching for — it’s not that you don’t need something — but it’s not necessarily the thing that you thought you needed.”

J.R. strives to fill this hole in his life, but seeds of hope and happiness are planted in him thanks to his Uncle Charlie who helps channel this aspirational outlook on life into something more fruitful, and pushes him to pursue a career as a writer. This sort of impossible task of getting out of a tiny town and going to Yale or Harvard (where his mother is set on sending him) turns the story into a momentous expedition.

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It’s a storyline that resonates with Sheridan, who hails from the small town of Elkhart, Texas and pursued a career in Hollywood.

“I sympathized with the character on a very personal level for many reasons, but mostly because he strives for something that’s beyond his reach, or would be beyond reach for most people in his position,” says Sheridan. “I think that me coming from a small town and pursuing a career in film was not a very typical journey. So there was a lot to relate to in that.”

At the end of the film, it’s easy to be left with a feeling of fulfillment and appreciation for a story put together with so much affection.

“The movie is very sweet and intimate and it brought that out in us,” says Sheridan.  “So maybe it’ll bring that out in people when they see it.”

Amazon Studios’ The Tender Bar opens in theaters nationwide on December 22 and will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video January 7.