Friday, April 10, 2009
So I'm sitting there with Andy Garcia--finally having found my Vince and certain that between us we can figure out how to get this film made.
One thing that was clear to me early on: I didn't just want Andy to be "attached" as an actor. I wanted us to be producing partners.
Now some filmmakers are scared of partnering with a movie star--fearing, I suppose, that the more powerful person in the equation (and no matter who the filmmaker is the more powerful person is ALWAYS the movie star) will trump the other in any important creative decision.
And there are those who might wield their power that way. But that wasn't my sense about Andy. His respect for my material and our general simpatico with each other gave me confidence that we could, in effect, help each other by being mutually invested in the cause of getting the film made. Though the first few months were spent shopping the project--my script, me directing, Andy starring, us producing--to various companies, we ultimately didn't get any traction this way and decided that the best thing to do was get more cast. Once a script has enough good actors interested in doing it, the people with the money tend to take it more seriously and--naturally--have less strident objections to why the film should be made in the first place. It's almost as if they're thinking: "If all these well known talented people want to do this, why shouldn't I be in on the game?"
Andy has scrupulously maintained excellent relationships throughout his career and he was happy to, in effect, open his phone book and see who we could get the script too. First stop for the role of his wife was Michelle Pfeiffer. And--who'd a thunk--for a minute she appeared to like it. We waited to hear if she wanted to meet about it. Her agents were somewhat surprised but ultimately want to support their client and told us to "hang in" while she thought about it. Which she appeared to be doing for a few weeks.
Until she passed. You never why these passes happen. No need to ask. No answer will be forthcoming.
Next we brought in Sheila Jaffee--superb casting director of "The Soprano's" who I've worked with on every feature I've made. Sheila drew up lists of actors for all the major roles. Our next choice for the wife was Marcia Gay Harden--great actress and someone who has consistently proven to be both fearless in her acting choices and open to working in all different kinds of films for all prices.
She read it, bumped into Andy at an awards show and told him how much she liked it. The official word came from her agency shortly thereafter: she wanted to meet with me. As I recall it happened at the Four Seasons Hotel in LA, where she was doing press for another movie--think it was the Richard Gere/Lasse Hallstrom movie "Hoax". Ms. Harden is as magnetic, attractive and fascinating a woman as you can ever hope to sit across from. And she has that peculiar quality that some (certainly not all) actors have--of going right to a personally intimate place with a stranger so as to quickly assess how honest and how giving they should feel free to be in expressing their own thoughts. She and I had a fine talk. She liked the project and Andy. I left knowing we had another cast member.
The role of Molly--Andy's "muse"--engendered a long list of interesting younger actresses: Zooey Deschenel, Amy Adams, Maggie Gyllenhaal etc. A lot of the time these names start to get crossed off the list based on their availability; a heavily booked actor not only won't get back to you quickly enough about your project, but may not really be available in your time frame. Such was the case with most of the above women.
By the way, let me address time frame; we didn't have a dime to make this movie. Not one company was out there promising us anything. This was strictly me and Andy riding a wave--trying to drum up interest in what we wanted to do and force a fantasy into becoming a reality. Steven Soderbergh once said that the best way to get a movie made is to set a date: once you're sure of when you want to start, the world will have less to say against your desires. It doesn't guarantee you're going to go, but what's the better alternative? At this point, I think we were in early 2007, optimistically aiming for a summer start.
Marcia Gay Harden's CAA agent was now part of helping us package the project. He suggested I meet with a young, up and coming actor for the role of Tony--the mysterious prisoner who Andy brings home. Steven Strait had played a caveman in "10,,000 BC" and been a model as well. He was also a Stella Adler trained New York actor and I liked the unusual combination of his various selves. Once I met him, I really liked him: as sincere, sweet and enthusiastic a guy as one could hope to meet and potentially work with. Steven and I bonded on site--I remember having a drink with him at a hotel and suddenly hearing myself say: "I feel like we could talk all night". He was on board.
One of the names that came up for the role of Molly was Chloe Sevigny. We liked the idea, heard she was working on "Big Love" but had holes in her schedule and--of course--Chloe has a long history of indie-film participation. We sent her the script...
And the next thing we were sitting at the Chateau Marmont (Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights) having breakfast with her. She liked it. Andy and I liked her. Once again I think she was there doing press for something else--but who cares? We were now a movie with no money but with a cast: Andy Garcia, Marcia Gay Harden, Steven Strait and Chloe Sevigny. In "City Island". A Raymond De Felitta Joint. The rest would be easy. We would be shooting in good old New York City in the summer of '07...wouldn't we???
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 7:07 AM