Okay, we're back. But first, click here to listen to a nifty little podcast where Andy Garcia is interviewed about the movie--it also includes audio clips of scenes from the film. This was done for the magazine AARP.
When last we met, I provided what I hoped would be a cliffhanger involving the sudden disappearance of a number of our cast members shortly after our successful trip to Cannes, 08. For after getting lots of foreign buyers excited about our as yet unmade movie and feeling destined about the likelihood of going into production soon, we were suddenly having the proverbial rug pulled out from under us.
In short, both Marcia Gay Harden and Chloe Sevigny suddenly seemed to have other things to do rather than be in "City Island".
It's a bad phone call to get, and usually it isn't one phone call. It's a series of calls from the actors agents in which certain phrases start popping up, phrases that might seem innocuous to the uninitiated but are filled with ominous portent to those who've made a few movies.
Phrases like: "pending his/her schedule"...or: "trying to work out some dates"...or:"he/she still likes the material"...or simply: "there are other offers on the table but we're still committed..."
All of these phrases mean: he/she ain't doing your movie, pal. Grow up and move on.
Why does this happen? Actors, oftentimes, will commit to a role without any real belief that the damn thing will truly happen. Most of the time, after all, movies don't happen. Except then they do. And what seemed like a promising meeting about good material months ago will, upon second look, perhaps appear in a different light and set said actor to posing some introspective questions. Like: why aren't I getting a better paying gig? Or, where and when does this shoot and is it going to screw up my vacation plans? Or: I liked this then, but now it stinks. Often it is simply a case of the dancecard getting filled up and priorities shifting.
In the case of Marcia Gay Harden, she had two conflicts. One was a part in a movie that Drew Barrymore was directing (it's since come out but I can't remember the name of it). This clearly would pay better than we would. But she also had a television pilot that was on the verge of getting picked up. At one point, we were actually in touch with the unit production manager of the Barrymore movie, trying to work out dates. The TV pilot was a different matter--there was nothing to do but wait to see if it was a go. For the moment, she remained attached to City Island, but "loosely" as they say. I put on a bold front, certain that she'd do our movie. From the beginning, Andy was convinced otherwise.
Chloe Sevigny, on the other hand, was a simple matter of HBO making things too difficult for us. The new scripts for that season of "Big Love" had just come in and apparently there was a lot of Chloe in the show. From the earliest agent calls, we were pretty sure that we weren't going to be able to get her when we needed her. Too bad, as she'd been enthusiastic about doing the role.
Or was she? You may remember a few posts back, my discussing the meeting Andy and I had with Chloe at the Chateau Marmont and how I sensed there was something about her that she was holding back. It occurred to me, when the "Big Love" moment came, that perhaps Chloe wasn't all that convinced that she was right for the role in our movie. At the time, our enthusiasm for her seemed stronger than her enthusiasm for the material--and good actors often have a sixth sense about how appropriate their presence will be in a given role. One day I'll have to ask her if, in fact, upon a second reading months later, she just didn't think it was the right part for her. Assuming I ever see her again. And assuming she even remembers our meeting. "What? City Island? Who?"
It was May now and Lauren, Andy, Zachary and I (all co-producers) were committed to a schedule; get this movie up and rolling for a summer shoot in New York. We looked at the calender and figured that the latest we wanted to be shooting was Labor Day. Moving backwards, the six week shoot would thus have to begin no later than mid-July. Which meant that our six week prep would need to begin no later than the top of June.
Which meant that we needed some new actors in a goddam hurry before our financing, partly predicated upon the participation (wow--author alliterates acutely--dig!) of these women. It's times like these that you, as a director, start to wonder if animation might be a saner way to make a film. Or maybe using puppets instead of humans. Yeah. How about puppets?