Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fine on fine "Any Day Now"

Playing at Tribeca Film Festival

Fine on fine "Any Day Now"

(from brinkzine.com 5/1/12)

Anydaynowtravisphoto.jpg Travis Fine, photo Danny Peary
For the first time I predicted the Audience Award winner at the Tribeca Festival. I had seen Travis Fine's Any Day Now with a huge audience and judging by the thunderous applause for the film and the standing ovation given to the cast and crew who stood on the stage afterward, I knew it would get a lot of votes. Maybe my three or four ballots giving it a top score (don't tell anyone) put it over the top. Like everyone else I was deeply moved by this brilliantly and lovingly acted film about two gay men who have just met and fallen in love in 1979 L.A.--Alan Cumming's flamboyant, penniless Rudy performs in a transvestite revue and Garret Dillahunt's Paul is a rising star in the district attorney's office until he comes out of the closet--and now fight to gain custody of Marco (Isaac Leyva), a lovable teen with Down syndrome whose mother is an addict. It's a brave, poignant film that Fine (The Space Between, TFF 2010) was drawn to because, as he told the audience, "of a deep personal connection to the loss of a child." He not only directed but also coproduced the movie with his wife Kristine Fine and Chip Hourihan and cowrote the screenplay with George Arthur Bloom. I spoke briefly with the former actor and airline pilot the day after I saw the film and a few hours before it was awarded the festival's most coveted award.
Danny Peary: Could you have set your film in the present but in a location where it's still frowned upon to have adoptions by gay couples?
Travis Fine: I suppose it could be set today as long as it's not in a big city, where there wouldn't be some of the issues. I don't know if it would be a better story or a worse story, it would just be a different story. When the story came to me and it was set in the seventies I saw a chance to write about something that was true then and to a certain extent is true now.
DP: Do you think it's more a story about the law or a love story?
TF: I think it's a love story. There are three people who are thrown together and form a family unit. It's very much a love story about these three.
DP: My wife loved the movie but questioned how quickly Rudy, Alan Cumming's character, takes to Marco and wants to care for him. But I think that's what your film is about, how quickly Rudy with Paul fall in love and then how quickly Rudy and Paul with Marco become attached to each other. There's love in the air once Rudy and Paul meet and I believe love sensations are let loose and everyone is sensitive to love.
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TF: I don't know if it's love sensations. I do know what I was told by two of our executive producers, Wayne LaRue Smith and Dan Skahen. They are a gay couple who has fostered 33 kids and fought the Florida Supreme Court for a number of years and spent a ton of time and money to win the right to adopt two of these boys. They have told me about the moment when the door opens and you first see this broken young soul and spirit. It does not take a lot of time or experience to feel compassion for them and to want to wrap your arms around them and protect them--particularly those who are malnourished or have been mistreated. So it's quick but there's a certain reality to it.
DP: She asked why Rudy would fall in love with Marco so quickly and I said, "Why wouldn't he?"
TF: Without question. I remember meeting Isaac when he auditioned for the part. It's a different kind of falling in love but I came to adore him after being with him about five minutes because he's such a wonderful, pure, sweet spirit. His emotions aren't kept in check. When he was on the stage after the screening, you saw him break down and really sob. He was expressing an emotion that I guarantee a lot of us on the stage felt. It was: "Oh, my God. I'm in New York at a premiere of my movie and the audience loves it." For him there is no filter that makes him try to look cool on stage, he doesn't hold back. One thing: if Marco wasn't a human being but a puppy dog with one leg I don't think anyone would question why Rudy falls in love with him so quickly. That's interesting.
DP: Well, everyone in the theater fell in love with Isaac in about two seconds.
TF: Two seconds is all it takes.
DP: And it's on the screen too--there is a real sweetness to Isaac that comes through as Marco.
TF: There's that moment when Marco breaks into that really big smile when they're having breakfast, when Rudy and Marco connect for the first time, and every time I see that scene I fall in love with Marco.
DP: The ending of the movie is strong stuff. Maybe you felt you could soften it for the audience by showing what happens right away, but you didn't. That was your choice.
TF: It's interesting that the beginning was written in the editorial room. In the script we opened on Rudy singing in the club and we shot a big number with feathers and boas and he came through the feathers and started singing a slow song that picks up in tempo. And we had a title credit sequence. But then in editorial my editor Tom Cross--who will cut everything I ever do--and I talked a lot about setting a perfect tone. At a certain point we decided to play around with a flash forward of Marco walking and from the get-go set a tone that made it clear that the movie wasn't going to be light-hearted and fluffy. The disco number that was our original opening would have set the wrong tone. So with our new beginning, I tried to say to the audience that the movie was going to be dramatic and a bit serious. That gave me freedom to get into the drag queen and camp elements, and the comedy--there are some laughs.
DP: All the people who were part of the system that failed Marco receive a letter about what happened to him as a result. We hope they learned their lesson, but do you think they will make wiser choices later on?
TF: I think changes often begins very slowly, and for any worthwhile cause there are often martyrs. If anything Marco is a martyr for his cause. I think going forward, the people sitting on the bench and the attorneys might take a different approach. We do see Paul change. At the beginning Paul was very castrated as a person--he's in closet and is not able to express who he is what he believes. So his meeting with Rudy and Marco is the beginning of his journey in which I think he'll become an outspoken advocate. So my belief is that, yes, this is the beginning of a pendulum swing for these people and the beginning of a larger change.
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DP: I think Garret Dillahunt was an inspired choice to play Paul. He was making a mark playing nasty TV villains on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Life, so I was surprised when he was cast playing silly comedy in Raising Hope, but this is something entirely different again. Did you see anything in him that made you think he could play this quiet, sensitive gay man so well?
TF: It was a really tough role to cast and we talked to a lot of different actors. Some were skittish about the subject matter. Alan was already involved, but Garret came in very late. Because of our casting director, Garret's name kept coming back around. Like you I'd seen him do a lot of villains and heavy stuff but I took a look at some video--I forget what it was now--and I said, "He's so crazy-talented that this will work." Then it was just a matter of convincing him to play the role. He had a tight schedule and it was a real challenge to fit it in. I was thrilled that he did.
DP: What I really appreciated about your film is that you watch Rudy and Paul, played by two terrific actors, and you understand why they fall in love with each other, which is a really hard thing to get across.
TF: Alan's performance is exquisite and showy, Garret's is subtle. There's this notion of Abbott and Costello; if you have two Costello's it doesn't work. Garret was willing to let Alan steal the spotlight, but he always gave a subtle yet strong presence. And that's what makes the movie. Otherwise you don't know why Rudy falls for this guy, and does it so quickly.
DP: What they each do in the film, the other one really focuses on and is appreciative of, including their humor and bravery.
TF: After Paul tells Rudy "I'm sorry"...
DP: Which is a great line--"You had me at I'm sorry"...
TF: Yes, he forgives him. And there is a moment at the bar when Paul is telling a story about himself and Rudy makes one of his flamboyant comments and Garret swallows and chokes and looks a little uncomfortable for just a second and Paul can't quite go on. I remember that when we were editing that scene I was thinking that I could fall in love with his guy because there was something so sweet and endearing and honest and pure and strong about him. I think Garret's performance is beautiful.
Anydaynowposter.jpg
DP: Every time Alan Cumming plays a new character you see a different side of him. That happens again with Rudy. Once he was cast, did you at all change the role for him?
TF: If anything, the role was perfect for him and his skill set, including the singing. So no we didn't make changes once Alan came on board.--with one exception. We did add the element of him singing live. In the original script, Rudy does not become a singer at the end. I think he just continued to do his drag performances with lip-synching. It's funny that I don't remember what happened to the character in the early drafts but it was a while ago. But I know we added the element of Rudy doing live singing and took him and a sensational trio of musicians into a studio and recorded them.
DP: It works that he becomes a singer because after having gone through this amazingly emotional experience with Marco, he is able to sing with more passion than before and is in fact a better singer.
TF: That's absolutely how I feel.
DP: I was happy to see Kelli Williams as Marco's teacher because since The Practice she has been one of my favorite actresses. She was fabulous in that but they kept giving the Emmy she deserved to Camryn Manheim.
TV: She was my high school sweetheart. We went to high school together and dated. I've known her since I was fourteen. She's a wonderful girl.
DP: Talk about the title of your film coming from Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."
TF: The film was originally titled Famlee and when we shot it that was what it was called. There's a scene that didn't make it into the final cut in which Marco is drawing his pictures and he can't spell the word family, so he writes famlee. That becomes a picture on Rudy's mirror and it took us into a place of sentimentality that I didn't want to go to. So I actually put a stop to that on the set, telling the production designer not to put the picture up. So I was trying to figure out what we should retitle the movie and one day I was watching in editorial Alan singing the lyric "Any day now" and I told my editor that's the new title.
DP: Many singers, including when many famous singers jam, end their shows with "I Shall Be Released." But did it have any thematic relevance in the movie?
TF: Sure. It's an anthem and I think the lyrics certainly speak to the story itself and it's one of the reasons I chose it. At the end, Rudy sings "We shall be released." He looks right at Paul and alters it so it's about their experience.
DP: What do you think everyone's experience was making this film? Do you think anybody who worked on it will ever have that experience again?
TF: This is the third film I've made and every one is a little different. Every one has a different energy. What I try to do, however, to make a through-line to every film that I do is to work very hard, to have a lot of fun on the set, to treat everyone very well, and to, hopefully, put a product out that people are proud to be a part of. And the term that has come up a number of times with the cast, crew, and investors is feeling proud to be part of this film. It means a lot to me that they're proud because there are a lot of stories to tell and the people who work on my films move from project to project. I know from my years working in front of the camera that there are very few projects you're proud of in a true sense. So it makes me very happy that they feel this way about Any Day Now.
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