Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Casting Part III: The Patriarch

Hello faithful readers! Welcome to part III in our ongoing series on the casting of "Humboldt County."

Today, a primer on the patriarch of the film's Humboldt Clan - Jack, played by the ever talented Mr. Brad Dourif.

I met Brad for the first time about 5 days before I was supposed to head up to Humboldt for pre-production. Darren had already gone up there to start leading the troops, so I was left in LA to help finishing out the casting and begin rehearsals with our actors for a few days.

By the time I met Brad, we had been trying to cast the role of "Jack" for nine months. It was a bitch to cast. We needed someone who could be believable as a mountain man and a physics professor. That's a tough mix to find in an actor. To make the situation even more difficult, since the role was written for an actor in his 50s or 60s, we weren't really allowed to audition anyone. If we were big directors with some award winning films under our belt, no problem, older actors would audition for us in a heart-beat. But we're just Danny and Darren, a couple of schmos from St. Louis, Missouri.

So for nine months we sent scripts to actors completely blind. Most of the time, we wouldn't even know if the agents even sent the scripts to their clients. Finally, we started to get some bites and I met with Mr. Dourif in a small booth at Barney's Beanery in Hollywood.
I was nervous. I'm a big Deadwood fan and had been watching him alot recently. Plus, I've always loved his Oscar Nominated role in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - even though it was four hundred years ago. But making my nerves even more bundled with nervy goodness was the fact that Brad is an intimidating presence. He doesn't take shit from nobody. The man is confident in his talent, as he should be, and always expects everyone around him to step up. As a director, it's a great kind of actor to have on your project because he's just going to make everybody better.

But I wasn't fully convinced that Brad was right for the role until he started talking about his love of astronomy. For about 15 minutes, I swear, I had no idea what the man was talking about. I kept hoping to hear familiar words like "nebula" or "star cluster" but this man was speaking in some long-lost astronomical language that laymen simply cannot speak. Still, I nodded vigorously throughout, afraid that if he knew I was clueless, those piercing eyes of his would begin emitting lazers that would burn holes into my forehead. After listening to his soliloquy, however, I thought to myself, "My god. This man is "Jack."

We hired him that day.

As Brad has done his entire career, he continues to work - constantly. Just looking at his resume makes me want to take a nap. Instead of going into it in detail just check it out here.

So in lieu of reviewing Brad's upcoming slate of films, I'll just end with an anecdote from set that epitomizes Brad's way of working. As an actor, he demands that his directors stay on top of their game. I remember one scene (that was eventually cut from the film) where Brad changed a word in one of his lines of dialogue. For some reason, I felt like his change wasn't as good as what Darren and I had written and I went up to Brad and said, "Hey, uh, Brad. Do you mind just saying the line with the word "buddy" instead of "friend"?" And like a whip, Brad responded, a ferocity in his eyes, "Why? NO."

And he was right. I didn't have a reason. I just missed my line. And I needed to let it go and allow the actor to become the part. That's a lesson, of many, that Brad taught me throughout the filmmaking process.

So, Brad, when you read this blog, and I know you do religiously, thank you.

Peace out cats,

P.S. As mentioend before, Jeremy (Peter) is opening a play in New York called "New Jerusalem" on January 13th. Find an insight into the production here. Especially check out the last paragraph.

1 comment:

mikenelson said...

Hey Guys, I just discovered this blog. I hear you're going to a film festival soon. I wish you nothing but the best. Your mom (Gloria) keeps me posted every couple of months on the upcoming events. I just did a google search on the title and got this website. I'm very excited, as I can't imagine how you two must feel. Danny, I look forward to meeting you at the big St Louis premier party and to seeing your film up on the "Big Screen". Best of luck at the festival!!!