New York Screening of GAYKEITH at the Anthology Film Archives @7:30 pm
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Tonight I’m attending a screening of a film that’s part of the CineKink film festival here in New York. I’ve never heard of CineKink and it took a friend from Canada to help me discover it. Here’s the story, most of you will remember my friend Lex from the 365 Bar blog. She was visiting New York last summer and joined me one evening on the bar crawl. Her in-laws, Mary Ann and Morley joined us and we really had a lot of fun. We’ve kept in touch ever since and a couple weeks ago she emailed me and said her friend had a film in the CineKink festival here in New York. The movie’s called GAYKEITH and it’s written and directed by Lex’s longtime friend, Leslie Hope. I checked out the movie and it seemed really intriguing and it's based on a true story so I got a ticket and that’s tonight’s destination. I’ll go and take some pictures and write a review of the movie at the end of this. But first, Lex was kind enough to help me get in touch with Leslie and she was gracious enough to grant me the following interview. I’m going to run that first, so we can have some background on the writer and director of GAYKEITH.
The MAD Interview With Leslie Hope
Photo by MaBelle Bray
Leslie Hope has had a successful career as an actress, writer, director and a producer and it all started as a lark when she was a teenager at school. Hope, a Nova Scotia native, was attending a boarding school and had dreams of becoming a lawyer and attending Harvard Law School. The school she was going to was being used for a film location and she ended up with a lead role in the movie, “Ups and Downs,” and was hooked by the acting bug. She decided she’d rather portray a lawyer on film, rather than in a real courtroom. After her debut in “Ups and Downs,” she met legendary writer, director and actor, John Cassavetes and he wrote a starring role for the young actress in his film, “Love Streams.”
Now, over two decades later, it looks like Leslie made the right choice. She’s starred in films such as “Talk Radio,” “Paris, France,” “Spreading Ground,” “Men At Work” and “Dragonfly.” Leslie’s also acted in numerous TV shows and movies, most notably as Teri Bauer acting opposite Kiefer Sutherland on the first season of “24.” Leslie has also acted opposite Kiefer’s dad, Donald Sutherland on the TV series, “Commander in Chief.” In addition, she also ran a theater company with Charlie Stratton for 10 years called The Wilton Project. While running the company, she produced, directed and acted in several productions, including the award-winning "Therese Raquin," "Slide" and "Ghost Stories."
Leslie has a short film that she wrote and directed called “GAYKEITH” that is making the rounds of festivals and screenings this year. It’s part of the CineKink festival here in New York and I'm attending the screening tonight. I'm going to take some photos and you can see them and read my review below. But first, Leslie was kind enough to grant an interview with MAD and here it is. Lights, camera...questions!
First off, thanks for doing this interview, Leslie, I know you’re busy and I appreciate you taking the time to do it.
Hi Marty, I'm so pleased you asked me!
Let’s talk about your current project first. You’ve written and directed a short film called, “GAYKEITH.” That’s an intriguing title, what’s the movie about?
GAYKEITH is the mostly true story of Scott: A big red-headed Canadian and a particularly lonely Christmas Eve night he spent in North Hollywood, trying to figure out whether or not he was gay.
One of the film’s trailers is very Monty Pythonesque. Were you a Python fan and is there a Monty Python influence in the film?
I grew up in Canada with a mum from Nova Scotia and a dad from England. Watching Monty Python as a kid with my family is still a fond memory. I thought the show was hilarious when I was 9 and still do, but I was entranced with Gilliam's animation. Melissa Bouwman, who was the animator on GAYKEITH, and I were very inspired by the 2-d cut out style of Gilliam's animated work and I thought that style really applied to how I saw GAYKEITH.
I see by the credits that you wrote this movie based on a true story by Scott Edgecombe. Edgecombe plays himself in the film. Did you find the story first or did you meet Edgecombe and he gave you the story?
Believe it or not, Scott was my son's 'manny'. I would take Scott with me on my acting gigs to look after my son while I was at work, and we remained friends well past my son needing a babysitter. Scott was a fellow Canadian struggling in LA and had written about this TRUE escapade in his life for an acting class monologue. Shortly thereafter, after YEARS of trying to make a go of it in LA, he decided to move back to Toronto. As luck would have it, I read the monologue as Scott was packing up to leave. I thought it was hilarious, and could only see it as a film. The gag was Scott did move back to Toronto, and we had to fly him down to LA to do his first starring role—in the story of his life.
Did you let Scott have any say so on the screenplay since it was based on a story that he had lived and then written about?
Nope, I didn't. I bought the monologue outright from Scott and said I wanted to write the screenplay myself. I was adamant about it. That being said, I showed Scott all the drafts and my storyboards and was hopeful he approved. Rumour has it, he did. That being said, I readily encouraged his input as an actor, as I did with Ho-Kwan Tse, who played Keith. They were both very generous in participating in a real rehearsal process which I think was very valuable for all of us.
When you make a short film, I wouldn’t think you expect to make much or any money on it, a subject I’m well acquainted with. What’s the ultimate goal for a short film?
As a general rule, I don't know what the ultimate goal is for a short film, but I can tell you that for GAYKEITH I was determined to do whatever the hell I wanted, within the budget restrictions. I had recently completed a TV movie where I had surrendered my cut to the producers and I was not happy with that decision. I also felt quite strongly that since I was spending the money, and was answering to my husband (producer Adam Kane) and our company (Citizen Pictures) I better do what I wanted—I had no excuse not to. So, besides LOVING the story, that was my personal impetus—do whatever I could think of that was best for the movie. That being said, I was also anxious to work with animation, and this specific style of shooting and editing.
What’s the best thing that’s happened since the film has come out?
The best thing for me about the film has been that I still love it and it IS exactly what I envisioned it to be. It's a great freedom to be able to know that. The upshot is while it's always fun to share a laugh with somebody, I can quite contentedly laugh all by myself watching it. If somebody doesn't like it, or finds it in poor taste, or even offensive, I wouldn't say it pleases me, but I can say unapologetically that it's mine. I have no squirmy excuse to offer up, no measly reason why something didn't go the way I wanted because of an executive decision or wah wah wah Standards and Practices—and that's a great feeling. I hope to have it as a hired gun some day. On a pragmatic note, GAYKEITH has won several awards and nominations and been picked up for distribution by TriCon-—and the distribution thing? That's rare for a short film like this.
Where’s some upcoming screenings of GAYKEITH happening?
GAYKEITH is opening The Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto on March 17, then The Canada Int'l Film Fest (April 2-3), screening at The Vail Film Festival (March 31-April 3), then on to The Litchfield Hills Film Fest April 7-10. We are also planning an internet release and will coordinate that with our distributors, TriCon. All the info is on our website: GAYKEITH website.
Anything else you’d like to say about GAYKEITH before I move on to other topics?
I was incredibly lucky to have an extraordinary creative team and wildly generous crew. I literally couldn't have done it without them and I am very grateful to each person who helped me. Oh, and...GO, GAYKEITH, GO!
Photo by MaBelle Bray
I read where you originally were planning on becoming a lawyer, with hopes of going to Harvard Law school and that you got into acting as a lark. I referred to that in the introduction, but can you tell us the story?
I was in a university prep school and being groomed, as all the kids there were, for the rest of my life. I was pissed off at what I perceived to be learning by rote disguised as education. I was mouthy and opinionated and wanted a big life and I couldn't see how I would fit all that in a tidy Harvard law package. I actually didn't know what the hell I was talking about, so nothings really changed...on all counts. Declaring myself an actress was most likely more of an f.u. than a considered decision. It's only chance that had a movie choose my school as a location, and only luck that I got a part. I was actually a terrible actress then. But that gig and that experience and those relationships were what I needed to start my life. I've never regretted not graduating high school and not going to university. Not now, not then.
Your second acting job in 1984 was for the John Cassavetes’ film, “Love Streams.” He’s a legendary writer, director and actor who is known as the pioneer for independent film-making. What was your experience like on that film and what was it like to be directed by John Cassavetes?
Working with John Cassavetes remains one of the great experiences and true privileges of my life. Truth be told, I have spent my career trying to find a way back to him and that time and his way of working. John was brilliant and generous and kind and true. He gave me the huge gift of including me on that film as if I belonged there, and he also allowed me to overstay my welcome and work on the crew once my acting gig was up. It was a thrill to be in his presence and of course Gena Rowlands' as well. I was 18 years old when I worked with John. It took me a while to figure out what a lucky bastard I was to have shared time with him. To this day, his work inspires me.
You’ve worked with an array of respected and well-known directors and actors including, the aforementioned John Cassavetes, Oliver Stone, Dennis Hopper, Matt Dillon, Gena Rowlands, Alec Baldwin, Donnie Wahlberg, Kevin Costner and, gulp, Charlie Sheen. Any stories or anecdotes you’d care to share about working with such iconic actors and directors?
I worked with Dennis Hopper on a small movie in Toronto. By the time we got to my big scene with him—he's my dad, my mom is dead, our DOG is dead, and I want him to love me and I'm supposed to be bawling—the director and d.p. and Dennis were no longer speaking to each other. Standing two feet away from each other with the assistant director between them, the director would say something and the a.d. would have to tell Dennis who was also standing right there. Dennis would answer the a.d. and he would repeat what Dennis said to the director, and they were ALL standing right there. It was ludicrous. I remember thinking that I was on the side of the movie, which in my world was Dennis, and the rest of them were nuts. Two am downtown Toronto and a bunch of grown men acting like junior high schoolers. Later I worked with Dennis on "24" and I don't even think he remembered who I was. I remained a fan of his though.
Oliver Stone was giving me the gears on "Talk Radio". Some version of "You know the real actors, the ones from New York, are blowing you out of the water. You're a wallflower in this movie compared to them." "Yeah?" I answer, "Well, you won the Academy Award, Oliver. Why don't you pull it out of your ass and use it so I won't be so awful?". Shoving back Oliver seemed to be the best way for me to work with him. Not my favorite way to fly, but whatever gets you through. I mean he sure was doing something right. I think Talk Radio is a really good movie and I think Oliver is a great director.
Matt Dillon is one of the most kind generous actors I worked with. He was and is senselessly beautiful and really, really talented.
Gena Rowlands is a QUEEN of acting. She is a treasure. She used to smoke and drink like a true broad but she was always the classiest of ladies. I was fortunate enough to work with her as a teenager on “Love Streams” and then as a grown up on “The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie.” She was so kind to me and I was moved to tears when she shared a few John stories with me.
I worked with Charlie Sheen a long time ago but we share a friend in Kiefer Sutherland and the producer of Major League, Chris Chesser. I found Charlie to be a truth-teller and a stand up guy.
I love Donnie Wahlberg. We worked together on a series “Runaway,” playing husband and wife. I thought he was a great actor and had no idea of what he'd done before. It was after a month or so of working together that I'd read some blurb on him in a trashy magazine that made some reference to music. I said, "Donnie, did you used to be in some band?" I had no idea. Later when we were working the publicity circuit and I watched grown women (ad executives, studio honchos, various big shots) trembling and crying to get his autograph and one woman even weepily talked about her Donnie pillow case from when she was a teenager...THEN I started to get the picture.
Okay, now on to something you may be sick to death of talking about, no pun intended. You were on the first season of the runaway hit TV show, “24,” playing Jack Bauer’s wife Teri. That season was my favorite one and I was shocked at the end of it when you were killed. I couldn’t believe they would kill off a major character after just one season. When did you find out that your character got killed and how did it feel knowing that was the end of “24” for you, after it had become so popular?
I loved that job on "24" and consider it to be a highlight of my career. I found out they were 'killing Teri' a couple of weeks before we shot the episode, but didn't really KNOW until right before they aired it. We had shot an alternative ending where Teri lives, but even as we were filming it, I think we all knew the better ending was 'dead wife'. I was of course sad to leave a job I loved but mostly because of my strong personal relationships with Kiefer, Stephen Hopkins and the crew—I loved working with them. The popularity of the show was not really an issue for me. The fact of the matter was that although the show had been critically well received and there certainly was a committed fan base, the show didn't really explode until after that first season, summer re-runs and vigorous dvd sales. I honestly don't think that even if it were a hit my feelings would have been that different. I thought it was a great ending to a great season of TV and I am proud to have been a part of it.
You’ve been involved in all facets of film-making. You’ve acted, written, directed and produced. Do you prefer one to another, or are you just happy to have the work and the opportunities to ply your craft in so many ways?
I love making stuff. Typically that means directing for me. I feel like my shoes fit when I'm directing. I like writing and producing and have lots of ideas I am happy to hand over to better hands to make right. If I have an opportunity to act with a great director/producer/cast then I can love acting too, but nowadays those scenarios seem harder to come by. When they do, i.e. "24", it's a great ride.
This is pure speculation, but if you went the lawyer route, where do you think you’d be today?
Up on charges for repeatedly being in contempt of court.
And now for the final question I’m going to get all James Lipton on your ass. What’s your favorite curse word?
Ha ha ha! Perfect!
Okay, we're off to the East Village, about a twenty minute walk. And it's not freezing out tonight, a pleasant reminder that spring is about to be sprung!
Free eyebrow or lip? Well, I guess I'd go with the eyebrow. People say I'm lippy enough as is. Ha!
Oh and I've decided to make a change here at MAD. The last couple posts have had color shots in them and I realized I kind've missed the color. I like the black and white for outside shots like this and some portraits of people...
But I've never been totally satisfied with the black and white neon shots. So while the majority of the outside and street shots will remain black and white, some of the inside shots and things like neon will be in color. It'll give the blog a 50/50 look that I think will be better.
The Anthology Film Archive building at 2nd and 2nd.
There's a lot of people milling around outside.
And here's the front doors, let's go inside and see what's shaking.
Here's the box office, I was directed to go upstairs.
Looks like I'm headed in the right direction.
The lobby's packed, they got a good crowd for tonight.
I met Frank and Jim while waiting for the doors to open and we had a nice chat about New York and blogging.
Jim offered to take my picture and here I am with my CineKink booklet. I like myself better in black and white.
However we'll leave Elizabeth in living color. She was taking tickets for the movie.
And the doors open up. I got a shot of the theater before the seats filled up. Very nice!
And here we go with GAYKEITH! I was going to take a shot of the closing credits, but I got so into the film I forgot. You'll have to go see it yourself.
Some of the directors and cast members were in the theater and they fielded some questions from the crowd.
And now I'm homeward bound.
On the way home I saw this little shrine in the window...
In a laundromat in the East Village. I love New York! Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.
This is my first time attending the CineKink festival and it definitely won’t be my last. The festival runs for six nights and they have several screenings of multiple films every evening. The six films I saw were presented under the banner of “Pride and Predilections” which CineKink describes as: “A fun and festive assortment of shorts about sexual orientation, identity and one’s place in the world. The line-up of films were presented in this order: Chained!, Baby Cake, GAYKEITH, Butterfly Caught, Turning Japanese, Freak and Love, Hugs and Kisses, Sissy Stephanie. They were all great original films, done in different styles but they all had one thing in common, they made you think while entertaining you at the same time. I’d love to review them all, but there’s beer in the refrigerator and I can’t start drinking it till I’m done with this, so I’m going to spotlight the film that got me to the festival in the first place: GAYKEITH.
GAYKEITH has roller coaster legs and a rollickingly funny Monty Python heart with a touch of slapstick and poignancy thrown in for good measure. Writer/Director Leslie Hope drew inspiration from Terry Gilliam’s ripped-paper, jerky-quirky animation style and made it her own with GAYKEITH. The film is an entertaining, fast-moving ride from the Pythonesque opening montage to the closing credits. GAYKEITH is based on a true story, originally written by one of the film’s two stars, Scott Edgecombe. And it’s got to be true, because I don’t think you could make this up if you tried. The film is one man’s hilarious journey on a dark and confused Christmas Eve night to find out if his sexuality veers out of his comfort zone, which he describes as: “A Canadian sexual deviant.” Edgecombe has a Silly Putty face that morphs into endless expressions and he stars with Ho-Kwan Tse, who brings what can only be called a manic-calm to the film and provides a dose of poignancy towards the end. I suggest you try and see it twice if you can. The audience was laughing so loud at the screening at CineKink, I missed some of the dialogue. Come back to New York soon, GAYKEITH!
Further Reading: Mavervol Media, Cinema Diverse, Work On Internet and IMDb.