Ever wonder if Bill Pullman’s romantic comedy career has taken a toll on the actor? Does he resent Tom Hanks? Get tired of losing the girl? Playwright Brian Work did so he created Once Upon a Rom Com: A Bill Pullman Story. But one fictionalized famous guy wasn’t enough for work. Says director Neal Fischer, “with the backdrop of a fairy tale, [Work] needed a good Fairy Godmother, or in this case, Godfather. He decided to pick one of his favorite actors, and someone who he knew would be a terrific and neurotic narrator. That man is of course Jeff Goldblum.” Fischer immediately warmed to Work’s script and he thinks audiences will too.
Our Town The show seems to both gently mock rom coms yet fit within the genre. How does that work?
Neal Fischer When I approached the script, I had one thing on my mind: Story. Whether it's film, TV, stage, poetry, books-- the most important element is always the story. You can have all the effects, bells and whistles, big name actors, but with no story it won't work. At the center of this play is a love story [about] a guy down on his luck, who is misunderstood and always pushed aside. I think most guys have felt that at one point or another and I knew that's what I wanted to build from. So as far as mocking rom coms, but fitting in, it was a delicate balance I was always cautious of. There are some pretty slapstick moments, and funny one-liners, but there are also some very sweet moments. Some of that was in the script, but with my direction I wanted to capitalize on the chemistry between Bill Pullman (Philip Platakis) and Karen (Madalyn Mattsey). I needed to make sure that their arc was strong enough to stand on its own. If their relationship wasn't believable, even with all the crazy antics, then no one would buy the show or the story.
OT Any qualms about working with a fictionalization of an actual person?
NF When I read the title for the first time I was excited but cautious. I'm a big movie buff, and film is my passion. I knew before reading it that I couldn't sign on to direct it if just made fun of the actors. Luckily Brian had that figured out, and I directed it in a way where I hope Bill and Jeff would be proud and flattered. I think in any situation like this your first thought is, "Will Bill Pullman be mad at me?" "If Jeff Goldblum sees this, will he punch me, or Brian?" After that initial thought, I completely forgot about it. Brian's script doesn't make fun of Bill Pullman, or Jeff Goldblum, but really celebrates them and the characters they played.
OT As a director, did you encourage your actors to emulate the real people they represent? How did you guard against caricature?
NF That's a great question. I was very conscious of that; in the audition posting for Bill and Jeff, I put "mannerisms and vocal impression welcomed but not mandatory." I didn't want this to be an hour long impression show, with some dialogue in between. I had a lengthy conversation with Phil when he asked if he should study Pullman and get him down exactly. I told him that above all else, people need to relate to him, to feel for him, and that must come first for the story. So Phil did his research, and we worked on a few minor character traits that Pullman possesses and Phil got them down to a point where if you know Pullman, you get it right away. If not, Phil is just a very real guy.
Jeremy Eden on the other hand. Wow. He has Jeff Goldblum down. With Phil as the straight man, I basically let Jeremy loose with his Goldblum.
OT You’re trying to get Pullman and Goldblum to attend the show. Can you talk about that endeavor?
NF Our plan right now is to throw together a sort of grass roots effort to make them aware of our show. I'm trying to navigate my way through contacts in a sort of six degrees of Pullman/Goldblum. The next step is having our entire cast and crew, fans of our Facebook page, and maybe your readers to help e-mail their agents/publicists/lawyer's/manager's and ask for them to come. We are looking for a sponsor to help fund their flight and hotel room for the night. We want to make it fun for them, the audience, and just have a good time celebrating their work and talent.
OT What’s your next project?
NF I've been working on it for over a year with my business partners Del Harvey, and Joe Caballero. It's a feature film called Blood Kin. It was written by Del and has a great script with elements of the eighties classic Near Dark and the Swedish film Let The Right One In. It will be my first producing gig on a film and not a documentary. We are planning to start pre-production soon and hopefully have it out by next year. I can't wait to get to work on it, travel to location, and embark on another journey. It's been a long time coming with this film. I've worked my butt off to get to this point, and will continue to afterwards. There might be a lot of vampire films out lately, but I think ours is unique.
'Once Upon a Rom Com: A Bill Pullman Story' runs September 19th through October 31st at Gorilla Tango.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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