Rutger Hauer - Sanford Pollard
Matthew Davis - Carter Baines
Dagmara Dominczyk - Julia Wilder
Susan Misner - Marilyn Conner
Matt Servitto - Howard
Peter Scolari - Jonathan Parks
Lynn Chen - Susan
Isabel Glasser - Margaret Burger
Lawrence Pressman -President Kendall
Robert Lupone - Franklin Burrier
Carrie Yeager - Nurse
David Fonteno - Doctor Kyle Hansen
Marty McDonough - Priest
This is a story of love and ambition, focused on celebrated writer/professor Sanford Pollard and his two star pupils, Julia and Carter. Carter, a frustrated professor at a small town college, spends his days sleeping with coeds and his nights downing bourbon. Hours after receiving a letter from Sanford, he learns his former mentor has just died. Although they did not part on the best of terms, Carter decides to make an appearance at the funeral and thus to risk running into Julia, the only woman he ever loved.
Flashbacks to Carter's first day of graduate school.... Julia spots Carter reading Sanford's best known work and in her teasing and playful fashion, she gives him the insight that ultimately saves him from making a complete ass of himself in front of Sanford and the rest of the class. When Julia seeks Carter out once more, it is not only her insight that interests him, but before he can ask her out, Julia informs him that she is with Sanford.
Sanford adores Julia, encouraging her talent with brutish tough love while emotionally manipulating he feelings for him. Upon learning of Julia's respect and interest in Carter's writing, Sanford invites him into their world of fame, love, passion and betrayal.
Ultimately faced with the decision to follow the woman he loves, or continue to learn at the foot of the master, Carter chooses the path that leads him to where he is now, a less successful version of the man he grew to despise... his mentor.
Flashforward to present day... Sanford's death and funeral teaches Carter more about himself than all of the lessons that came before, and he gains the opportunity to confront his past and just possibly redeem the biggest mistake of his life...
What tickles me in MENTOR is that the battle between the characters makes me think of one of J.P. Sartre's plays called 'Huis Clos' ('No Exit'). I have had this in the back of my mind as a project. But that would have been a tough marriage. Literature, existentialism and film. The idea that there is some big ugly fired up grill with a guy in red who's running around with a tail of some kind between his legs rather than we are each other's hell has never convinced me. In MENTOR there is always a form of torture in progress. It can be of a lover's or lovely kind.
In the scene I discribed somewhat yesterday my character - Sanford Pollard - is about to push his lover away into the arms of a much younger man and he knows it might be nasty and he may lose her in the process. Is it worth?, it's the question, and is he right?, it's the second question. So he has arranged this party that gets out of hand and in the script there is a very ugly scene where all behave badly, not knowing (?), because all are intoxicated in some form or other.
In the script we have another touchy feel-up chick scene. It doesn't bother me to misbehave or be cruel but just one kiss might be worse. In my book. Will see. I'm tring to work with the prologue from "You just took the words right out of my mouth" and some little dance. Using them as a guideline. We may not be able to use this in the actual film. Doesn't matter. It is a back-up and in case we run into too much awkwardness. Will see, we don't shoot this yet.
I just returned to Baltimore from a south-easterly corner where waterways are full and land is little. The 90-min drive took three and a half hrs. Never mind. I like driving. Rainstorms and rushhour when I got to downtown. A firemen's excercise and a baseball game made me be stuck there a few blocks from the hotel. Not just enough sleep after several days of shootshoot.
The film 'MENTOR' is so low budget we even kept shooting when all local power was lost. During a wild and colourful rainstorm we shot some material as well. Not to mention two white swans and a big coloured moth visiting our scenery there. But most of the time the weather was just amazing. Amazingly sunny that is. Blazingly so to speak. Lots of scenes inside and thus we had to shut the airco off for sound. Even the temperature in the pool was close to boiling nuts instead of cooling them off. Hello. Excusez le mot. This is the smallest crew I have ever worked with. Some fifteen people. That's it. You get to know people. And they work so damn hard. I wish I could bathe them in champagne but no time for that sort of thing.
Shootshoot. Rehearsal 9sec and shoot. Survive, improvise, live. Be free. It's crazy and it's what I love. The script has sunk in deeply and I feel so comfortable plus the fact that alternative ideas just pour out. Shoot. The director is the best doll and I would eat him alive but need him. He's quiet. I understand where he lives. His eyes or smile are my compass. We discuss a few things in a day but it is minimal. I have worked with directors who just don't work verbally and it is such a wonder sport. Sam Peckinpah was one. David Peoples. One lives in constant uncertainty while on the pointed toes mostly. For actors who don't exactly know it is harder. My colleagues - Dagmara Dominczyk, Matt Davis and Susan Misner have found their separate niches and are stepping up to the plate. A little nippy dippy here and there but so much joy and we always find solutions. Always.
Or catch each other in a cooperative safety net. It's a very unusual way of making a movie. They all hold ground, which is the hardest. It is a warzone and lovely. The writer William Whitehurst is young and one of the producers. He's flabberghasted and shocked about what happens to the script as it gets tweaked and then lands on film. He loves it. It scares him. But it will be fine. The end will be a ravaging story with delicious performances that are under their skin. The styles are all in sinc.
You will hardly see the acting. Icing on my favourite cake and so damn hard to achieve. Matt plays the lead and his colours wave in an out and it is wonderful to see him grow more confident without turning precious. He is starting to hit the beef now and I don't mean a woman's flesh. We work extremely well together and I feel many connections but I won't interfere. A fishline now and then to perk him up. I must say I felt isolated and lonely the first week because the two writers, my director and the great assistant who rammed our brainstorming on the script on the page were suddenly gone. No one left to dwell with. Just shootshoot.
I felt it was good, even better that way. The actors all exploded into their work and were just too busy. Of course I did my own share but I was there already the first moment. Way ahead and still. I feel as if I am one of the very few who has an idea where the work will end up. Will see.
I had a few misjudgements and they serve their purpose just as well. What a process. The story keeps getting stronger and the colours of love and character more interesting and real.
Finally a movie that works with the great human qualities. Damn.
A little piece of the story. The relationship between Sanford and his girlfriend is deep and unusual. I think they speak from the same womb but I feel they don't fit together without space. They spend days with and without. A necessary need. Maybe just for him only. I'm just guessing. He doesn't need women. Certainly not for the cooking and nurturing bit. So their commitment to each other is scattered. Yet very real. Mostly spiritual since I feel they stopped eating meat a while ago.
I'm telling you this because we do a party scene where Sanford is the mentor of crazy, wild and silly as well as saying goodbye to that relationship. He feels he has to push her away and by doing so allowing her (not the right word) to open up to the arms of another man. Carter/Matt Davis. Since he has understood from the first moment he saw them together that they belong to each other. Forever. It s just so that their nature stops them from running that way too quickly. Oi. Yes. And then other coincidences prevent them from getting there.
At this party given also as a sort of a birthday present (how drastic) he takes three people on a leash out into the jungle of any drugs and rock and roll and he "abuses" one of the girls to shake things up badly and get a good start with the rest of his lonesome writer cowboy life. In the script they have him fingering this girl but I wll take it another way. Different wrapping but even more devastating. I wouldn't say he destroys the girl but certainly think it will shake her up for a while.
The girl (Marilyn) played by Susan Misner has a unique combination of sharpness/sensitivity and virginlike innocence combined in her character. She is and will be an easy prey. She's an outsider from the start. Tries to Carter first but swings over to Sanford but never gets anywhere. Just the wrong girl at the right time or viceversa .We shoot this tonight. Will see...
I must tell you two things. One is that we try to find things on the run and we always do. And two, especially the "wrongs" end up being interesting flavours of which things will still be "right". Marilyn, being an outcast always and almost like a embodiment of this, went off the board weeping her heart out. Omg. All the way.
I still had a small scene with her which was hopefully going to land her character somehow. Scene is between her and Pollard after he has had some fun with her kissing some and dancing a lot and now the drugs and party and the new morning are coming in. They sit on the couch as they watch the terrible interview Sanford gave earlier that day. As they sit close she keeps kissing more but he stops her and just tells her he won't sleep with her because he needs her to know. Although this may sound hard to do I was hoping to somehow get her to accept her fate after trying to get to both these men and rest her head in my lap and since I had a red rose in my lap (....O damn what can you do ever after American Beauty...) and lace her face with some of its petals as a light celebration.
Now I was faced with a great actress and a dear collegue who went down the toilet and drain in her own tears. As she was in make-up trying to get restored I felt very doubtful if I would be able to get her there. I mean, there are many things in play here. Since she was lost so sad and deep I figured we could probably use the sound if her bathrooming was over the top. So we decided to see what we could do and she would leave and although Sanford makes a tiny phonecall to his PR man to congratulate him with their mutual TV disaster, I would hear the weepings through the bathroom wall and feel terrible for her. At the same time knowing that some honesty is just really hard to take.
We did the scene and yes, she was gone very quickly and no, I could not do the rosepetals and was left playing with the damn rose myself doing a little damn 'loves me yes loves me not'. And she was great. But I felt sad for her character. And for us in a way. I was so ready to make piece with her lostness but it just wasn't in the cards. I am sure you understand this is not a negative comment. It is about how certain events are of major influence while proceeding and doing the work. It is also part of the strange animal called talent.
The other small but also major thing was that we had another scene where the two young lovers, influenced by all kinds of odd substances and the moment, just go at each other. In the backroom I listen to the scene to see how it went. Love scenes are a bit like car stunts. Lol. Hardhard. And not that way either. It was fine and sweet and delicate. I looked at the visuals. Shadows, profiles, lips, hands, movement and skin. Just perfect. A good concert. At the end of that Pollard sort of walks in the door. In the script he says, "O, wasn't that just perfect". Then he just sits on one side of the bed and says, "I'm ready for a little nap". It's naughty, I know. I loved the idea. In my mind he was really crossing the border but at the same time saying to them, 'Oh fuckers, good for you, long time cummming and JC why don't you just accept your fate and get on with it, I'm not in your way'. At the same time it is insensitive and maybe even gives too much away. As I walked into the set to rehearse, I just felt that it was wrong and too much. I mentioned it as we tried to make it work. And smiles came to David, Matt & Dag's faces. There you go. Who needs a better answer. It also meant that the scene became so much easier. We just had Sanford watch them lie there while his face does not reveal anything. It creates a tension which will be straightened out later anyway and it made us wrap at 2:45am. It was our first day of shooting of less than 12hrs. This is also very good for the crew. I was a proud rider on the blue HD as I rode back to my hotel room.
into the flatland
of his hands
the desert wind
in his cage
his teeth became black wolves
were the measure of must
a thousand years ago
we know more
than all lovers
don't we do we
or was it ever
his wit seemed lace
he fathers mothers
and abandonned lust
it just licks wounds like rivers
is such a lousy fuck
a thousand years ago
were dancing clay
then you woke up
I strangled you
and was left
look at you now
Next I made a call to a nice music store who also organizes small events here. Baltimore is a music town. It used to be very poor and very black, I hear the blues from far away. They gave me two names of musicans. Two were violin players. I met one of them at 5pm. She was a young girl from the south. Black, quirky, and one hand in a bandage. The other violin player came to the bar of the hotel where we were shooting. He brought a friend. A soprano. The crew was about to have lunch. That's when I hoped to pitch the idea. I told the the story. Lunch was postponed for an hour because the hotel cook needed tha time. The musicans who played at the bar came in. It was still quiet there. We talked and had a few drinks. They practised a little and found a harmony to do it together and at 9pm David - the director - sat down with us. I explained the idea. They played it. We talked music. I know he liked it. Tomorrow I will invite the black girl with the bandaged hand to the set and we will work it out. The bandaged hand belongs to the hospital and it should be a very imperfect version of the song as she may now be a patient in pajamas trying to see if her hand will allow her to play. I also like the gentle sense of hope in a place so full of healings, dyings and pain. It will be a sweet small nugget. It will be my gift to David and the film. But we will see. For now it is just another little plan.
I know that people die while we filmpeople do our buzzy and precious thing and I put an always returning perspective on how lucky I am to make a living this way. Nevertheless, I get funny or too serious about what passes through the day. I hardly ever lose my cool. I did yesterday. And even for good reasons, I just felt pretty raw after that. Bingo and caramba. I put it under my pillow and snored on it as loud as I could, being a rose and angel at the same time. We hit three unique notes. Two being just wonderful and one uglier, that keeps rearing a piece of its head now and then. And I won't bother you with those details.
The two moments were as follows. We had two one-page scenes. Between the good young man and the fiestier, older wise guy character. And a little scene in the parking lot just getting into the car. The other scenes were both set in Professor Pollard's office. Since we started the work with the parking lot I felt it might have been easy to play the first scene that was supposed to be done in the office, play it there .It would save some time as well .We tried it and instantly felt it was lighter and played fine. Then I had a small break because Matt/Carter had to do one scene with Dag/Julia. That went well and then we started our work on our last scene of the day. We had an hour. I was hoping for the best. It was an important scene for Matt/Carter. Because he confronts the Professor on the way he treats/mistreats him and his writing.
The director felt he needed some fire between the two. We created a little time in peace and quietness to "discover" how the scene felt as written. Matt felt it was too offensive. We improvised our lines a little with our own words and immediately we started to find the right tone. Our director of photography is wonderfull and he picks up on what we do and adjusts his shots to it. It was so lovely how this just landed. Then we started shooting and we got into trouble a bit with the sound department because of boomshadows. The light needed to be adjusted. It takes some time and we were so close to finishing on time but could not help running into overtime. The pressure is hard to take as an actor. Especially when the producer in the hallway keeps pushing. And the first Assistant Director keeps saying, "Are we ready? Can we go? Let's go go go!". I kept saying to Matt to not let it get to him. And he kept it together and did some great work. And he hit all the right notes, to say the least, in whatever he was doing. The room was filled with good feelings. And the blade of the knife that was needed for his character was on the desk.
I have to say that I feel that on this already 18th day we also found the better and more creative way to work. And that was also very good for my overly modest and shy director. He found himself as well. The times this happens hardly escape me. It goes for every person in every job on making a movie. And it reinforces why one does what one sets out to do.
On another note for this same day. Before I got on the crew went out to a river location for a really lovely scene where the two lovebirds float down the river playfully in big tyres. It reads so well on the page. Lol. Call me stupid. It was one of my favourite scenes. But reading it I wondered if they had any rivers like that here. With a good current going and some nice airy visuals at hand to photograph. As they got to that early location this morning the river was there, and really all of the above goods. Except that the tyres available turned out to be the size of a kid bicycle. That first of all. Then the water temperature was so cold that even with the right tyres all the actors would have been freezing. So they played the scene on land instead. And got it fine. And returned happy and even earlier than planned. Just to show you how many things change in one day for good, bad, and ugly. What's just great is that we always solve a piece of the big crazy puzzle. And we live to tell the tale.
Another marvelous day yesterday. One little scene. Two men drinking in hopper bar. Old fart tells young fart a braggy penis joke. And of course it was about size again. Scene was well written to start with but I was able to turn size into a small joke on its own by turning it around into smaller rather than bigger. Oi. I know size matters but boy is it overrated. And for a 60-year old Professor and a writer to come up with a joke like that, it just wasn't quite with the character. I know. Boys and their f***ing toys. So I made it into a personal story and observation rather than what it is. I even got some snowflakes in there for more poetic measure. Brought it home to warmth between two very different and very similar men who start to grow onto each other the moment the meet. Just lovely. Very nice and lonely bar. All so simple and close to the bone.
We even had to combine two scenes because of location and shooting problems. The next shot after they just fall into the night sky was so difficult to actually shoot on the street. With permits and time and lighting that it was decided to put the two scenes together inside. It was done quickly and works like a small and lovely storm. Tomorrow will be my last day. In coffin. Be dead... I haven't counted but I will. It must
round about my 52nd time expiring on film. Next film in NY will be #53 then. What a great opera.
Rutger with Susan Misner, discussing about the movie: