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Exclusive Interview with Rusty Gorman : Part 2

Interviewed by Daniel Chia

You mentioned your cast, so that's what I'd like to talk about next. What influenced your decisions in the casting process? Was it talent over name or name over talent?

Rusty : From my point of view it's always talent first but of course there's always the commerce side of it, you've got to think of it in terms of a business as well as an art form. Any film is going to be more saleable when there's name talent attached and so one of the first things the producers wanted to do was to attach someone who had a name. The three main roles in the film are for high school aged kids, and one thing that was really important to me was that we cast actors who were really that age, I didn't want to cast 24, 25 year olds to play high school. So there were not a lot of names in that category, in that age category that had the name value. We initially tried to cast two of the smaller roles that were for older actors who would have name value, but it wasn't working and while that was happening I kept saying let's go, let's go to Haley. Haley's the one person who was absolutely perfect for the lead role and has a name that means something. But the producers were hesitant, eventually we met with Haley and he responded to the script. The minute that happened, we were off and running. That was really the key.

What was it like working with Haley Joel Osment, Ryan Merriman and Danielle Panabaker?

Rusty : Well, I can't say enough about those three, all tremendous actors but beyond that they were just great to work with. They gave so much, they were open to "improv" and bringing more to each scene and that's what makes the film, the performances of those three. Their performances I think stand out and it's a character driven story. I knew the key to the whole thing was the chemistry that we could create between Haley's character and Ryan's character. The casting of those two roles was the make or break thing and I think that is probably the strongest part of the film, the work those two did and the chemistry that was created between those two characters.

How much did each of them contribute to their respective characters, over and above what was defined for each character in the screenplay that you wrote? Was it a collaborative process in developing each of the main characters with the actors playing them? How much was the respective actor's contribution to the character that he was playing?

Rusty : We were fortunate enough to have a couple of weeks, or at least 10 days of rehearsal. Haley, Ryan and I spent a lot of time and we talked about the characters and we were able to go through each scene several times and I made it clear to both that it was going to be a collaborative situation. I made it clear that we had to stick to the story, I didn't want them to go too far off on a tangent, but I wanted them to feel comfortable putting it at times in their own words if something on the page didn't sound exactly right to their ear. I think both felt absolutely comfortable rephrasing and putting it in their own words and that quality I think really comes across in this film, that is, it feels really conversational, I don't think you feel the written word, it feels really spontaneous and I have to credit those guys for being open to that collaborative process.

Do you have any interesting anecdotes to relate about the three main actors?

Rusty : [laughs] I don't know about anecdotes, but I can tell you this … working with Haley, he is one of the most interesting, intelligent people that I've ever met. Outside of the film business, in my whole life, he is so bright and has such knowledge of so many diverse topics it is just amazing to talk to him. He has a real interest in music and he's just multi-talented, so when you're working with him its great, when you're on set working and then spending time with him outside of that is so interesting because he's so knowledgeable about so many other things.

And Ryan, to me, is just a natural, I mean he just took to this part and it just fit perfectly, it was his personality. It was really fun to just watch him work, I think he kind of became that character and remained that character on and off the set the whole time we were down there. Whether we were working or whether we were out to dinner afterwards or whatever we were up to, I think he really became Matt Morrison for 7-8 weeks. It's funny when we had to then do the final 4 days of principal photography, I think it was like 9 months later, there was about 18% of the movie we didn't complete down in North Carolina mainly because of what we were talking about earlier, the issue about the exterior day locations not being available. Anyway, Ryan was like, "Wow I gotta go back to that place you know, I gotta be Matt again," and I was like, I hope he can get right back into character, and he just snapped right back into it, you could see it, you know. It was like he took on that character and became that person. It was a lot of fun watching him take the words that I had written and making them his own. As I said earlier he's just brilliant doing it.

How different are Haley and Ryan in their acting methods?

Rusty : Hmm … I think that both are very prepared, they come ready and they're both open to changing things on the spot. I think in many ways they have a lot in common, they both have great instinct, and they work together really well. I could see after the first 2-3 rehearsals that this was going to be a fun, the collaborative process and the key was just to have enough time to let that relationship develop and grow and let them feel like they had the space and time to experiment a little bit and I knew we were going be in real good shape.

And Danielle?

Rusty : Danielle's part was smaller than Haley's and Ryan's. Danielle was with us for about two weeks and Danielle was always completely prepared and she brought a lot to her part, she elevated the character. The camera loves her, she has a quality that draws you to her when she's onscreen. I remember when she read in the audition, I think she wasn't feeling that well, maybe she had a cold that day or whatever it was, but I immediately knew she was the character, she was perfect, and I'm thrilled that she was able to do it and her schedule worked out and she took the role because you'll see that her performance is outstanding. Like I said, all three were always so prepared and they took directions amazingly well, anytime I wanted to adjust something in their performance, it happened on the next take. They responded to changes and they got along really well. It was a joy working with those three.

Were there any scenes where the actors managed to give so much more than what you as director, were expecting, or had been envisioned in the script? Were there any standout moments when at the end of the scene, you yelled "cut" and realized that something amazing had just happened?

Rusty : That happened more than once. I don't want to give a lot away, I don't want to go into a lot of details as to which scenes because you know, with some of those moments I might be giving something away. But it happened, certainly, more than once. There were a couple of times when the ending of a scene was changed, and then it was changed again, and then again, and it was different each time, and it worked. Choice after choice, if I had more time I would have done even more takes because it was just entertaining to be there in that space watching it happen. I would crack up when I said "cut," time and time again, because of a change that would be made at the end of a take or a little added element. Those three, like I said, they brought so much more to each of those roles and continued to, you know, there was this momentum that built and I think that the actors kind of fed off each other, they saw like ok, we can go other places, there's an opening here, we can experiment and there was like a good natured almost actorly competition to see what else each could do, kind of show your craft. Ken Mitchell also got a sense of that momentum, was open to improvisation and he jumped right in. They fed off each other, there was just this really positive energy on the set and you could feel the actors feeding off one another, and it just enhanced all the performances. Brent Briscoe, same thing, he's a total professional, he had a lot of experience, he came in at the last second and I think he really, really hit it out of the park. He was great. He also felt that openness, added to it and he came up with a couple of ideas on the spot that are in the final cut, and just make it that much better.

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In the final part of this exclusive interview with Rusty Gorman , releasing tomorrow, as he talks about the themes in Home of the Giants, the May 9th prerelease screening of the film, and why post production work seemed to take so long ...





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