Steve Buscemi knows what we all know: good things come from Ohio. As he took the stage Wednesday night at the preview for his new film “Lonesome Jim” Buscemi acknowledged that his wife grew up in Hilliard, Ohio, and that he’s familiar with the territory. All this before he jokingly said, “I can’t stay for the movie, I have tickets to the hockey game.”
Drexel Theatres and IFC Films sponsored the evening to debut the Drexel Theatre at the South Campus Gateway and to premiere the film, all while helping ABATE(American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) raise money for the Firefighters for Kids toy drive. Buscemi himself is a former firefighter. Terry Foegler, President of the Gateway, Pat Andres of ABATE, and Jeff Frank, President of Drexel Theatres group all gave short introductions before Buscemi introduced the film. After the premiere, Buscemi participated in a question and answer session with the audience.
In his third pass at directing, Buscemi tackles Jim Strouse’s poignant and original script about a penniless writer, played by Casey Affleck, who reluctantly moves from New York City to his hometown of Cromwell, Indiana. While coping with his own depressing thoughts and apathetic attitude, Jim also encounters his mother’s relentless involvement in his life, his brother’s overwhelming sense of failure and depression and a budding romance with a nurse (Liv Tyler). The mysteries and essentials of a small town are all evident, as one shot pans a row of about 13 drink machines, and many scenes feature the rolling farmland or simple factory settings anyone can imagine. The complex characters beg for pity, yet can deliver a line that receives uproarious laughter. Affleck perfectly portrays the sullen, intelligent Jim, constantly struggling with his purpose in life and his purpose in his family. Mary Kay Place gives an outstanding performance as the selfless, forgotten mother of grown men who act as though they are still boys.
“Casting is everything. When I direct actors I like to see what they bring to the script and then I just make suggestions. It’s a highly collaborative process.”
While the plot never really climaxes or throws drama directly into an audience’s face, the movie is touching and funny and relates to all audience members.
“I related to this character Jim,” Buscemi said. “A guy who wants to write in New York. I moved there wanting to be an actor. He has feelings of loneliness and depression, struggling with his family and not being understood, I’ve felt that. I like the characters and the humor of the script. It was a comedy about depression, it was a challenge, but also fun.”
The film was shot in 18 days for $500,000. It was filmed using Mini DV, as opposed to regular film.
“You have to make compromises-losing a scene, losing time to film, running out of money. You have to draw a line where and how much you compromise though, because if you lose your original intent it’s not worth making. The format of the film and the movie doesn’t matter if you have a good story, good script and good actors,” Buscemi said.
Jim Strouse created a script loosely based on his own life, Buscemi said. All the characters have the names of his real family, the entire film was shot in his hometown and his parents house, and every family member had a role in the movie.
Buscemi answered questions about his life, his career, and even offered advice. He said the good directors he has worked with are the ones who not only have a unique visual style, but can create a cohesive unit between cast, crew and production company.
When asked how aspiring filmmakers should get started he simply said “Don’t wait around for other people to make your movie, you make your movie. There are plenty of outlets for films to get attention.”
One brave audience member asked Buscemi if there were any roles he regrets turning down.
“You mean the time when I turned down Top Gun? I could’ve been married to Katie Holmes by now,” Buscemi said.
An overall evening of fine art and being starstruck ended with Buscemi offering thoughts on the troops in Iraq. “Until every last one is home,” he said.
“Lonesome Jim” is scheduled for release in Spring 2006 and the Drexel Gateway opens next Friday.