Any Day Now: A Q&A with director Travis Fine
Starring Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt and newcomer Isaac Levya, the heart-wrenching drama Any Day Now hits cinemas this September.
In a brief Q&A, director Travis Fine discusses his casting choices and the inspiration behind George Arthur Bloom’s tragic screenplay.
Could you explain where the original genesis of the film came from?
Travis Fine: The original script was written in the late 70s by George Arthur Bloom who lived in Brooklyn – the rough section of New York – who knew this guy Rudy and this young boy, whose mother was a terrific drug-addict, who was continuously left alone. And Rudy befriended him. George was inspired by the connection of these two – two people who should probably not care for one another and who did. And there he leapt off into the dramatic question, what would happen if Rudy tried to adopt this young boy?
He did research and it was really well-written. It almost got made a number of times; there were a number of A-list actors who considered it – at one point Jon Voight was talked about, or my personal favourite, which absolutely kills me, is George had two legitimate meetings with Sylvester Stallone for the role!
But the film never got made like many scripts, even well-written ones, and his son (who was my music supervisor) knew we were looking for a screenplay to produce and said: “My Dad wrote a script, I think it’s pretty good, maybe you want to take a look at it.” I read it, I was inspired by it, and then I had to figure out my own personal connection, being straight, from the suburbs, two “normal” kids. We have dealt with some loss, some challenges, and some injustices in our own personal life – very personal, very hurtful family situations – and that was really my way in. From there the challenge of doing a 70s period piece, using modern technology, but using a few pieces to give it a bit of a gritty look… I became excited to do it.
This is a sensitive story based in Brooklyn, and yet you chose to move it over to the West Coast. One might say California had very different values at that point in time?
TF: Yeah I’d love to say it was a grand creative choice, but really it was about logistics. We were supposed to be shooting in Brooklyn, and I found my line producer and me scouting locations using Google Maps because we live in Los Angeles and I just don’t know New York! You know, if you were from London you would feel more comfortable shooting here than in Dublin. It’s not a location specific – the laws were very similar in 1979. The law was challenging in both places.
Can you talk about the casting, especially of Marco?
TF: Alan [Cumming] was the first person cast. We had a pretty short list of names we would have loved to work with on the film and we brought up Alan, and I was like: “Stop, you can stop right there – that’s the guy!” I hadn’t seen him in person, but I knew of him and he is brilliant. So we gave his manager the script. When you make a movie like this you need people to sign on to the parade before all the floats are in place, because it helps attract other people. A lot of the cast are old friends of mine; others came from the casting directors.
Garret – when they first brought him up I was like: “I can’t.” He plays this really silly, outlandish comedy character on a show in America and I was like: “That guy can’t play Paul!” [Garret plays the Sheriff in Old Winter’s Bone] Now I can’t imagine anyone else. That scene he did [in the courtroom] is so powerful, and we needed someone who is willing to be understated next to Alan, because if you had the two of them trying to chew the scenery, it wouldn’t have worked.
And then Marco, we always knew it was going to be a tough role to cast. We put the word out to both regular casting directors as well as Down Syndrome Societies throughout the United States. We got a lot of tapes back. All the kids did what a lot of child actors do – and a lot of bad adult actors too – which is they go, [pause] my line [pause] my line – they weren’t listening, just waiting to regurgitate the line they had practised a lot. We got a lot of that. Some of the kids were very physically disabled and tough to watch, and then the young actors in Hollywood who sent their tapes in of them doing that thing [impression of a disabled kid] – and I am like: “Oh no don’t do that thing, that offensive thing.”
And then we saw Isaac. And he was so natural and he was listening and he was so sweet and at the end of the first scene he smiled that “happy ending” smile and we were like “Gee, this kid is great!” That was the good news. The bad news was I had written the character profile as being this nasty, surly, tough kid who had taken on some of the ways of his mother. Isaac wasn’t going to do that, we realised when we met him in person, because Down Syndrome kids are renowned for not being fond of violence or aggression. So I thought, he is not the right kid – I am going to have to rewrite. But this smart one over here [points at his wife, producer Kristine Fine], smart pretty one, said: “Do you remember The Blind Side and how much you wanted to get into that character?” She said: “Use his silence. Take away a lot of his lines and use his silence.” And it was a really smart call.
So I told Isaac he got the role, and then I turned away and he was crying. He didn’t look happy and I asked if he was ok, and through his tears he said: “The dream of my life just came true.” We could sit here all night telling wonderful Isaac stories. He was just wonderful – wonderful to be on the set with because Alan, as wonderful and professional as he is, let’s face it – he is a big star. You know, Alan and Garrett, they’ve been around! And here we are in these crappy little trailers, hot locations, not the best food, and it’s not the biggest budget and then the 8mm stuff we shot at Christmas didn’t work the first time. So I’m like: “We have to do Christmas again.” And Alan is like [in his Scottish accent]: “Really? We have been shooting for 14 hours and now I have to put on my sweater and it’s 95 degrees.” Then Isaac comes bounding in and is like [enthusiastically]: “It’s Christmas again?” and I looked at Alan and he is like: “Ok, I know it’s alright, I will do it.”
Any Day Now is released nationwide on 6th September 2013.
Watch the trailer for Any Day Now here: