Long Time Coming

Lovely, Still enjoys wide release When Martin Landau spins anecdotes about icons he’s worked with during a celebrated acting career, it is a Who’s Who of Hollywood. James Dean, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Joe Mankiewicz, Sidney Poitier, Steve McQueen, Jeff Bridges, Francis Ford Coppola, Angelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, Tim Burton. The 82-year-old Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner (Ed Wood) is a legend himself. So there’s something sweet and surreal when he drops Omahan Nik Fackler’s name. The 20-something filmmaker directed Landau and fellow Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn in his feature debut Lovely, Still. Shot in Omaha in late 2007, the film’s enjoying a national release after festival-preview screenings in 2008 and 2009. Now it plays at Marcus Theatres’ Midtown and Village Pointe cinemas. For Fackler, it’s an emotional cap to a project he first wrote nine years ago: “It’s been nine years of persistence and positivity and not giving up. It’s always been this thing in my life, Lovely, Still, that’s never gone away, and now I’m going to let it go away, and it feels good because I’m ready to let it go … I wanted it to come out a couple years ago, and it was delayed. Now it’s finally coming out and I feel sort of a distance from it. There’s nothing a bad review can say that won’t make me proud of the accomplishment. It just feels good to know it’s out there … People that pick up on the emotions and the feelings in the film seem to really be attached to it and love it.” Landau, in Omaha last year to promote the pic, said he responded strongly to the script, “figuring somebody maybe close to my age” wrote it. When he learned the author was young enough to be his grandson, he said he asked, “How does a 22-year-old write an older couple love story with this texture?” The venerable actor took a lunch meeting with the Generation Y upstart at an L.A. cafe, each wary if he could work with the other. Landau used the meet to gauge whether Fackler would accept notes to inform rewrites. To his delight he found him open. “I basically said, ‘This is a terrific script, but it’s bumpy. If you’re willing to do this with me, I’ll do the movie,’ and Nik said, ‘OK.’ Well, he did a rewrite on the basis of what we talked about. For two months we talked on the phone, several times a week, five or six pages at a time.” Their top choice to play Mary opposite Landau’s Robert was Burstyn. On Landau’s advice Fackler waited until finishing the rewrite before sending her the script. She loved it, with some reservations. “Actors like me and Ellen are looking for scripts that have some literary value. Good dialogue today is rare. It’s harder and harder to get a character-driven movie made by a studio or independents and it’s harder to get theaters to take them.” As charmed as they were, Landau said, “It was a leap of faith working with a kid, but Nick’s talented and adventurous and imaginative and willing to listen. He reminds me of Tim Burton. Less dark, maybe a little more buoyant.” “It was collaborative,” said Fackler. “We were a team of artists working together. After we became friends we respected each other’s opinions.” Landau likes that this movie is aimed at his own underserved demographic. “I absolutely believe in this film. When I did Ed Wood I felt that way. A lot of older people are starved for movies. They’re not interested in fireballs or car chases or guys climbing up the sides of buildings.” He attended a Las Vegas screening of Lovely before a large AARP member crowd and, he said, spectators “were enwrapped with this movie. It talked to them. I mean, they not just liked it, it’s made for them. There’s a huge audience out there for it.” Instead of a generation gap, Landau and Fackler discovered they were kindred spirits. Before acting, Landau studied music and art, working as a newspaper cartoonist-illustrator. He still draws and paints. Besides writing and directing, Fackler is a musician and animator. “I feel Martin and I are very similar and we get along really well,” said Fackler, who added they still talk frequently. He described their relationship as “inspired.” Fackler also feels a kinship with Burstyn, who has a cabin where he stays while writing. Fackler also found an ally in Landau. “One of the main things Martin repeated to me over and over again was, ‘This is your movie.’ He made sure that rang in my ears, just to make sure I stayed strong when I came up against fights and arguments with people that wanted the film to be something I didn’t want it to be, and much love to him for doing that. Those words continue to ring in my ear in his voice to this day, and I’m sure for the rest of my career.” Now dividing his time between Omaha and L.A., Fackler’s weighing his next feature: a puppet adaptation of Tony Millionaire’s work or a period scary movie.

posted at 07:33 pm
on Thursday, September 30th, 2010

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