Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire and Jay Baruchel in GOOD NEIGHBORS, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
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Good Neighbors (2010/2011)
Also Known As: Good Neighbours
Opened: 07/29/2011 Limited
|Sunset 5/LA||07/29/2011 - 08/04/2011||7 days|
|Quad Cinema/NYC||07/29/2011 - 08/04/2011||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Canadian Black Comedy/Crime Thriller
Rated: R for violence and language.
Neighbors Spencer (Scott Speedman) and Louise (Emily Hampshire) have bonded over their fascination with a recent string of murders terrorizing their community. When a new tenant named Victor (Jay Baruchel) arrives in the building, all three quickly hit it off. But as they soon discover, each of them has their own dark secret. As the violence outside mounts, the city retreats indoors for safety. But the more time these three spend together in their apartment building, the clearer it becomes that what they once thought of as a safe haven is as dangerous as any outside terrors they could imagine. Smart dialogue, strong performances and jarring thrills give this film all the elements of a great mystery.
About the Film
Chrystine Brouillet's first novel Chere voisine was originally published in 1982. The book, which chronicled the killings of a series of young women and, more particularly, their repercussions on three residents of a Quebec City apartment complex, distinguished itself with its mix of suspense, shocks and satire. Writer-director Jacob Tierney, who initially read Chere voisine in high school, decided to take the material to his father, Montreal producer Kevin Tierney, with whom he last collaborated on the comedy The Trotsky.
"Jacob told me about this book a long time ago," recalls the elder Tierney, "and I said, Jacob, I really don't want to make a movie about a serial killer." And when we finished shooting on The Trotsky, I sent him a note saying, "I'll produce any project that you want to make." And he told me: "this is the one." The producer overcame his initial reluctance upon reading the novel. "I actually found it way funnier and way more diabolical than just being a book about a serial killer. Don't get me wrong, it's still a pretty sick little tale -- but there's great fun to it in a perverse way-."
"I'm a big noir fan", enthuses Jacob Tierney. "When I was a kid, I read a ton of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, and I love mysteries. I love whodunits. So this is a kind of natural extension." The story isn't really so much of a whodunit. You kind of know whodunit pretty quickly. It's more a movie about: what are these people going to do with the information that they have? And that's what appealed to me about the book."
The resulting adaptation, rechristened Good Neighbors, recounts the story of the denizen of an urban apartment block, and a serial killer who begins a rampage that has the entire neighborhood rightfully upset. Living above one another on three separate floors, are Spencer (Scott Speedman), wheel-chair bound since the tragic accident some months earlier that left him not only a cripple but a widower as well; Louise (Emily Hampshire), a waitress at a local Chinese restaurant who doesn't seem to have much interest in anything save her cats (Mozart and Tia Maria), and the newcomer, Victor (Jay Baruchel), an elementary school teacher who has just moved in to complete the film's central triangle, in what soon becomes not so much a whodunit as a whosgonnagetit.
In writing the screenplay, Jacob Tierney decided to replace the novel's then-contemporary setting of Quebec City circa 1982, with that of a referendum-era Montreal of 1995. "Science is the death of noir", the younger Tierney says, regarding his decision to set the film in an era where the Internet and DNA research were not yet widely embraced. He elaborates further on the plight of today's contemporary thrillers: "If everybody's got a cell phone, if you even Google something, it's no fun. It's no fun! How do you change your passport? You can't pretend to be somebody else... they know what you look like because you're on Facebook!"
Juxtaposing his story against the 1995 Quebec referendum, which found the Parti Quebecois fighting for a free and independent Quebec (they ultimately lost by a very narrow margin), Jacob Tierney recounts, "That's when I read the book for the first time. For whatever reason, those two ideas became kind of conflated for me. And I couldn't really separate them anymore." In the months leading up to the October referendum, Montreal was covered in posters urging residents to vote either Oui (for separation) or Non. "What's cool about the referendum, just in terms of signage, is what it articulates visually", Tierney observes. "Because it's just yes and no. Just one choice. These are choices that reflect the choices of the character Louise. It's very simple to her: yes, or no."
"I thought they were really just fascinating," recalls actress Emily Hampshire (Snow Cake, The Trotsky) regarding her first impressions of the characters in the book and screenplay, "and I was instantly in love with Louise." The choices alluded to by Jacob Tierney, above, refer to Louise's options upon finding her beloved cats, Mozart and Tia Maria, dead in the yard outside her apartment --poisoned by her not-so-friendly neighbor, Valerie Langlois, played to the hilt by Anne-Marie Cadieux (Maman Last Call). Will Louise accept this terrible loss, or will she take matters into her own hands and avenge the murder of her cats by?
"I wrote these parts for Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire," Jacob Tierney recounts, "so what was so satisfying about that whole process was actually getting to write with an actor in mind, and then watch it all happen and grow and come to life."
Jay Baruchel, who played the title character in Jacob Tierney's comedy The Trotsky, shares his thoughts on his character of Victor, the ill- (or not so ill-) fated pawn in this elaborate game of murder and betrayal: "He's a lot more intelligent and cunning than he seems", says the actor. "I also think he's a lot more intelligent than he thinks he is. Everything about Victor is written on his sleeve. Everything with him is as genuine and earnest as it seems to be. But that doesn't mean he's a fool. He believes he's the man in the white hat. And I think he's got a set of morals that he abides by."
Completing this triangle as the mysterious, wheelchair-bound young widower Spencer (Scott Speedman). Speedman was most recently seen in Atom Egoyan's Adoration and in the sleeper horror hit The Strangers. "I feel like it takes me a full movie to better understand how to direct a particular actor", says director Tierney. However, "It's my first time working with Scott, and that's been terrific too, because I felt an immediate kind of connection with him." Speedman, meanwhile, has nothing but praise for his director: "Jacob is very comfortable on a set. He's very at ease and knows what he's doing. That means he's more open to taking risks." The actor continues, "When actors become directors, it's hit and miss. But when they do make good directors, that's usually why, and that's the case here."
Production on Good Neighbors began on January 18th 2010. Re-joining the Tierneys behind the camera, after their collaboration on The Trotsky, were director of photography Guy Dufaux (Les Invasions barbares), production designer Anne Pritchard (Femme Fatale), sound mixer Claude Hazanavicius (Nitro) and casting director Rosina Bucci (Bon Cop Bad Cop). New faces included costume designer Francesca Chamberland (Maurice Richard), production manager Michel Siry (The Sum of All Fears) and first assistant director Don Terry (Godsend).
Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by the crew was finding the right apartment building to stage not only the climax of the film (set on a fourth-floor fire escape), but to provide the hallways, stairways, and four distinct homes for each of the main characters (our main triangle, plus nasty neighbor Valerie). Location manager Benoit Mathieu, another Trotsky veteran, solved 50% of the equation when he found an old apartment complex just off of Sherbrooke Street, in Notre Dame de Grace proper to the setting. This building would provide all of the exteriors, as well as all interior hallways and staircases as required by the script. The production also rented several vacant apartments, one of which served as the home of the vicious Valerie. Additional apartments were used as green rooms and makeup rooms for the cast, and others were utilized to store equipment. These apartments also provided an ample amount of windows from which to shoot out of, for the wide variety of point-of-view shots required to tell the story. NDG native Baruchel, who lives two blocks from the location, notes: "That's where I grew up, and I've never once seen my neighborhood on film like that. It's kind of a love letter to the neighborhood in many ways."
Taking into account that the three apartments inhabited by Victor, Spencer and Louise are stacked above one another and therefore, by nature, architecturally the same, Anne Pritchard and her art department decided to build one single apartment set. Constructed in a warehouse in East End Montreal, the set would be redressed twice over the course of production to serve as three distinct homes representing three very unique personalities. "The work that Anne Pritchard and her team have done is extraordinary", enthuses director Tierney. False brickwork and very real iron balconies, as well as a giant exterior backdrop (photographed at the real location by cinematographer Dufaux), were added just outside the windows to add to the realism.
Animal trainers Josee Juteau and Raymond Ducasse, of Montreal-based Profilms Animaux, spent several months training the six cats required to portray Mozart, Tia Maria and Balthazar. "We have doubles for each cat," explains Jacob Tierney, who has nothing but praise for his trainers. "Some cats are better at running and jumping, some cats are better at cuddling, some cats are better at (doing the) different things you need." Producer Kevin Tierney adds, "We're shooting a lot of the movie outside, and the weather conditions are not ideal for humans or cats. For (the cats) to do their tricks and show off their skills, in bad weather conditions, it's a very tough kind of undertaking."
Emily Hampshire had an unexpected reaction during her first on-camera encounter with Balthazar. "He rubbed his face on me", recounts the actress, "and he was so cute, and I suddenly felt this fire shoot across my cheek. I broke out in hives." She went to her director, perplexed by the sudden allergy she developed since first meeting Balthazar in pre-production. Hampshire continues: "Jacob's like, who did you meet, Citrouille or the other one? I didn't know there were two cats. I'd met Citrouille. So I think I'm just allergic to Balthazar's stand-in." To allow the main unit to move forward, a second unit crew was employed to shoot various inserts of the cats inside and outside the apartment building. Jacob Tierney explains the number one rule when working with animals: "If the cat does it right, that's going in the movie. So you better make sure everybody else is doing the right thing at the same time too."
"I think we've all had neighbors that we'd like to kill at one point or another", notes Kevin Tierney. Indeed, when sharing living space with people, be it a building or even a street, chemistry with our neighbors (or lack thereof) can be a very volatile thing. Director Tierney recalls one neighbor in particular, who was not unlike a character in his film: "I had a Victor when I lived in LA. (He was) this really friendly guy, who got too friendly at a certain point. He was very much a Victor." Adds Hampshire: "Jacob was a very close neighbor of mine, so if anything my relationship with Spencer might be a bit like (my relationship with Jacob)."
Deciding to remain diplomatic, Baruchel admits that "I've always gotten along with everybody I've lived near, but I've shared some apartment floors with some crazy people." As for producer Tierney, he recalls the theft of a prized pot plant. Claiming that this happened "long ago" (honest!), he waxes poetic on his number one suspect: "There was this kid who looked like Joe Dallesandro, from the Andy Warhol movies. He had a long ponytail, and would always walk around with his shirt off. He would never make eye contact." He ultimately confesses: "I never killed him. I talked myself out of it. But I wanted to. Because I believe in vengeance."
Baruchel is grateful for the opportunity to return to Montreal so soon after completing The Trotsky. Indeed, Good Neighbors is a reunion of sorts with much of the previous film's cast and crew, including the Tierneys, as well as his co-star/love interest Hampshire. When asked about their on-screen relationship in both films, the actor observes, "Like Batman and the Joker, I'm destined to chase her for the rest of my life. Which is fine. There's a lot worse things I could be doing than chasing a beautiful girl like Emily Hampshire. And to get paid for it doesn't suck." For her part, Hampshire (who returned to Montreal between both films to shoot the thriller Die) likens her co-workers to "old friends". The feeling is mutual for her director: "The fact that the crew is largely the same crew as The Trotsky helps keep things light", the younger Tierney admits. "We know each other, and there's a certain formality you skip by working with people the second or third time."
Production on Good Neighbors wrapped after five weeks, in late February 2010. The post-production process brought back more returnees from The Trotsky, such as editor Arthur Tarnowski (The Wild Hunt), sound designer Pierre-Jules Audet, and post-production supervisor Pierre Theriault (Bon Cop Bad Cop). The score was provided by Silver Mountain Industries (made up of members of Thee Silver Mount Zion and Godspeedyoublackemperor!).
"Character is the action that pushes the plot forward", notes Jacob Tierney. "That's what I'm interested in." Indeed, at its core, Good Neighbors is defined by its diverse cast of characters, and by the elements that each of his actors managed to bring to the table. But as his cast can testify to, it's a two-way street: "Louise has given me a lot of confidence", says Hampshire of her character. "If you ask Louise to dinner, she can just say, No. Bye. Whereas I feel a lot of the time, you have to say, Oh, sorry, I can't, or make up some excuse."
Regarding his personal and professional relationship with his colleague and son Jacob, Kevin Tierney explains: "It's really about collaborating, about being on the same page and really wanting to make the same movie. So when you're in tune as much as that, it really becomes easy." Producer Tierney pauses. "And you know we can still have dinner on the weekends. I can't imagine a nicer working relationship."
About the Actors
JAY BARUCHEL (Victor)
Roles in a string of films since his debut as the star of the critically acclaimed FOX series Undeclared, including Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning movie Million Dollar Baby, have helped cement Montrealer Jay Baruchel's place as a rising star in Hollywood. Baruchel reunited with Undeclared creator Judd Apatow in Universal Pictures smash hit Knocked Up opposite Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. He also starred opposite Rose Byrne in the Canadian indie Just Buried as well as Real Time opposite Randy Quaid. Baruchel worked on DreamWorks' animated feature, How To Train Your Dragon, and was also seen in the DreamWorks comedy Tropic Thunder opposite Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jack Black. Recent films include the comedies Fanboys, She's Out of My League and Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, reuniting him with his Knocked Up co-star Seth Rogen. Jay also starred alongside Nicolas Cage in the summer 2010 hit The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
SCOTT SPEEDMAN (Spencer)
Scott Speedman recently starred in Atom Egoyan's film Adoration. Prior to that he starred opposite Liv Tyler in Universal/Rogue's box office smash The Strangers; and IFC Films' Anamorph, starring opposite Willem Dafoe for director Henry Miller. His other film credits include Allan Moyle's Weirdsville; Len Wiseman's Underworld and Underworld: Evolution starring opposite Kate Beckinsale; Ron Shelton's Dark Blue, opposite Kurt Russell; Isabel Coixet's My Life Without Me, opposite Sarah Polley, for which he won Best Actor at the Bordeaux International Film Festival; Tony Piccirillo's The 24th Day, opposite James Marsden; Bruce Paltrow's Duets, co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Maria Bello; Lee Tamahori's xXx: State of the Union; and Gary Burns' Kitchen Party. His first film was the short feature Can I Get a Witness?, directed by Kris Lefcoe. The film was developed at the Norman Jewison Film Center in Toronto, and was screened at the 1996 Toronto International Film Festival.
EMILY HAMPSHIRE (Louise)
A Gemini award winning and three-time Genie nominated actress, Emily Hampshire has made an indelible mark on the Canadian film and television industry. Most recently, Hampshire starred in Jacob Tierney's The Trotsky opposite Jay Baruchel. Emily made her film debut in the thriller Dead Innocent opposite Genevieve Bujold. She has also starred in two CBS mini-series; the Emmy nominated The Last Don and Seasons of Love. Other features quickly followed including leads in Posers, The Life Before This and Boy Meets Girl. Her stellar performance in Gary Burns' A Problem With Fear garnered Emily a Genie nomination for Best Actress. Emily was nominated for both an ACTRA Award and a Genie for her tour de force performance in the feature film Blood. The recent release Snow Cake stars Emily opposite Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. The film opened the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. Her TV credits include the MOWs Earthsea, The Atwood Stories: Man From Mars, Chasing Cain, and Scorn, as well as a lead role in the series Made in Canada.
ANNE-MARIE CADIEUX (Valerie Langlois)
For several years, Anne-Marie Cadieux has successfully balanced an active career in theatre, film and television. Her film debut, in Robert Lepage's 1994 film Le Confessional, earned her the Luce Guilbault Award for revelation of the year at the Rendez-vous du cinema quebecois, as well as a Genie nomination. Another Genie nomination followed for her role in Lepage's No, as well as a Jutra Award for Charles Biname's Le Coeur au poing. Other film roles include Maman Last-Call and Miss Meteo for director Francois Bouvier, Sebastien Rose's Comment ma mere accoucha de moi durant sa menopause, and yet another collaboration with Robert Lepage, La Face cachee de la lune. Anne- Marie has a variety of television credits; among them are: Annie et ses hommes, Fortier, Cover-Girl and Rumeurs.
PAT KIELY (Bilodeau)
Pat Kiely is a writer/director/actor. He recently completed his debut feature, Who is KK Downey?, which he co-wrote, co-directed, starred and produced. Kiely has also had roles in The Trotsky (dir Jacob Tierney), Lance & Compte (dir Federic D'Amours), A Flesh Offering (dir Jeremy Torrie) and Everywhere (dir Alexis-Durand Brault). He's also done guest spots for TV in The Foundation (Showcase), The Great War (CBC), Sophie (CBC) Naked Josh (CTV) and Les Bougon (TQS) among numerous other Canadian television shows. Kiely has also worked as a staff writer on Canadian TV series' Insecurity (CBC), The Foundation (Showcase), Sophie (CBC) and developed drunk.broke for CityTV. On IFC's The Business, Kiely is attached to features The Wolfpack (Cardinal Films) Horse (Park Ex Pictures), Police Force (Banner House/Bunbury Films) and Two Sisters (Forum Films). All are in development with Canadian funding bodies.
GARY FARMER (Brandt)
Actor, cultural activist, musician and filmmaker, Gary Farmer (Cayuga) is widely recognized as a pioneer in the development of First Nations media. Farmer has been featured in groundbreaking leading roles including Philbert Bono in Jonathan Wacks' Powwow Highway where he won the Best Actor award at the 1989 American Indian Film Festival. For his role as Nobody in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, Farmer won the Best Actor awards in 1997 from both the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and First Americans in the Arts in Los Angeles. Gary Farmer has completed a short fiction, Scratch and Win (2004), in addition to three films he directed that have screened at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2004 Gary was nominated for a Genie Award for his performance in a supporting role in Jacob Tierney's film Twist. Farmer's most recent credits include the feature films The Trotsky, and Timekeeper, as well as appearances on the television shows The Border, and Easy Money.
KANIEHTIIO HORN (Joanne)
Kaniehtiio (Tiio for short) was born and raised in Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve just outside of Montreal. In 2009 Tiio burst onto the feature film scene with supporting roles in the The Trotsky opposite Jay Baruchel and Leslie, My Name is Evil starring Kristen Hager and Greg Smith, as well as the lead role in the critically acclaimed The Wild Hunt. Most recently Tiio worked on the highly anticipated Universal feature film Immortals alongside Mickey Rourke, Freda Pinto and Henry Cavill. Up next, Tiio will shoot On The Road based on the Jack Karouac novel directed by Walter Salles and starring Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. On the small screen, Tiio appeared in the CTV movie A Terrorist Next Door starring Kathleen Robertson (Beverly Hills 90210, The Business), Lifetime's Web of Lies with Majandra Delfino (Roswell) and most notably the APTN MOW Moccasin Flats: Redemption for which she was nominated for a 2009 Gemini Award. She continues to voice several characters on the APTN animated series By The Rapids and can currently be seen playing Monica Bellow in the CBC series 18 to Life.
CLARA FUREY (Nathalie)
Clara Furey is a graduate of the Ateliers de danse moderne de Montreal. She also pursued higher studies in classical piano at the Conservatoire Municipal de Paris, as well as studies in music theory, harmony and analysis. She was the star, singer-songwriter and 'pianowoman' of a show she gave at the Cabaret du Saint-Sulpice in Montreal. Clara Furey sang at a performance by Anthony Rozankovic that was part Montreal's World Film Festival. In 2004, she caught the eye in her first leading film role in CQ2/Tout pres du sol, directed by Carole Laure. She went on tour in 2005 with the David Pressault Danse Company as a performer in They Won't Lie Down. In 2006, she danced in Lost Pigeons at the Studio du Monument-National and was also in the show Poesies, sandwichs et autres soirs qui penchent which was conceived and staged by Loui Mauffette and performed as part of Montreal's Festival international de la litterature. Clara Furey plays the leading role in Serveuses demandees, a film directed by Guylaine Dionne.
DIANE D'AQUILA (Miss Van Ilen)
One of Canada's most respected stage actors, Diane D'Aquila has been a member of the company at the Stratford Festival for 15 seasons appearing most recently as Ftatateeta in Caesar and Cleopatra, directed by Des McAnuff, and alongside Christopher Plummer. She also appeared as Mary in Soulpepper Theatre's production of Leaving Home, and as Mary in Of the Fields, Lately, both directed by Ted Dykstra. As powerful and convincing in front of the camera as she is on stage, Ms. D'Aquila won both an ACTRA Award and a Gemini Award in 2004 for her performance as Elizabeth I in the television adaptation of Timothy Findley's play Elizabeth Rex.
XAVIER DOLAN (Jean-Marc)
Xavier Dolan started his acting career at the age of four, as the principal character in Jean Coutu drugmart's popular add campaign. Many roles followed in hit TV series such as Misericorde (Jean Beaudin), Omerta II (Pierre Houle) and L'Or (Jean-Claude Lord). On the big screen, he performed in J'en suis (Claude Fournier), Le marchand de sable (Nadine Fournel) and La Forteresse suspendue (Roger Cantin), as well as Martyrs (Pascal Laugier). In 2006, he played Julian in Miroir d'ete, a short film by Etienne Desrosiers, selected by several film festivals, including Berlin, Kiev, San Diego and Montreal. In May 2006, he wrote, directed and produced J'ai tue ma mere (I Killed My Mother), his first feature film, selected at the Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnights (2009) where he carried off the Art Cinema Award, the Regards Jeunes Prize and the SACD Prize. His second film, Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats) premiered in the "Un Certain Regard" section of Cannes 2010.
About the Filmmakers
KEVIN TIERNEY (Producer)
Kevin Tierney produced and co-wrote Bon Cop Bad Cop, the highest grossing Canadian movie in domestic box office history and Genie winner for Best Film of 2006. In 2008 he produced the feature film Serveuses demandees, directed by Guylaine Dionne and in 2009, Love and Savagery, directed by John N. Smith which is now in release across Canada. 2010 saw the theatrical release of the festival hit The Trotsky, written and directed by Jacob Tierney, as well as the production of the bilingual comedy, French Immersion, which he co-wrote with Jefferson Lewis. Among his other productions are the TV movies One Dead Indian, Choice: The Henry Morgentaler Story, Varian's War, the mini-series More Tales of the City, P.T. Barnum and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story, and the feature film Twist.
JACOB TIERNEY (Writer and Director)
Jacob Tierney has worked as a professional actor since the age of six. He co-starred with Joan Allen in the feature film Josh and S.A.M., and appeared alongside Gena Rowlands in The Neon Bible. Other feature credits include Rainbow, co-starring and directed by Bob Hoskins, This Is My Father starring James Caan, and The Life Before This featuring Sarah Polley, Catherine O'Hara and Emily Hampshire. He also portrayed "Greg" in the popular Francophone TV series Watatatow. Jacob recently portrayed the title character in the CBC mini-series Saint-Urbain's Horseman, and starred opposite Leelee Sobieski and Lothaire Bluteau in the feature film Walk All Over Me. Jacob began his directorial career in 2002 with the comedic short film Dad, which he also wrote, produced and appeared in. Dad won the honorable mention for Best Short at the 2002 Atlantic and Austin Film Festivals, and screened at the CFC's Worldwide Short Film Festival. His feature debut Twist, a modern take on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, starred Nick Stahl, Michele-Barbara Pelletier and Gary Farmer and premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Twist received Genie nominations for Jacob's screenplay, as well as for Best Actor and Supporting Actor, and won the Genie for Best Original Song. His second feature, the festival hit The Trotsky, won the audience award at the Tokyo Film Festival after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews. The Trotsky was released in Canada (Alliance Films) and the US (Tribeka Films) in 2010. Good Neighbors (Notre Dame de Grace) is his third film.