Ron Eldard and Jill Hennessy in ROADIE, a Magnolia Pictures release directed by Michael Cuesta. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. All rights reserved.
- Christen Lewis
- Jamie Lewis
- Mark Foster
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Opened: 01/06/2012 Limited
|Cinema Village...||01/06/2012 - 01/19/2012||14 days|
|Downtown Indep...||02/17/2012 - 02/23/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: R for pervasive language and some drug content.
Canned from a 20-year job as roadie for Blue Oyster Cult, Jimmy is broke and desperate. With nowhere else to go, he returns home to Forest Hills, Queens to visit his aging mother, where a wild night with some hard-partying high school friends shows him that some things never change. From director Michael Cuesta (L.I.E., TWELVE AND HOLDING) ROADIE features powerful performances from Ron Eldard, Bobby Cannavale, Jill Hennessy and a refreshingly eclectic 70's hard rock soundtrack.
About the Production
"It's funny how red-orange cars from the 70's seem to find their way into my films," ROADIE writer-director Michael Cuesta has said.
He's talking about that Camaro in which Jimmy awakes on the first day of the rest of his life.
Cuesta is also talking about the flamin' hot Olds 443 muscle car in which Brian Cox' complex, almost protective pedophile Big John reluctantly stalks his jailbait prey in Cuesta's knockout debut feature L.I.E.
This is among several reasons why any serious discussion of ROADIE as an auteur film must be bookended with talk of L. I. E. Among others:
Like the pack of kids running like young wolves within earshot of the L.I. E., Eldard's Jimmy Testagross, though a Queens native, "is taken from guys we knew growing up on Long Island," Cuesta says of the roots he shares with his brother.
"Also, he's a mixture of Gerald and me today," Cuesta adds. "Jimmy longs for the past, he's struggles with letting go of the past, he's unable to admit his failures, and he's afraid to be himself. I guess everything that comes with being an artist, everything that comes with getting older, and everything that comes with being human is what we wanted ROADIE to be about."
Gerald Cuesta observes that ROADIE can also be "about how a guy can get stuck in mid-life, relying on the things that excited and moved him as a teenager that once pulled him through, and how they just don't work the same magic anymore. It's the idea of holding onto something long after its expiration date."
Like the low-key production of L.I.E., Cuesta and his producers found great joy in the kismet of working in natural locations as they shot ROADIE.
A main location for L.I.E., Big John's house, "was found the night before production. Later, in the last few days of shooting, we found out that the husband of the owner of the house, whom we never saw, was serving time for child molestation. A true story that is also very creepy."
The magic happened on ROADIE when the house Cuesta chose to play the Testagross home came complete with that old red Camaro rusting in the driveway, a feature not previously scripted and yet so integral to the finished film. The house also came pre-decorated: the owner had died just a month prior, and her family was planning to liquidate the house and property remotely. "The owner may be gone," says producer Mike Downey, "but her living room will live for eternity."
Cuesta also uses the word "magic" to describe the work of Ron Eldard in the title role, the actor's approach to that work, and the filmmaker's instincts about Eldard in particular.
"When Ron commits to playing a character, he gives 110 percent," declares Cuesta. "He gained 38 pounds for the role, and learned most of Blue Oyster Cult's lyrics, not an easy task."
"Ron's commitment to playing Jimmy was infectious. His attitude and excitement helped us every morning he came to set. He was always fully amped to go.
"I sensed his passion for the role at our first meeting," Cuesta continues, "and over time realized his personality, his vulnerability, his demons, all would play perfectly into the truth of the character. He's a very skilled and trained actor, but in the end, all he had to do was bare his soul. He clearly connected to Jimmy's shortfalls and passions. I am in awe of his dedication."
Ron Eldard knew there was something special about ROADIE before he ever finished the script.
"I called my agent twenty pages in," he recalled recently. "When I got to the last page, I remember thinking ROADIE was one of the top five scripts I've read in I don't know how long. I could tell it was written by people who knew how to make a movie, and there wasn't an ounce of fat on it."
Eldard also talks about feeling protective of the character's dignity from the very beginning.
"I never wanted him to be a joke," Eldard explains. "It was important to find that line between letting the audience identify with the Roadie without laughing at him. I felt the defining moment would be when the Roadie stands shirtless in front of the mirror. The filmmakers shot that beautifully; I remember saying to [cinematographer] Andrew [Lilien], 'This is beautiful, he's for real.'"
Eldard's commitment to the role would mean putting his usually healthy lifestyle on hold. "When Michael and I first met," Eldard offers, "I dressed the way I thought the Roadie would, with the long underwear under the tee, and I took a couple days to bloat up by five pounds or so. I never told Michael I was doing it, but I remember there was some discussion of the state of the Roadie's facial hair."
The process began "by just giving up my daily workout," says Eldard, and starting to eat "a lot of fried crap. The key to gaining weight fast is as much about when you eat as what you eat. After 10pm was chow time." Eldard's typical late-night dinner menu: "I don't eat meat, so we're talking about a fish sandwich from Carl's Jr. with fries and a milk shake, then two or three or four slices of pizza."
Just a month would go by before shooting started. On his way to work the first day of production, Eldard spotted a tee shirt for sale in Times Square that proudly declared "I Beat Anorexia" that would draw laughs on set.
However, as the fast-paced production had everyone hustling, Eldard could feel the diet and lifestyle take its toll.
"I'd sweat like hell, get winded walking up stairs," he reports.
Two weeks in, Cuesta approached Eldard with concern. "He was worried I was losing weight as we shot, so I stepped on a scale. I'd actually gained nine pounds," Eldard laughs.
ROADIE features an early montage of the title character at work, which was shot around actual Blue Oyster Cult roadies loading into a New York area show.
"They needed a little convincing that our cameras weren't there to make fun of them," Eldard observes. "Michael approached them in a very low-key way, shooting it with just a Bolex, and those guys totally let me into their world and work side-by-side with them. "This movie is really a love letter to Blue Oyster Cult."
Asked about a particular scene, in which the Roadie passionately defends the artistry of the band with which he has spent most of his adult life, Eldard points to the Cuesta's evocative screenplay.
"Every time I came upon a scene or a turn of phrase that made me think, 'OK, I've seen this before' or I thought I knew what would happen, I would be surprised. The writing is just beautiful. What's most important about that particular scene: it's the moment you realize the character isn't at all stupid. It's an explanation of what he's been searching for his entire life. It was a joy to say those words."
When it came time to build an ensemble around Eldard, "Bobby Cannavale, Jill Hennessy, and Lois Smith all came into my casting director's office for an audition and a meeting," says Cuesta when asked about putting together the ensemble.
"With Bobby, it was his unique brazen unpredictability I knew would have just the right edge to cut through Jimmy's outer shell."
"I love Bobby and he's a friend," Eldard adds. "He's made movies where he is so lovable, and he's made movies where he plays the biggest asshole. Here he gets to do both." "Jill Hennessy's gifts with the guitar and as a performer were huge discoveries," Cuesta says. "She's a professional singer/songwriter, and she completed a fantastic CD of her work, Ghost In My Head, just prior to production. The timing was impeccable. We used the title track in the film's most intense scenes and it brought a very personal subtext to the characters of both Nikki and Bobby."
Eldard and Hennessy had never worked together before ROADIE, though you wouldn't know it from their long, moving scenes together as their characters reminisce in the Roadie's childhood bedroom / classic rock shrine.
"I didn't know Jill, but I'd seen her work on 'Law & Order' and I'd heard her sing, and I had this impression that she was this sort of demur, classy Canadian lady. She blew me away with how hard she busted her ass, how ballsy she is, how she really went for it." "Lois Smith also blew me away," Cuesta adds. "She helped deepen my understanding of the character. When you write a character, you hope to find an actor that can help you continue writing it. She did exactly that. She's brilliant. She helped ROADIE truly become a film about family."
"When I heard Lois Smith was in the movie, I knew Cuesta and the producers of ROADIE weren't fucking around," says Eldard. "I'd met her before, knew her work from Steppenwolf, and knew her to be one of the great movie actors of all time, one of the great stage actors of all time. I know I'm such a fan that it's hard to be objective, but I think what she brings to ROADIE is some of the best work she's ever done." Eldard also points out his admiration for the day players Cuesta brought to Roadie, mentioning in particular Suzette Gunn, who plays the bartender.
"I think Michael knew her from TWELVE & HOLDING," Eldard says. "It was remarkable. I know she was in the middle of directing her own film, came onto the set one day, nailed her lines and split. She was striking, interesting, but also very real."
If ROADIE is a movie about how ghosts of the past can shape the way we experience the present, then we should probably talk about how the ghosts of Cuesta's past shaped ROADIE.
"A big part of making this film came from wanting to make something personal, like L.I. E. It was very much a reaction to the experience I had on a film I made prior to ROADIE."
"On that film, I had minimal creative control and no final cut. I swore to myself that on my next one, I would do something I cared about.
"I wanted to have fun making the next film. Mission accomplished."
About the Cast
Ron Eldard (Jimmy Testagross aka The Roadie)
Since his screen debut in Nancy Savoca's TRUE LOVE, Ron Eldard has created a wide array of characters in both studio and independent films and on stage and television. He was most recently seen in Paramount's SUPER 8, playing Elle Fanning's father in the Amblin Entertainment production directed by J. J. Abrams.
The range of his work is most evident in his films, which includes Rodrigo Garcia's FATHERS AND SONS for Showtime; Ridley Scott's Academy Award Nominated BLACK HAWK DOWN for Columbia Pictures; Fisher Stevens' comedy JUST A KISS released by Paramount Classics and with Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne in Joel Silver's supernatural thriller GHOST SHIP for Warner Bros.
After a brief appearance as the cop who puts an end to Al Pacino's driving spree in Marty Brest's SCENT OF A WOMAN, Eldard starred opposite Cameron Diaz and Courtney B. Vance in Stacy Title's black comedy, THE LAST SUPPER, and appeared opposite Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt and Billy Crudup in Barry Levinson's SLEEPERS.
Eldard followed with a heroic role in the Dreamworks blockbuster, DEEP IMPACT, with Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall, which grossed over $350 million worldwide, and then turned again to comedy, starring opposite Russell Crowe in the light-hearted MYSTERY ALASKA.
Eldard's stage work includes his performance in the Tony Award-winning production of Death of a Salesman, re-creating the role of Willy Loman's son, the lost golden boy, "Biff."
In 1999, Eldard gave a stand-out performance in Neil LaBute's disturbing triptych of monologues, Bash, with Calista Flockhart and Paul Rudd, which played to sold-out audiences in New York and Los Angeles.
Earlier, his work in off-Broadway productions of Aven U Boys, directed by Fred Zollo, and Servy 'n' Bernice 4Ever, directed by Terry Kinney, established him as one of the New York theater's finest young actors. Eldard wrote a one-man show, Standing Eight Count, which he performed at Naked Angels, and then inherited Brando's mantle, starring as conscience-stricken dockworker "Terry Malloy" in the Broadway production of On the Waterfront.
On television, Eldard starred in a memorable arc opposite Julianna Margulies on "ER," and went on to display his gift for comedy in the NBC half hour "Men Behaving Badly." He starred opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in Angelica Huston's critically acclaimed BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA, and drew raves for his extraordinary performance as the lead in the HBO original movie, WHEN TRUMPETS FADE, directed by John Irvin.
Jill Hennessey (Nikki)
Jill Hennessey has lately dedicated as much time to her career as a singer-songwriter as she has to her career as an actor. Her debut CD, Ghost In My Head, was released in 2009. As she worked on her music, Hennessy also appeared in a mix of studio and independent productions, including the Disney comedy WILD HOGS, in which she played opposite Tim Allen; the suburban drama LYMELIFE, in which she played opposite Alec Baldwin and Rory Culkin; and the Canadian crime thriller SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS with Peter Stomare and Martha Plimpton.
Television audiences first came to love Hennessy from the years (1993-96) she spent playing the role of assistant district attorney Claire Kincaid on the Emmy-winning NBC drama series "Law & Order." She returned to NBC by starring as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the miniseries "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot." In her first Season of "Crossing Jordan," Hennessy received a People's Choice Award nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series. She has also received a Golden Satellite Award (Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television) from the International Press Academy for her work in the TNT cable movie "Nuremberg." "Crossing Jordan" was the number one new drama in its first season and ran for 6 seasons.
Hailing from Edmonton, Canada, Hennessy began her acting career in Toronto appearing in the David Cronenberg classic DEAD RINGERS. She studied improvisational comedy with the famed Second City and also worked with a Toronto-based improv comedy troupe before landing a role in the Broadway-bound production of The Buddy Holly Story. Once in New York, Hennessy starred in Ron Howard's feature film THE PAPER and would continue to work in a mix of studio and independent features, such as Mary Harron's period film I SHOT ANDY WARHOL, CHUTNEY POPCORN, MOST WANTED, DEAD BROKE, ROW YOUR BOAT, THE FLORENTINE, TWO NINAS, AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONEY and the box office hit EXIT WOUNDS. She also wrote, directed, produced and performed in her own movie, the mockumentary THE ACTING CLASS.
Hennessy will soon be seen on the new HBO series "LUCK" starring Dustin Hoffman, written by David Milch and produced and directed by Michael Mann.
Hennessy, her husband, Paolo Mastropietro and their sons Marco and Gianni, divide their time between their homes in Los Angeles and Manhattan.
Bobby Cannavale (Bobby)
Bobby Cannavale was most recently seen on the big screen in the Fox Searchlight hit comedy WIN WIN. He made his Broadway debut in Theresa Reback's Mauritius and was nominated for a Tony Award in 2008. He also received rave reviews in the Off-Broadway revival of Hurly Burly.
On television Bobby won an Emmy for his performance as Will's boyfriend in "Will and Grace." He has appeared in many series including a recurring role in HBO's "Six Feet Under," as well as the starring role in the comedy series "Cupid."
Bobby's film credits include THE STATION AGENT, for which he and his co-stars were nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Other Film credits include THE OTHER GUYS, PAUL BLART:MALL COP, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, THE TAKE, MERRY GENTLEMAN, DIMISHIED CAPACITY, FAST FOOD NATION, THE NIGHT LISTENER, SNAKES ON A PLANE, HAVEN, SHALL WE DANCE, HAPPY ENDINGS, ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, THE POSTMAN, NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN, GLORIA, THE BONE COLLECTOR and WASHINGTON HEIGHTS.
Lois Smith (Mom)
Lois Smith is a stage and screen actor whose career has spanned decades and generations. Her most recent independent film was Nicole Holefcener's acclaimed PLEASE GIVE, released by Sony Pictures Classics. In 2010, she and her ROADIE co-star David Margulies appeared together on stage in Tony Kushner's play The Illusion at New York's Signature Theater.
Smith's extensive film credits include: EAST OF EDEN and FIVE EASY PIECES and more recently FALLING DOWN, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT, DEAD MAN WALKING, LARGER THAN LIFE, TWISTER, THE PLEDGE and MINORITY REPORT.
Smith's theater work includes Brian Friel's Give Me Your Answer, Do!; Beth Henley's Impossible Marriage (both at Roundabout); and Mrs. Warren's Profession (Baltimore's Center Stage). Her Broadway credits include Buried Child (Tony nom.), The Grapes of Wrath (Tony nom.), The Young and Beautiful (long ago) and the original Orpheus Descending. She has alternated between stage, film and television her whole career and is a member of Steppenwolf Ensemble, Ensemble Studio Theater and Actors Studio
David Margulies (Mr. Muller)
David Marguiles was most recently seen on the big screen as the Mayor of New York City in ALL GOOD THINGS, directed by Andrew Jarecki and released by Magnolia Pictures. In 2010, he and his ROADIE co-star Lois Smith appeared together on stage in Tony Kushner's play The Illusion at New York's Signature Theater.
Margulies has amassed over three dozen film credits that range from Ivan Reitman's GHOSTBUSTERS movies (in which he also played a New York City Mayor) to Brian DePalma's DRESSED TO KILL to Gene Saks' BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS to Tom Shadyac's ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE. Other films he appeared in include 9 1/2 WEEKS, ALL THAT JAZZ and IRA & ABBY. He played Tony Soprano's lawyer, Neil Mink on "The Sopranos."
Margulies' theater work includes The Rivals (2011) (Baltimore Center Stage), The Imaginary Invalid (Portland Center Stage), 2010- After the Revolution (Playwrights Horizons,), Lil's 90th (Long Wharf), The Chosen ( Portland Center Stage,2010 Drammy award). (Broadway) Conversations with my Father, Comedians, The West Side Waltz, Wonderful Town,45 Seconds from Broadway, The Ice Man Cometh, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Angels in America ,and others. (Off Broadway) All That I Will Ever Be; The Accomplices ( Richard Seff Award 2007) The Rivals ( Hartford Stage), Hamlet (McCarter) Hysteria (Mark Taper Forum)The Happy Times ( Arlington's Signature Theater, Helen Hayes Award 2008) The Price, Rocket To the Moon, She Stoops to Conquer Long Wharf).
About the Filmmakers
Michael Cuesta (Director and Co-Writer)
Michael Cuesta was honored with the Best New Filmmaker Award from the Boston Society of Film Critics, for L.I.E., his debut as a writer/director/producer. The film was nominated for six Independent Spirit Awards including Best Feature and Best Director. Widely acclaimed, L.I.E. premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival, and played at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's New Directors/New Films series, and was awarded the Prix Du Jury at the Deauville Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Award for American Narrative Feature at OutFest. Cuesta was also nominated for the Gotham Awards
Open Palm Award for Outstanding Directorial Debut and won the Best Director Award at the Stockholm Film Festival, as well as the New Director Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
L.I.E. began its commercial run in New York on Friday, September 6, 2001. Cuesta points out that "On 9/11, I was on a press tour promoting L.I.E. I was stranded in the Midwest. All I cared about was getting home to my family. The movie lost its meaning that day, obviously, but ironically, the Hollywood studios postponed several releases and as a result, it allowed indies like L.I.E. to hang around the theaters a bit longer."
The success of L.I.E. catapulted Cuesta from an award-winning director of commercials (Cuesta has been honored at the Museum of Modern Art and a number of advertising awards shows) to an in-demand director of quality episodic television, particularly pilots. He directed six episodes of the acclaimed HBO series "Six Feet Under," which led to his work directing the pilot and entire first season, and serving as executive producer of, the hit Showtime series "Dexter." Cuesta also recently served as executive producer and directed the pilot and another early episode of the hit CBS drama "Blue Bloods." And Cuesta had such a blast directing a recent episode of HBO's "True Blood" that he's back for more, having recently directed the final episode of the show's second season. Cuesta just wrapped the Showtime pilot "Homeland" starring Claire Danes and Damien Lewis.
On the features side, Cuesta directed the intimate domestic drama TWELVE AND HOLDING, which was release by IFC Films and was nominated for the John Cassevetes Award at the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards; and the 2009 TriBeCa Film Festival premiere TELL TALE, starring Josh Lucas for Scott Free Productions. He is currently developing the feature film PO and, with brother Gerald, the TV project "Knife Fight," about a crusading female public defender, for CBS, which recently ordered a pilot for the show.
Cuesta is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City where he studied photography and literature, going on to hone a career as a still photographer. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.
Gerald Cuesta (Co-Writer)
Gerald Cuesta was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for co-writing, with his brother Michael and Stephen A. Ryder, the indie coming of age classic L.I.E. He co-created, along with Michael and the film critic Michael Atkinson, "Babylon Fields," an ahead-of-its-time TV pilot for CBS / Twentieth Century Fox that foresaw the current explosion of Zombie mania. He recently developed the pilot "Knife Fight," also for CBS. Cuesta currently lives in Chicago, where he likes food too much and is still amazed by the wind.
Sirad Balducci (Producer)
Sirad Balducci has been working in various production capacities on well over a dozen independent features since the early 90's. Those titles include, as a Coordinator, BASQUIAT, the debut feature by Julian Schnabel; as Unit Production Manager on the arty crime-thriller ANAMORPH, starring Willem Dafoe; as Production Manager on PAPER MAN, an MPI Media release celebrated on opening night of the LA Film Festival and starring Jeff Daniels, Emma Stone and a very blonde Ryan Reynolds as "Captain Excellent"; and the 2011 Sundance Film Festival US Dramatic Competition drama GUN HILL ROAD starring Esai Morales and acquired for distribution by Motion Film Group. The 2009 science fiction thriller 2B was Balducci's first credit as Producer. That same year Balducci also served as Associate Producer of the 2000 television series WONDERLAND for writer-director-producer Peter Berg. She most recently served as line producer of A LITTLE HELP starring Jenna Fischer and Chris O'Donnell.
Andrew Lilien (Cinematographer)
Andrew Lilien served as Cinematographer on three prior independent features: METAL (1999), MAKING METAMORPHOSIS (2001) and BLACK ROAD (2002). But it was Lilien's service as Camera Operator on the video short "AEROSMITH: Rockin' the Joint -- Live at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas" that perhaps most informed the working man's classic-rock aesthetic of ROADIE.
John El Manahi (Production Designer)
John El Manahi served in or headed the art department of eighteen independent features and shorts before the producers of ROADIE tapped him to create the look for their movie. Among his credits: the micro-budget, strangely powerful independent thriller PUZZLEHEAD; the 2008 comedy HAROLD; the 2009 horror flick LATE FEE; and the 2010 romantic comedy AMANDA. He has since served as production designer on the international terrorism thriller FIVE MINARETTES IN NEW YORK, starring Gina Gershon and Danny Glover, and on the drama IN THE FAMILY for writer-director-producer Patrick Wang.
Hero Content (Production Company)
After producing close to one thousand television commercials, which have won every imaginable advertising award, and aiding in every aspect of the development and shooting of Michael Cuesta's L.I.E., and Executive Producing TWELVE AND HOLDING, Mike Downey and his partner, Christen Lewis, founded Hero Content in 2008 as an answer to the needs of early 21st century advertising and to create synergy between different types of media across multiple platforms.
Having garnered critical acclaim for their work -- Clio Awards, Webby Awards, Spot of the month, etc. and quantifiable sales results for their clients, Hero Content has quickly blazed a trail of technology-forward, price-point sensitive content development.
ROADIE represents the next phase in the evolution and business model for Hero Content: a tightly produced, talent packed, beautifully performed feature that is comes to market ready to be marketed and distributed across the multiple platforms that have emerged in the last five years, and over which Hero Content has mastery.
Hero Content also Co-Produced LIVING FOR 32 with Producer Maria Cuomo Cole and director Kevin Breslin, which was shortlisted for Academy Award consideration and premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.