Lucky Bastard

Lucky Bastard

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Lucky Bastard (2013)

Opened: 04/05/2013 Limited

Limited04/05/2013
Los Angeles04/05/2013 - 04/11/20137 days
Cinema Village02/14/2014 - 02/27/201414 days
NoHo 703/07/2014 - 03/13/20147 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Rated: NC-17 for explicit sexual content.

She was a fantasy. He was a nightmare.

Synopsis

Lucky Bastard is the found-footage story of a pornographic website that sponsors a contest for its subscribers--a contest in which the prize is having sex with a porn star. The entire film is shot from the point of view of the website's cameras recording the on-screen and behind-the-scenes action.

At the center of the story are: porn star Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue); Mike (Don McManus), who owns the Lucky Bastard website; and Dave G. (Jay Paulson), the unsuspecting subscriber who wins the contest. The Lucky Bastard employees treat their work matter-of-factly. As Mike says, "We're like any other business; we could be selling insurance in Peoria." Mike once clearly had more serious artistic ambitions; now he shoots the Lucky Bastard website's content. Ashley, his most popular performer, initially refuses to participate. She dismisses the contest as "sick," knowing that the winner will eventually be humiliated by the experience. Ashley views herself as an entertainer supporting her two children; the contest is nothing she would call "adult entertainment."

Nevertheless, she gives in to Mike. The young contest winner, Dave G., quickly discovers himself to be a pawn in a game of commerce. When, as Ashley predicted, he becomes humiliated, his personality is transformed and he seeks revenge on his tormentors. In this world, where everyone is safe within its borders, an outsider poses the ultimate danger. Those who humiliated him will discover that humiliation as entertainment, now an American pastime, has consequences they could never have expected.

About the Film

LUCKY BASTARD is the story of a successful pornography website that invites fans to have sex with porn stars. Produced by newly formed Vineyard Haven Films, the movie crosses many genres--drama, comedy, suspense thriller--without entirely belonging to any of them, and implicitly comments on a society in which pornography is not only a common part of modern life but also a mirror reflecting the nature of intimacy in an atomized world. The movie also reshapes in unpredictable ways the recent cinematic convention of "found footage."

The cast of LUCKY BASTARD includes veteran performers known for their work in movies, television and theatre, including Jay Paulson, familiar to audiences as Don Draper's brother, Adam Whitman, in Mad Men, and Don McManus, who this year also stars in the forthcoming Grand Piano, with John Cusack and Elijah Wood, and The Congress, with Paul Giamatti, Robin Wright and Frances Fisher.

The director and co-writer of LUCKY BASTARD is veteran television writer-producer Robert Nathan, best known for his Emmy-nominated work on Law & Order, and who is also an award-winning novelist and journalist.

LUCKY BASTARD's graphic nature, sexual situations, violence and uncensored language place it firmly in the realm of American independent cinema, with an angle on life distinctly outside that of traditional Hollywood mainstream films. The film is set in a world ostensibly considered contemptible, but depicts it in ways that we don't expect. For the characters of Lucky Bastard, pornography is simply an industry like any other, with regular working people going to work every day and earning a living.

The story centers on Mike (McManus), who runs the Lucky Bastard website; Dave (Paulson), a young fan given a chance to have sex with a porn actress; and Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue), the porn star who reluctantly agrees to participate in the website's "have sex with a porn star" contest. In the end, everyone gets more than they bargained for when the seemingly mild-mannered Dave is irrevocably transformed by his experience.

LUCKY BASTARD is a mix of themes that epitomize independent filmmaking. Going behind the scenes of one of our largest entertainment industries, the film offers a reflective take on the deepest currents in our society: its preoccupation with sexual desire, the commoditization of sexuality, and humiliation as a product of commerce.

LUCKY BASTARD is rated NC-17 by the MPAA for explicit sexual content.

Director's Statement

On a warm spring day in 2000, when I was working as a writer for Paramount Studios, a young guy name Lukas Kendall walked into my office. He was not long out of college and wanted to be a writer. It was quickly evident that he had an agile and inventive imagination--and that he was a lot smarter than I was. Soon we became friends and collaborators. Now we've made our first film together.

When Lukas first mentioned the idea for Lucky Bastard, it immediately resonated for me as rich with possibility. The world of pornography has always struck me as particularly representative of a confusion in the American soul, a confusion about sex and sexual fantasies that springs from the American Puritan tradition. For Americans, sex is dirty; even if we destigmatize it with the words "making love," we're still uncomfortable because we can't figure out where love and sex meet. As a consequence, unlike most Europeans, many of us pretend that pornography is by definition bad and that the people who make it are by definition bad people. The problem, of course, is that we all know how huge the pornography business is. It's said to be four or five times the size of the Hollywood filmmaking machine. This means that a lot of people are condemning the porn business while also buying its products. Therein lies the heart of our reason for wanting to make this movie. By setting it inside this industry we could write a story that, as far as we could tell, hadn't been told before. We would make a movie about people you expect to be bad but aren't, people who turn out to be the opposite of how they are usually portrayed. We would write realistically about porn makers as ordinary people, except that before going home to make dinner for their kids they do things like either shoot or have sex on camera.

I won't pretend that we didn't have an agenda. We do. Lucky Bastard asks the audience to accept their common humanity with people they would otherwise think worthy only of contempt. The movie's characters aren't perfect or always lovable. They're flawed--sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes mean, sometimes kind and generous. Just like us. So the movie tries to remind us that these people, whose job is to fulfill other people's sexual fantasies, wake up each day and, like you and me, go to work. They know how the world looks at them but they've made a choice to earn the best living they can and not worry too much about what other people think. The movie asks you, the viewer, to accept these people as your neighbors, as people you run into at the dry cleaner's, not as depraved creatures with damaged lives and empty hearts. You may think there's something wrong with them for making violent "rape porn." If there is, it seems to me that there's something much more wrong with the men who buy it.

Lucky Bastard also gave us the opportunity to write about one of the darker phenomena our country creates: humiliation as entertainment. We regularly turn on the TV and watch men and women being humiliated for profit. I won't mention the shows by name, but you've seen them--the ones where people are induced to enter a talent contest just so they can be made fun of, the ones where people go on dates so they can be made to look clumsy and stupid. When in Lucky Bastard an outsider comes into the filmmaking family, he knows he'll be subject to humiliation. But he participates anyway because, like the people we see humiliated on our LCDs, it offers him a thrill he can't get any other way. That's the swap: he gets the thrill, but the price is that he's turned into a joke. When the joke turns nasty, he--not surprisingly--turns nasty, too. Our hope as filmmakers is that the audience stops to think about a culture of paid humiliation, about the ease with which our whole society turns into a fifth-grade playground.

Although a first-time director, I knew the central rule of movie-making. I had heard gifted directors say it in interview after interview. "Cast it right and everything else takes care of itself." In that department I was fortunate beyond belief. A group of brilliant actors wanted to be in this movie and they showed up on the set with their craft, their discipline and their art in high gear. To work with great actors is to witness a miracle. You think you know what's on the page and suddenly it becomes something else right in front of you, something surprising and more powerful that you dreamed it would be. The cast of Lucky Bastard made the characters so vividly alive that I sometimes had to remind myself they were actors, not the characters they were playing. I was equally fortunate to work with Clay Westervelt, the movie's extraordinary cinematographer, who created a filmmaking grammar that makes the movie-as-documentary feel entirely new, and with Tony Randel, a brilliant editor who has also done almost every other job in filmmaking, among them producer, director, writer, and cinematographer. The movie's on-set producer--what we used to call a line producer--is the legendary Jim Wynorski, who has produced 156 movies and directed 90, and who made this movie happen at the most fundamental level: he found our cinematographer and our editor; he made sure the director shot the work necessary to cut the movie; and he badgered the director into staying on schedule.

While we were making Lucky Bastard I didn't think about whether we were in the mainstream of independent filmmaking or out on its far edge. But I don't want anyone to think that our purpose was to offend them. I'm not unaware that the movie disturbs people. But what I hope is that it disturbs them in the way we intended--that it makes the audience think about who they are and about the culture in which all of us live.

-- Robert Nathan, January 2013, Los Angeles, California

About the Cast

Don McManus (Mike)

Don McManus has appeared in dozens of films, such as Magnolia, The Shawshank Redemption, Under the Tuscan Sun, National Treasure, Hannibal, Air Force One and Ocean's Thirteen. Most recently, he appeared in For a Good Time, Call..., which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He can also be seen in the upcoming films Living the Dream, Stars, Lovelace, The Congress, and Grand Piano with Elijah Wood. Don's numerous television credits include 24, Harry's Law, Franklin & Bash, The Mentalist, NCIS, Private Practice, Rescue Me, Parks and Recreation, HBO's Cinema Verite, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, Dexter, Seinfeld, Frasier, Nip/Tuck, The Closer, CSI, Party of Five, Mad About You and Ally McBeal. Early during his New York theater career, McManus worked at The Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park, and in widely praised performances in Steve Martin's WASP and Other Plays and Jeffrey Hatcher's Neddy.

Jay Paulson (Dave G.)

Jay Paulson starred in a school play of Kaufman and Hart's Once In a Lifetime in the 11th grade. He caught the eye of a talent manager and has been working professionally ever since. Paulson's first major television role was as series regular Sean on the CBS comedy hit Cybill. He played the detective savant Carl Zernial in the Gary David Goldberg series Battery Park on NBC, and starred in October Road and Happy Town on ABC. His additional television credits include many guest appearances, notably on the Emmy- and Golden Globe Award--winning Mad Men, as well as Bones, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, Castle, CSI, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The West Wing, NYPD Blue and Just Shoot Me. On the big screen, Paulson starred in the thriller Black Rock with Kate Bosworth, and Rolling Kansas, which premiered at Sundance. He has appeared in Go and Can't Hardly Wait, played opposite Sigourney Weaver in Imaginary Heroes, and starred with Jason Schwartzman and Ben Stiller in The Marc Pease Experience. He is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio.

Betsy Rue (Ashley Saint)

Betsy Rue moved to California in 2006, after receiving a scholarship in deaf education for her Master's degree. She had been drawn to performing as a child, and in the theater played leading roles in Annie and Oliver!, but had no intention of becoming an actress until she landed a role on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives. Rue then began working regularly and has been on television shows such as How I Met Your Mother, CSI, NCIS, True Blood, 90210 and iCarly. She also has a passion for the horror-thriller genre. She played Irene in the horror hit My Bloody Valentine, a performance that has become legendary among horror fans. Rue has also worked with Rob Zombie in his Halloween franchise. Her other feature films include comedies (Miss March), dramas (Sebastian) and genre movies (Groupie, with Eric Roberts). When Rue is not acting, she volunteers for a dog rescue called Dogs Without Borders. "It is so rewarding to save so many poor pups that deserve a second chance," she has said about her work with that organization.

Chris Wylde (Kris)

Chris Wylde is an actor, comedian and father of one. He has starred in TV shows (Comedy Central's Strip Mall and The Chris Wylde Show Starring Chris Wylde), movies (The Revenant, All's Faire in Love, Space Cowboys) and has appeared in countless commercials. From VH1 countdowns to "four times the steeeeeak," Wylde is pop culture personified. (Chris Wylde is a Leo, a New Jersey native, and not the underground wrestling champion of the same name.)

Catherine Annette (Casey)

Catherine Annette has made more than 20 film and television appearances since 2009, including regular roles in the television series Six Figures and Femme Fatales, as well as Super Shark and the upcoming features Spreading Darkness, Gotterdammerung and Monster School. Annette grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and received degrees in Theatre and Fine Arts as well as French from the Indiana University of PA and Le Sorbonne, Paris, where she began her formal acting training. After moving to Los Angeles, Annette continued her training with the Groundlings. She was Gwyneth Paltrow's body double in the Iron Man movies, and she has a recurring role on the series Femme Fatales as Tiffany, the vengeful sorority president. Annette is also trained in fencing and plays the biker warrior on the current viral webseries Warrior Showdown. She wrote and produced the short Fairar Days, which is now being made into a full-length feature, and is also co-producing the feature Deserted.

Lee Kholafai (Josh)

Lee Kholafai is an American model turned actor. Born in Mobile, Alabama, Lee started his career as a print and runway model. He was discovered when walking on a Miami beach during the summer of 2004 while on a family vacation, and began traveling the world pursuing a modeling career while living in LA, New York, Greece and Italy. He has appeared in many national and international advertising campaigns, including spreads in magazines such as GQ, Men's Health and Harper's Bazaar. He got his first significant break as an actor when cast as Kelly Clarkson's love interest in a music video and then began working regularly in film, television and commercials. He has appeared on MTV, VH1, Fashion TV, E! and the CW. His feature film work includes the upcoming 2BR/1BA and Girlfriends. He appears in the new HBO series Hello Ladies, airing this year.

Lanny Joon (Nico)

Lanny Joon began his career on stage in New York working Off-Off-Broadway in plays such as The Dispute and Transfigured, and appeared in regional theater in the Tony Award--winning play Take Me Out. Since appearing in the film West 32nd (with John Cho and Grace Park) in 2007, he has made guest television appearances on shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Numb3rs, Lost, CSI and Castle. His other film work includes Black November (with Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger) and the action feature Takers (with Matt Dillon and Paul Walker). Joon is a graduate of NYU with a degree in Theater and Broadcast Journalism.

About the Filmmakers

Robert Nathan (Director/Co-Writer/Executive Producer)

Robert Nathan is an award-winning journalist, novelist and screenwriter who has worked on many critically acclaimed television programs, including all of the Law & Order series. For ER, he was a Co-Executive Producer and received the George Foster Peabody Award. For the original Law & Order, his episode "Manhood" received the only Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series in the 20-year history of the series. Nathan's other work in television includes Consulting Producer on the FX series Dirt; Executive Producer, show runner, and co-creator of the NBC series Prince Street; and Consulting Producer on the series Fairly Legal. He has received an Edgar Award nomination from the Mystery Writers of America, the GLAAD Media Award, the Silver Gavel Award, a Humanitas Award nomination, and four Emmy nominations as a producer. Early during his career as a journalist, Nathan was White House correspondent and weekend anchor for NPR's nightly newsmagazine All Things Considered. He has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review and has written for The New Republic, Harper's and The Nation. Nathan is the author of four novels, including the political thriller The White Tiger. As half of the team published under the pseudonym Nicholas Conde, he is co-author of three novels, including The Religion, filmed by John Schlesinger as The Believers.

Lukas Kendall (Co-Writer/Executive Producer)

Lukas Kendall is the founder and publisher of Film Score Monthly, a magazine, website and CD label devoted to movie music, which he created as a high school student on Martha's Vineyard. Since 1996, he has produced and released more than 250 CDs of classic film and television music for the collector's market on his label and others, including CD boxed sets of music from the Star Trek and Superman franchises. Lucky Bastard is Kendall's first feature in any capacity. His company, Vineyard Haven, LLC, is the film's financing entity.

Jim Wynorski (Producer/Unit Production Manager)

A 25-year Hollywood veteran as a writer, producer and director, Jim Wynorski is responsible for more than 150 motion pictures in a myriad of genres. In 1980, leaving behind a successful business in commercials, Wynorski relocated from New York to California and found himself on the doorstep of his childhood idol, B-film king Roger Corman. The renowned mogul hired Wynorski to cut "coming attractions" for all of the company's new action and horror films, and offered Wynorski the first of many writing and directing assignments, 1986's Chopping Mall. From then on, he turned out three to five films a year as a director, and even more as a producer and writer. Throughout the 1980s came a steady stream of wild exploitation titles, like Big Bad Mama II (1987) with Angie Dickinson, Not of This Earth (1988) with Traci Lords, and Return of The Swamp Thing (1989) with Heather Locklear. His 1990s titles included Hard Bounty (1995) starring Kelly LeBrock, Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III (1994), Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure (1995) with Shannon Tweed and Morgan Fairchild, and Munchie (1992), featuring the debut of then 12-year-old Jennifer Love Hewitt. In recent years, Wynorski has innovated new special effects techniques that landed the director no less than seven world premieres on the Syfy Channel, including Gargoyle (2004), The Curse of the Komodo (2004), Project Viper and Cry of the Winged Serpent (2007).

Clay Westervelt (Director of Photography)

During graduate school at USC, Clay Westervelt received both the Bush and Kodak Awards for Excellence in Cinematography, earning an apprenticeship with ASC members. He was honored to apprentice with Francis Kenny (2012 ASC President's Award), and went on to learn lighting and camera techniques through on-set observation of Vilmos Zsigmond, Emmanuelle Lubezki and Dante Spinotti. After graduation, Westervelt filmed pilots for every major network, establishing the look of such series as Life of Luxury with Robin Leach (ABC), Gene Simmons: Family Jewels (A&E), Rattlesnake Republic (Animal Planet) and Junk Gypsies (HGTV). Most recently, Westervelt filmed the Emmy-winning documentary The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club as well as the Grammy-nominated Johnny Cash's America.

Christine Sheaks (Casting)

Christine Sheaks began her film career as an associate to John Lyons, working on such films as Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy and Fargo. When Lyons became a producer, Sheaks's first feature was A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves. Then came Boogie Nights for Lyons and director Paul Thomas Anderson, for which Sheaks won the Casting Society Award. From there, she went on to cast Josh Hartnett in H2O, Deep Blue Sea with Samuel L. Jackson, The Mod Squad, Scary Movie, Thir13en Ghosts, Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Underclassmen with Nick Cannon. Independent filmmaking has been Sheaks's first love, starting with Hard Eight with Gwyneth Paltrow, Female Perversions with Tilda Swinton, Thursday (also co-produced) with Thomas Jane and Aaron Eckhart, D-WAR with Robert Forster and Craig Robinson (The Office), The Memory Thief (co-produced) starring Rachel Miner and Mark Webber, and the coming-of-age drama Calvin Marshall with Steve Zahn and Jane Adams. This year, Sheaks worked with actor-writer-producer Richard Montoya, who brought to the screen his celebrated play from the Mark Taper Forum, Water and Power, as well as casting Gary Lundgren's second feature, Redwood Highway, starring James LeGros, Tom Skerritt and Shirley Knight. Says Sheaks, "I'm proud to have cast Lucky Bastard, which to me epitomizes the spirit of independent filmmaking."

Tony Randel (Editor)

There's almost no behind-the-camera job that editor Tony Randel hasn't done over the course of his more than 30-year career in Hollywood. Like many filmmakers, including Lucky Bastard producer Jim Wynorski, Randel began his career with independent film mogul Roger Corman. Randel has worked frequently as a director, with film and television credits including Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Fist of the North Star and Assignment Berlin; he has been a screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, film composer, and vice president of production of New World Entertainment; and has done visual effects work, sound editing and costuming. Film editing has been Randel's focus in recent years. Says Randel of his work, "I've always loved post-production, and this probably comes from my youth--I used to be into amateur radio, which is sitting in a small room with electronic equipment communicating to the world, and I love movies too, so editing and post-production are kind of a combination of the two."

 

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