Prepping for turkey and pumpkin pie, or an exit plan for those cringe-worthy conversations over the table at Thanksgiving dinner? Either way, Alan Ball’s latest dramedy, “Uncle Frank” is here to help!
Set in South Carolina in the’70s, “Uncle Frank” takes the audience on a journey of acceptance, love, laughs, and of course good ole’ family drama. Taking some cues from his own backstory, writer-director, Ball’s latest film is a personal one but also a “labor of love” according to Paul Bettany; who plays the leading role of Frank Bledsoe.
“It’s hard to get a little move about people made, it took us a long time to find financing for this movie and then once we did, we still had to make it with very minimal resources and time,” says Ball. Taking a breath Ball continued, “It was guerrilla filmmaking.”
While challenging due to financial constraints, or as Bettany jokingly explains, being “short on things like money”, “Uncle Frank” brings together an eclectic star-studded cast including, Paul Bettany (Uncle Frank), Sophia Lillis (Beth Bledsoe), Peter Macdissi (Walid “Wally” Nadeem), Judy Greer (Kitty Bledsoe), Steve Zahn (Mike Bledsoe), Lois Smith (Aunt Butch), with Margo Martindale (Mammaw Bledsoe) and Stephen Root (Daddy Mac).
“We had an abundance of love and commitment from everyone,” says Bettany. Fellow castmate, Lois Smith also reflects on the dedication of her cast, and the importance of portraying the vision Ball had for “Uncle Frank”. “Alan has given us the characters drawn from his family,” Smith says before continuing, “he knew what they were like and he passed it onto us.”
According to the writer-director, who also happens to be a fellow southerner, while the film is not exactly an autobiography, it draws from similar stories dealt with from his past. Touching on the elements drawn from his past Ball reveals, that “those are the stories that I love… the realities of people being people and how challenging it is to live an authentic life in a world that is increasingly inauthentic.”
“Uncle Frank” follows a gay man, played by lead role Paul Bettany as ‘Frank’, a southerner who must unexpectedly confront his family about his closeted lifestyle and 10-year life partner, ‘Wally’. Finding Frank both admirable someone she’d like to be when growing up, Beth, played by Sophia Lillis follows her uncle Frank to New York and uncovers his past, only to in turn discover something about herself.
Taking a personal anecdote away from her character, ‘Beth’, Lillis shares one thing she’s pulled from her role. “I just love [Beth’s] growth in this story…. She takes a quote that Frank says to her, Lillis recalls. “Just be who you are despite what other people say and be confident in yourself,” Lillis says with a smile. “It’s hard to be confident for me, but I got here so far and somehow I got this role and I just have to trust the director that this is what they want”, Lillis says chuckling.
Also wanting to keep Ball’s vision for “Uncle Frank” alive, castmate, Judy Greer who plays the role of Beth’s mother, ‘Kitty Bledsoe’, reflects on the film’s script and story.
“[Ball] wrote this beautiful script and great characters, and [it] was so easy to see what they were even just reading them on the page, Greer says with a smile. When discussing Ball’s background, Greer says that “this was such a personal story for him and I felt like it was definitely important that we get it right because I wanted to honor his memory and what he was saying in his family.”
Also reflecting on the script and its impact was Peter Macdissi, who plays the role of Frank’s closeted partner, ‘Wally’. “We don’t get to see characters like [Wally] specifically from the middle east, they’re real people with dreams and trauma…. and Wally has all of these things – it was a breath of fresh air”, Macdissi says with a smile.
Check out “Uncle Frank” on Amazon Prime on November 25th and catch the cast interview after the beat!