Who wouldn’t want Super Sex for their eighty-sixth birthday present?
Two siblings, played by Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins, stress over what to get their father as he turns eighty-six. They settle on a gift that requires them to enlist the help of Julie, a young hooker played by Ruby Modine, the director’s daughter. A few minutes later, after a series of hilarious donut exchanges, Julie appears on George’s (Ed Asner) porch in a skimpy superhero costume. Asner’s performance as the elderly father is surprisingly heartwarming given the fact that he’s about to have some Super Sex! Nealon and Perkins make delightful siblings in their roles as well, but the true star is Modine as Julie. Her onscreen attitude is enough alone to make the short worth watching and she brings a lot of comedy and power to create a wonderful performance in such a short film.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Ruby Modine to discuss this performance and her experience on set with her father and the other actors:
What was it like to play that role? What kinds of things did you bring to it?
Ruby Modine: It was so much fun playing the role because thus far in my career I have not played a hooker. The first time I read the script it was because my father had written it and he came to me and asked me for my opinion on it. After reading it I absolutely loved it, it was so funny, and I wanted to play the hooker. He kind of was very shaky about it. The reason why I wanted to play Julie was because I could tell there was something so powerful about her and she’s so confident. A lot of prostitutes and hookers exude a lot of confidence. And when I read the part of Julie I saw this great confidence that I wanted to show and there’s so much humor in her and she’s got a lot of attitude. I kind of gave her a little bit more of the edge than I grew up in. On my mother’s side – she’s Puerto Rican – I kind of brought all of my mother’s sisters out, so that was really, really fun.
Julie definitely seems to own the scenes she’s in. Did you feel very in charge of yourself and the scene when you were filming?
Modine: I did. And I’m really proud to say that because this was the first role that I had that was a really powerful woman. It was cool because I got to put on these crazy outfits and everybody kind of went along with it both on and off camera. Especially the scene between Ed and I, that was the best one. I brought a lot of power into that scene.
How do you relate to Julie as a woman? What did you bring from your personal life?
Modine: The way that I relate to Julie is that she takes power. She knows what she wants. There’s the scene where he’s negotiating how much money to pay her and she knows exactly how much she wants, and she knows exactly what she’s going to get and what she’s worth. I feel like in that category I’m similar to her because I know what I want, I know what I’m working toward and what I’m going to get because I’m going to put that much work into what I want. Now, they’re two completely different things because what she’s working toward is sex and I’m working toward a career, but in knowing what she wants I think she does a great job of it. And she does not take no for an answer, which I absolutely love.
And what was it like to play a prostitute while working for your dad?
Modine: It was so incredible working with my father because he and I have a very good relationship, but as soon as we go to set, that relationship completely is removed. There’s a level of professionalism. Family and work, they’re two different areas. It was great because he’s a great director. He’s not strict and he allowed Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins and I and Ed – he allowed all of us to play with whatever we wanted. Kevin, Elizabeth, and I were in the trailer and we were figuring things out and he allowed us to just go for it, he said, “Yeah, I’m willing to try anything!” I’m honored that I was put on set with these people because he was directing me, but at the same time if I wasn’t bringing it to the plate right away I had these great people alongside me saying, “You really gotta bring the whore out Ruby.” You know, acting like a hooker in front of your father is the most awkward thing to do and being that sexy and feeling that confident. I feel like that’s something no daughter ever wants either of her parents to see. Where the punchline is at the end was the hardest scene because I had to get really intimate with Ed.
What was it like working with Ed?
Modine: It was so incredible. And I’m not kidding. From the moment that I met Ed, I had no words. We were put in a room together and we were eating salad. That’s when we got to know each other. And he showed so much interest and we all have filters, but that part of him is gone. He doesn’t give a crap. He will say and do anything that he wants. That being said, working with him was so brilliant because he challenged me in certain ways and said, “I don’t believe that you’re doing that.” Just in that simple scene at the end he said, “I don’t believe that that’s what you’re going to give me.” And I fought back and I accepted that challenge and by the end of our shoot I was almost crying because I was so honored that he was saying that I got it and, “I learned a lot from you because you take notes very well.” He was very complimentary so it was a lesson, and it was hysterical and mortifying all in the same bowl. So it was awesome.
That’s wonderful! Can we also ask a bit about the donut scene?
Modine: I’m going to be honest with you, that was the hardest scene to shoot because I’ve known him since I was fifteen and I’ve loved him so much. After I told my father that I wanted to play the hooker, I told him that he should cast Kevin and Elizabeth as the brother and sister, obviously because I wanted to work with them so badly, but those parts I swear were written for them. So doing that donut scene was so difficult because it was a close-up shot of Julie and Kevin was having so much fun with it and he was ad-libbing so much stuff and it was such a fun scene and we played with it so much. I wish that there was a blooper reel so everybody could see how much stuff truly went down on that set. And when I whispered to him, I whispered something which I will not repeat in this interview, but when they yelled cut he said he almost choked on his donut because he was laughing so hard. It was such a difficult scene just because all three of us were laughing so hard. It was great, it was truly beautiful.
Is there anything more you’d like to add?
Modine: Well my film Memoria is out right now and Central Park is a horror film that will be coming out next fall! So I hope everybody goes and checks that out because it’s a really scary one and there’s a lot of blood. And for New Yorkers, you’ve never seen Central Park in the way this film shows it.
Photo credits: TriBeCa Film Festival.