When your brother, who you haven’t seen in years, crashes your party, how do you react?
That’s the question Stephen Plunkett’s character had to answer in The Mend, a film written and directed by John Magary in his directorial debut. Also starring Josh Lucas as Mat, the brother of Plunkett’s character Alan, and Mickey Sumner as Farrow, Alan’s girlfriend, the film takes wild twists and turns as it stresses the importance of different relations people have in their lives.
The Knockturnal was in attendance at the New York premiere of the film on August 20 at the Crosby Street Hotel, and here are our exclusive interviews with the cast and director.
How was it like working with John Magary?
Stephen Plunkett: It was wonderful. John is really an incredibly talented guy. Not a lot of people really are aware of him yet, but he is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. He’s got a point of view, he’s such a strong writer and a cool director with such a distinctive visual sense. It’s really been an honor and I’m very proud of the movie we made.
Can you tell us about your character?
Plunkett: Well the movie is about two brothers who are played by Josh Lucas and me and the movie takes place in my character’s apartment. My girlfriend and I are taking a trip and right before we leave, Josh’s character Mat comes to our apartment and thinking that we’re going to be away for two weeks, he kinda just crashed there because he’s a drifter and he doesn’t have a place to stay and he’s just kind of generally a mess. But something happens that you really don’t know that much about until later in the movie between my girlfriend and me when I come back a couple of days later, and we spend this week together kind of at each other but in a really funny way. So it’s kind of a dark movie with really inherent character flaws, with rage and sadness and destructive behavior, but that you laugh at. You watch it and you think, “These guys are hilarious, but I’m glad they’re not my siblings.”
Were there any cool or funny moments on set?
Plunkett: There’s one scene in the movie where my character gets into a fight with some people on the street and we sort of improvised it. You know, with people we knew, but it was in a crowded area during the San Gennarro Festival in Little Italy, so it’s a crowded street that night. And we’re just shooting over and over again this fighting scene and then this police car driving by turned on its lights and sirens and you know, went about breaking up this real fight. Well from their point of view, was a real fight. We had to be like, “No no no no, we’re shooting a movie. Please don’t arrest us.” But that was pretty funny.
What was it like working with John?
Josh Lucas: For some actors and directors, the experience of the first feature is a very scary one. And in this case, I must say that from the very first time that we got drunk together before making the movie, I felt like I was in the hands of a badass actually. A bit of a force of personality and a bit of vision. And that’s what it was the whole time – he was in control. He knew what he wanted and he was incredibly clear about it and this movie is his achievement. And to me, that’s why you want to sign on with a first time filmmaker.
And how was it like being a troublesome character?
Lucas: Well Mat, the character I play, he’s sort of unhinged, he’s deranged even. Not from drugs or alcohol, he’s just kinda given up. He doesn’t really care anymore, he doesn’t care what anybody thinks. He’s basically living homeless at this point in his life, bouncing around, taking advantage of anyone he can take advantage of. And the relationship between his brother and his is one where it’s fraught by the past and fraught by the problems that they had as children and it was trying to figure that out with the character you meet and shaking hands to make that work. And I must say that this is a good one because I liked the guy I was working with a lot you know and so there was no method gained here, we weren’t trying to compete. We were trying to complete something together and I liked this guy and he’s become a friend.
Can you share a fun memory from set?
Lucas: Well the filmmaking was pretty strange in that we would go to work at 3 in the morning on the subway from the Lower East Side all the way up to Harlem. When everyone was wasted drunk and asleep, we would arrive to work to this house on set where the filmmaker and his girlfriend, who’s also the producer of this film, lived, and you’d walk into their bedroom and get them out of bed and start shooting for the day. It was kinda you know, raw filmmaking in its most unpleasant and its most rewarding at the same time.
How was it like working on John’s first feature?
Mickey Sumner: John Magary is possibly one of my favorite human beings and I haven’t met him until I started shooting and now I’m so excited about the next movie. He is just a kind director but he has such an amazing vision in that he knows what he wants, and he just lets you be you in the best sort of way. Yeah, I think he’s one of the most talented up and coming directors in film.
And tell me about your character.
Sumner: I play Farrow who is Stephen Plunkett’s girlfriend and she’s a dancer and she is sort of more together than the boys in this movie … they are sort of a mess. You’ll see.
Did you have to prepare to be a dancer?
Sumner: I have one dancing scene but luckily it wasn’t anything too crazy.
This year has been a big year with indie films, so what’s next?
Sumner: I just finished shooting a movie in Buffalo called Two For One with Jon Abrahams and Annie Potts and Erika Christensen. Small indie but amazing cast and amazing crew – loved shooting in Buffalo. Everyone should make movies in Buffalo, they have it all sorted up there. And I’m going to LA for a couple of months.
How was it like writing and directing your first feature length film?
It was daunting. I had written a feature length before and it was much bigger than this. And I took it to the Sundance Labs, so it had some energy behind it but it was much bigger and daunting and scary. So I wrote something smaller.
And directing it?
It was a different experience. Directing is a long enough process that you kinda become aware of what you’re doing when you’re doing it. As opposed to a short that you figure out what you’re doing when you’re doing it, but if you’re doing four weeks or five weeks, the movie changes as you work on.
What’s the inspiration behind the film?
Well I have an older brother and Myna Joseph and Russell Harbaugh, who wrote the story with me, they have older brothers, and we structured the story out and wanted to make something small and personal to what we know and I kinda took it from there. The brothers themselves are not analogs for me and my older brother, but they’re kind of composites of me and my older brothers.
So how was filming like? Like Josh said they filmed in your apartment.
Well for me, the funny thing is that Josh had to commute to my apartment and I didn’t, because I lived there. So I got to wake up a little later, but we had a tight schedule because it’s a longish script and we didn’t have a lot of money so we started some days at 4 and that’s just really hard. No one wants to be up then, even famers don’t want to be up at 4 in the morning and so you start with a sort of weird energy and then you get used to it. I never really got used to it but then, when you start doing night shoots, and I’m a night person, I felt more in my rhythm and stuff.
Were there any funny moments on set?
There are. Well Mickey Sumner, who plays Farrow in the movie, I hadn’t really met her until we started shooting. I just cast her, and so for her first scene she has to pull a knife out of a door and she basically did it in a way that I didn’t anticipate but made me crack up. It was basically a really funny piece of actorly business and it made me feel like I was in good hands, with the humor of Mickey and all the other characters. So they kinda got the movie. So she pulled it out and rocks forward and it was a funny scene – she had a whole concept for it that I just didn’t know about. And that made me feel really good and made me laugh.
Check out the trailer for The Mend below, now in limited release across the nation.