Illustrious actors John Rothman and Robert Clohessy buckle down for Laurie Simmons’ newest work
A midlife crisis can be one of the more depressing and stressful episodes of an individual’s life. The uncertainty of one’s existence; the ontological guilt of unfulfilled dreams or desires; the neverending existential crisis asking, “is this truly what and where I want to be?”
The constant yearning for purpose and the fulfillment of that purpose is perhaps one of the strongest catalysts that we have. And that sense of humanistic realization seems to become most pronounced during the later, more ambiguous stages of one’s life.In many ways, A middle-aged person mirrors the earlier points of their life wherein their teenage self had a meandering sense of self-worth. Drifting sensibilities, newfound interests and a desire to return to youthfulness are but a microcosm of the complexity that goes into a midlife crisis.
In her newest and most narratively driven film yet, Lena Dunham’s mother Laurie Simmons has returned to the filmmaker role with the delectably self-conscious “My Art.” Originally premiering at the Venice Film Festival, Simmons’ feature just recently had its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to sit down with acting legends (and Simmons’ filmic love interests) John Rothman (“Synecdoche, New York”) and Robert Clohessy (“Boardwalk Empire”) to discuss their characters, their past lives and acting through the ages.
Some Like it Hot: John Clohessy Certainly Does
There’s nothing more joyful and adolescent than reenacting some of one’s favorite films. It’s an experience that pumps one full of youthfulness and jovial exuberance. Doning the wigs, makeup, costumes and persona can all be a wildly satisfying experience. That most certainly seemed to be the cast for Rothman and Clohessy.
Clohessy was pleasantly surprised saying, “it wasn’t what I expected but it turned out to be really enjoyable because I got to reenact some old film favorites like “Some Like it Hot” where I dressed up as a woman. I did Clark Gable, I did “Picnic,” and more.” The actor went on to say that “I have no complaints. And usually I do!”
When asked what old-time movie scene that they recreated was his favorite, Clohessy revealed, “I really liked doing ‘Some Like it Hot.’ I love dressing up like a woman and I love being in the panties. I asked my wife if I can wear her panties now. But I’ll tell you the truth, it took so freakin’ long to put on all that shit, with the makeup and everything. I thought at that moment, ‘you know what, I’m lucky to be a guy.'”
One Pet and Two Actor Dogs
The shooting of the film had a strange yet patiently well-planned shoot. Films involving pets frequently have several on set in case one is being difficult or because they’ve been working too long. And while “My Art” was no different, the personal touch from Simmons’ ensured that this would be a personal film to her.
Clohessy had revealed that while the shoot was relatively short in total, it was Simmons’ dog that ended up influencing the schedule. “We shot something the year prior because [Simmons’] dog was dying and she wanted the dog in the film. Fortunately we shot those scenes prior to the dog dying and then we came back a year later and shot the movie with two actor dogs. They behave like actor dogs.” Clohessy then began hilariously speaking to an invisible actor dog, telling them, “‘you’re not the real thing, you actor dog.’ They’re waiting for lunch, they need a dog bone, they got their dog union; they’re real snotty.”
Sooner or Later, Everyone Joins in on the Art
Unrealized fantasies and dreams are perhaps the most heart-wrenching of personal pains. From settling for a meager, unfulfilled existence to a perpetual burning desire to cut loose and run after that which stirs you most, one’s existential wishes are perhaps the most pronounced during a midlife crisis. And Laurie Simmons explores exactly that as she delves into recreating some of the most iconic cinematic moments in film history. And what fun is an art project unless everyone is involved?
Longtime friend John Rothman said he had been hearing about this movie for years. “Every Christmas she would say ‘I’m writing a part for you!’ and years would go by. Then two years ago she said, ‘I have a script that I want to send to you.’ It blew me away,” said the actor. “I play a lawyer that is set up with her on a blind-date. I fall in love with the art project which involves making movies. I get to be James Stewart in ‘Bell Book and Candle,’ William Holden in ‘Picnic’ and Joe E. Brown in ‘Some Like it Hot.’ You see these movies within the movies and you realize they are absolutely perfect reconstructions of these scenes and that was incredibly fun to do.”
Rothman went on to explain how the artistry seeps into one’s soul, revealing that his character revelled in the filmic experiences. “My character says, ‘why didn’t I become an actor? Acting is what I love!’ The funny thing is that my father was a trial lawyer who always wanted to be an actor. So I really identified with the lawyer who has an actor inside him. He was as happy as a pig in shit doing this [laughs].”
Clohessy added his own perspective of his character’s development, revealing that “I’m the landscaper for the property, but then I get involved in her art work because my character was once an actor who quit because his wife died.” The veteran actor went on to reveal the potentiality for romance by saying, “she uses me in her art and then we eventually develop a relationship as a result.”
“My Art” had its North American premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.