Never drink and drive, except on a spaceship
Local actors take part in a tipsy cinematic experiment
No doubt longtime science-fiction fans sometimes jokingly wonder, while watching a favorite 1950s-era B movie: Were they drunk when they wrote this thing?
With the new short film Star Drunk which is attracting hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube the answer is absolutely. And not just the screenwriters, but every member of the cast as well.
Yes, interspersed by some surprisingly well-rendered cosmic battle sequences (the films creator, Chris R. Wilson, is a 3-D and visual effects animator), six staggeringly sloshed actors slur and stumble their way through five minutes of laser-fueled action and deep-space drama.
The movies actors include two with local ties: Forest Grove resident Adam Elliott Davis, who will also appear in the upcoming Bag & Baggage production of The Great Gatsby; and Greg James, a 1990 Forest Grove High School graduate who studied under then-drama director Mickey Johnson. (His stage roles in the Ellen Stevens Auditorium included Oberon in A Midsummer Nights Dream and King Sextimus the Silent in Once Upon a Mattress. And, he insists, he was sober for all of them.)
James, who has appeared in several regional and national television ads, hasnt spoken with Johnson for a while, but knows he still lives in Forest Grove and might want to check out his former students recent brush with fame.
I think hed get a kick out of it, James said.
Star Drunk is meant to be funny, Davis said a take on the well-known but probably exaggerated rumors that many great authors wrote their best work after tying a few on. But James and Davis stress that in no way is the movie intended to glorify inebriation or irresponsible behavior.
Our main concern is that people dont take it as a license to get drunk and do things, Davis said. It is purely a film experiment.
In the age of the videophone, one need not search very hard on the Internet to find hours of hammered, would-be Spielbergs filming their equally hammered friends in the hopes of capturing an impromptu masterpiece.
Star Drunk is not among them. Its making was quite deliberate and controlled.
James, who plays The Captain, explained that the films writers got together one night to get drunk and write a movie agreeing beforehand that they would produce whatever they wrote. They awoke the next day to discover that they had drafted a short sci-fi film shaken, not stirred with more than a hint of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.
During filming, the movies two co-directors remained sober.
There was too much technical stuff going on, so they couldnt be drunk, James recalled. They also had to babysit us, because we were wasted. They were our designated drivers to get us through the movie.
The lions share of filming took place in one evening before a green screen. The actors shot most of their lines separately (it was the only way most of them could get through it without laughing). Having previously memorized the script, each actor was asked to drink 12 to 15 shots of vodka provided by the movies sole sponsor: New Deal Distillery, of Portland, which covered part of the films $450 budget. (The rest came out of the directors pockets.)
Much to his surprise, James said, the only real controversy since the film first appeared on YouTube Aug. 25 is a fierce online debate over whether the cast is actually besotted or is just ... well, acting.
I cant remember a lot of it, but I do know that we all thought we were giving Oscar award-winning performances, James said, which should settle the question for those whove seen the film.
We kept having to kneel or collapse between takes. Then wed just stand back up and deliver the line, he said.
The acting by James who actually passed out during the shooting of his climactic fight scene with Davis is especially striking. His scenery-chewing performance is enough to make Johnny Depp look positively reserved.
When asked about it, he just laughs.
When you drink, some actors handle it differently. Some cross their lines of communication, some overact, he said. But I dont normally overact in that fashion. If I knew what I was doing, I probably would have dialed myself down a bit.
Davis remarked how surreal it was to be sloshed on a film set. For most actors, he said, thats a big no-no.
Being anywhere near intoxicated is like one of the biggest technical faux pas you can make. It will lose you your job 99 percent of the time, he said. And that night, I learned the reason you dont go to set intoxicated.
Davis also remembers very little of his screen time, though he does recall being corrected on lines and knocking over a light at one point.
How the actors felt the morning after filming is probably best left to the imagination, but the response to their work the past few weeks has been anything but miserable.
Its even gotten some fans clamoring for a sequel or more likely, a prequel, since the ships loaded crew doesnt appear to survive the ending.
The movies hit counter on YouTube is approaching the 1 million mark, and the project has been written up by numerous bloggers and media, including the Huffington Post.
Ive gotten everything from You cant act your way out of a paper bag to the second coming of Harrison Ford and Bruce Campbell, James said. Its been awesome.
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