I believe that movies are journeys – they are ways to go to real or imagined times you want to explore. I’m learning about my interests through the making of a film. And of course I am inviting an audience along for the ride. I try not to explain too much, I have a lot of respect for their intelligence.
My first film, CQ, had a central character that was quite reserved. An observer. After making that film, I wanted to make a film about a more outgoing character. So a kernel of an idea of a movie began to bloom about a character who was an outlandish narcissist, a flamboyant lover of women, a bit of a bad boy.
I also knew that I was interested in portraying the unique world of graphic design and particularly, album cover art designers. There was a golden age in the 70s in which a group of bold, dynamic artists created a volume of unforgettable and arresting album covers. Charles White III, Dave Willardson, and Peter Palombi are the greats of this movement. Charles White III inspired the name for my character.
There was another artist that these guys all looked up to, Robert Miles Runyon, who was known to have a Ferrari and a very slick office with old gas pumps in it. These guys were rediscovering old Coca-Cola imagery, Petroleana and Disney imagery from the 30s and 40s. There was a wonderfully rich and colorful aesthetic bubbling up in this time and place I wanted to tap into as a setting and visual framework for my film.
I felt that this cheery, bold, sexy design world, coupled with the sunny surface-oriented clichés of LA would work well in contrast to a character going through a dark depression and the trauma of a break-up. It reminded me of The Great Depression of the 1930s and how in the face of crisis, the pop imagery, music, and movies were so optimistic and vibrant. Take the Fred and Ginger films, take a song like, “Pennies From Heaven,” all that super-cheerfulness was America’s way of fighting a public depression. This juxtaposition of these opposites became a key element in telling this story.
I also knew I wanted to make a film about men and women, and particularly a male perspective on lost love. In my own life, I experienced a break-up and went through the universal experience of trying to understand what went wrong, what went right. Did I love this person? Did I hate them? Did I like them even? And while those kinds of questions were very much on my mind, I knew I wanted to make a film that was really sparkling, playful, eccentric, and funny, like a children’s film with an adult subject matter.
The writing took me a few years. I didn’t want to set absolute rules, so it was difficult to find a shape for the story. Charlie Sheen is an old friend. He said to me once, “We have to do a movie together. Our dad’s worked together. We have to do something together.” I thought that was generous of him. At a certain point I realized he’d be perfect for this role -- a charismatic man who uses his charm to deal with his problems, but those problems aren’t solved---just deferred. I approached him at a time when he had a lot of distractions with his television show and the personal stuff. When he said yes it obviously meant a great deal to me.
I had a great group of people who helped me realize the film --- and many favors were called upon from friends, relatives, and co-workers. I used a lot of things from my personal life, for example, my home is the house featured, many of Charlie’s clothes are my clothes. Many of the people that appear in the film, whether it’s Jason, who’s a relative, or other friends like Dermot Mulroney or Stephan Dorff came on board to lend a hand and help out. For me that is a great token of the movie that it has this kind of spirit. It was made as a labor of love.
I’m hoping that people will appreciate the film’s playfulness. It’s meant to be a lark, a fun ride, but at the core it is about a subject that means a great deal to me --- and I believe others will relate to. I’m interested in that combination of playfulness and personal insight and I really hope it comes across.