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Commentary on Reed in Darkroom

The persons speaking in the commentary of Darkroom are the writer/producer Mark Altman and the writer/director Michael Hurst. Major Spoilers Below.

Mark Altman, writer/producer.

Michael Hurst, writer/director.

This is the story of how they cast Reed as the lead in their movie (the follow on to Room 6 where the financiers said, “Do you have another Room 6?” and they said, “Sure,” before rushing off to write the follow on script combining Mark’s idea of everyman being a serial killer and Michael’s idea of repressed memories coming to the fore). Things were very seat of the pants as the following will demonstrate quite well.

MA: But while we had our locations, one thing we did not have was our lead actor and that was Mr. Reed Diamond.

MH: Yeah.

MA: We had a very very difficult time casting this movie. Um … one—we needed … um … ah … an actor who was acceptable to our financiers. Um … B—We needed someone who … who was right for the film.

MH: We’d already cast the whole movie.

MA: We had already cast Shaun Pyform, so we needed somebody who had looks that were redolent of Shaun’s. Because clearly we find out later they are the same person. And we needed them to look like Shaun so suddenly we couldn’t have someone look completely different than he did, so it was immediately some very very difficult casting choices. We had one actor who really, literally from day one, wanted to do the film, that we couldn’t get approved for various reasons. Finally, we got him approved and we really thought we were going to be able to close the deal with him. Mike and I trekked out to meet with the actor a couple of days before we were going to start shooting.

MH: Not long before. Like two days before, it was like.

MA: To meet with the actor that many of you would know from … ah … popular TV shows and things. At which point, he indulged us for about a half hour or forty five minutes and … um … then told us he wasn’t doing the film. Which … why he took the meeting with us … ahhhh … you know … and waited until the end of the meal to tell us that put us in a very very difficult position because it’s very expensive to push a movie. You have this train hurtling toward the start date … and … and you’re paying crew and cast … and … and … and you can’t change it. So we literally shot the first day without our lead actor even though he’d been scheduled for that day and we really jumped through hoops but we had to have him for the second day, because he worked pretty much every other day of the schedule. Which really created some amazing difficulties.

MH: And made for an interesting first day as well because we basically shot one half of the conversation. Couldn’t turn the camera around because the actor wasn’t ready and … ah … one of the producers came up to me and said, “Ah, don’t let the crew know that we don’t have the actor and that there’s a real problem. So you’ve got to go and shoot something this afternoon. Just shoot. Keep everyone busy. Don’t let everyone go home early. Shoot something. So I literally took the entire crew across the street and shot inserts of power lines.

MA: And the train.

MH: And the train, but everyone was looking at me like I was insane.

MA: And … and to be honest that was not me.

MH: No.

MA: Because I was not on set. I was in the casting director’s office in a chair … ah … unable to move waiting on every call because there were a few people we were trying to lock for the movie. One of them was Reed Diamond who was not going to commit to the movie until he met us. So Mike came straight from the set that night to the office.

MH: About midnight, it was.

MA: About midnight, this is true. We didn’t have an actor … for the next morning. Reed came. Took a meeting with myself, Mark Gottwald, Mike and … and … and … ah … and … ah … the casting director Christine Sheaks. About a half hour. And Mike and I made a passionate argument why he was right for the role. I had known him from Homicide. I don’t think Mike knew him from a hole in the wall. You … you know … Reed … Christine was a big believer in him. Ah … you know we’d suffered a lot of rejection on this picture. Ah … for this role … for various reasons. There was no certainty that he was going to be able … and if he did not we were so screwed because the next day we had to have him.

MH: And he had to do eleven pages.

MA: And it was this very scene. It was this very scene.

[[The many expression of an actor in a static scene who can’t touch anything. A couple of these are eerily reminiscent of Laurence Dominic.]]

MH: And that’s what was so impressive about what Reed did. This was an eleven page scene the next day.

MA: And he started saying he was reluctant because of the work he’d have to do to prep. In fact, I don’t think his agent had told him the full situation. To get him to meet with us, he hadn’t told him we needed him the next day. And he had family in town. [[I gathered from other commentary that we’re talking about Memorial Day Weekend 2005.]]

MH: Yeah.

MA: So … ah… and then he finally said to us, “Well, I look at this as a challenge. I’m going to do it.”

MH: I think he came from a New York stage background. And I think that’s what gave him the acting chops and just the simple ability to learn eight pages of dialogue in the five hours after he was cast and before he started work.

MA: This was one of those truly happy accidents because Reed was truly fantastic in the role, a delightful person.

MH: Great to work with.

MA: Gives a great performance. And looks like Shaun Pyform.

MA: Yeah, he saved us. Reed saved us.

BUT, WAIT, THERE’S MORE … Later in the film, near the big reveal, they return to the topic of being told by their financiers to get one more star.

MA: Remember there was one actor who was dying to do the movie, but we just … he wasn’t a big enough name. And we actually called him a couple of days before … and we … we … we … he was actually an actor from Buffy. I won’t say who it was … um … and … and then he was like I don’t have enough time to prepare.

MH: Yeah.

MA: And I think when we told Reed that … that’s what convinced Reed.

MH: Yeah, it was like an actor challenge.

MA: He turned us down. And we offered him. He’d been dying to do the movie and we finally got him approved and he turned it down because he didn’t have more than a week to prep … to work on it. And he’s like, “Fuck that.”

MH: Reed was like “I’ll do it in 5 hours, man.”

MA: I’ll do it. (laughing)

MH: I can take that on.

MA: And that’s why we love Reed.

MH: Yeah, absolutely.

There were also a few other smaller moments in the commentary when Mark and Michael discussed Reed. I’m not sure if I got them all but I tried.
In discussing how much down time there is on movie sets, they commented on what it was like to shoot the shit with the actors.

MA: You know, like I said, Reed is … is wonderful to hang around with and … and … and … and a really smart actor, and I was so glad to see … um … him get the opportunity in Good Night and Good Luck in which he was quite good. In the George Clooney Edward R. Murrow film which is a wonderful picture … um … and Reed was, you know, terrific in it, so ...

In discussing the care that they had to take to ensure that certain themes that they didn’t want (which would’ve been somewhat disturbing given how the movie comes out) didn’t sneak into the picture.

MA: But, you know, we were very careful about walking a fine line here, because … um … (chuckles with a little embarrassment). You know, it was a relationship between and older man and a younger boy, and we didn’t want there to be any kind of homoerotic undertones or any creepiness to their relationship. It was just this is a guy who’s been locked away for so long that, you know, he doesn’t have a grasp on, you know, the world, and the only, you know, he … person he can sort of bond with is, you know, this kid, because the kid is really the only guy who will give him the time of day. He didn’t have friends. [[NOTE: I’m not sure about the last sentence. It was something about friends but they were talking at the same time and, even listening to it innumerable times, I couldn’t quite be sure.]]

MH: We had to be careful.

MA: We had to be very very careful. In fact, there were some shots we just didn’t use because the framing just … it just … it sent the wrong message.

MH: That’s right. That’s right. We also had to be careful with the extras and the other actors in the scenes. No one was allowed to make eye contact with Reed. No one’s allowed to interact with him in any way. He couldn’t touch anything. He couldn’t move anything. I mean, it was a very restrictive role for Reed and one that he embraced, you know. From an actor’s point of view, it was a challenge, you know. There were no bits of business, for instance, that actors sometimes like to do in scenes. He couldn’t move anything or touch anything. So … it was very difficult.

In discussing how difficult it is to shoot a scene where two people are sitting at a table talking, especially when one of them can’t touch anything, this comment was made.

MH: And this is again Reed’s first day so Reed’s jumping in at the deep end, as only a New York actor can.

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MA: He turned us down. And we offered him. He’d been dying to do the movie and we finally got him approved and he turned it down because he didn’t have more than a week to prep … to work on it. And he’s like, “Fuck that.”

MH: Reed was like “I’ll do it in 5 hours, man.”

MA: I’ll do it. (laughing)

MH: I can take that on.

MA: And that’s why we love Reed.

MH: Yeah, absolutely.

WE LOVE REED TOO!. Now I'm wondering who this Buffy actor is. lol.

Also, I'm snagging some caps. Heh.

I have a ton more I didn't use. I really have to organize my screencaps. They're starting to get scattered everywhere.

Awesome is a good thing and I sincerely hope you aren't the only one who thinks so given the amount of time and "What dis he say again?" and swearing at LJ over picture placement that went into this.

Reed is indeed awesome. I can't imagine going in to a meeting probably thinking about the weekend a little bit only to discover that his agent had failed to mention that they actually could've used him today but absolutely had to have him early tomorrow morning. He had to know that these two guys were hosed if he turned them down. I like the psychology--this other guy said he'd need over a week to prepare, so I guess you couldn't ...

As to the Buffy actor, I'm thinking James Marsters maybe. The age and "look" is similar.

Glad you liked it!

(Deleted comment)
You're welcome. I'm glad there are folks out there who care enough to read through the whole thing.

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