"I am so happy I didn't have to do an Irish accent," Will Forte says when describing the experience of migrating to Ireland to shoot his first dramatic role, Run & Jump. "I do the worst Irish accent. It's all based on the Lucky Charms commercials." He tries his hand at "purple horseshoes," and it dawns on him that it might be sub-cereal character level. "Actually, I can't even do the Lucky Charms accent."
Run & Jump makes its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival and pairs the former Saturday Night Live player with Maxine Peake, an English actress famous for her stage and TV work, including the UK version of Shameless. Peake stars as Vanetia, a vibrant Irish woman whose husband, Connor (Edward MacLiam), suffered a violent stroke that left him in a coma. After awakening and spending four months recovering, Vanetia brings him home — accompanied by Ted (Forte), an American psychologist who plans on studying Connor. Oscar-nominated director Steph Green captures the collision of new personalities and relationships with frankness, subtle camera work, and the popping colors of the Irish backdrop.
Green didn't ask Forte to attempt his Lucky Charms accent, but it was still demanding for the actor, who is better known for outlandish characters like MacGruber than for losing himself in understated realism.
"It was kind of terrifying for me, having never done anything like this," Forte says. He admits that he responded to the script but had no idea if he could pull off the "acting" required. "A lot of the stuff I've been involved in, you have to do a lot of big, broad characters. So my internal mechanism to figure out what real people act like is a little off. It's just different to be a real person."
Forte wasn't alone. When Peake got the call that Green wanted her for the film, she couldn't help but be a bit self-deprecating. For the actress, there became an obvious difference between her past work and Run & Jump. "Once Steph explains it, it's very minimal," she says. "'Stop crying.' There was a lot of that. I'm known in England for crying a lot, so I was out of my comfort zone. Will was out out of his comfort zone because he wasn't doing comedy and I was out my comfort zone because I wasn't allowed to cry."
Forte says moving to Ireland was a huge help in tackling dramatic work. "It really helped because it was this safe environment very far away from anyone I knew." Forte began his career as part of The Groundlings comedy troupe, going on to tackle behind-the-scenes roles writing comedy. He had to shake his writer's perspective when he was eventually given the opportunity to perform on camera. "When I got the chance to act, I would be thinking, 'Oh these guys who wrote this thing for me are disappointed.' I get into my head on that stuff." He jokes that moving away was vital for Run & Jump. "I cannot do domestic serious [laughs]. Everything was a new experience."
The duo rehearsed with Green for nearly a year and half, building back story that you only see traces of in the finished film. "My character was born in Ireland, went to England, and came back," Peake says. "That's all the backstory Steph and I did — and all the lines were cut in the edit … but it was about her sense of identity." The actual lines may not have made the film, but the characters in Run & Jump have a rare sense of age. They're lived in, having pasts that become clear by present interaction and Vanetia remembering a time that was.
"The trap you can fall into as an actor is feeling sorry for the actor instead of being true to the character's emotional life," Peake says. "I think that was a balance Steph told me. There was a scene where Ed's character walks past him and I'm having a couple of tea. And then I was [crying sounds]. And Steph says, 'Why are you doing that? Just sit and have a cup of tea.' Of course! She had such a vision of how someone would deal with grief."
According to Forte, the early days of rehearsals required a bit of hand-holding. But he worked with Green rigorously, turning the actual shoot into more of a fine-tuning process. A bit of facial hair only made him more confident. "For some reason, my acting changed with the beard. It was like a cloak. Like a safety blanket." In a way, it was like a totally different actor went and shot Run & Jump. An out-of-body experience. "I didn't do a bad job in that scene, that guy with the beard did a bad job in the scene!" Forte jokes.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.