PARK CITY, Utah — Before Marcos Siega had even made his first movie, the veteran video director was already being pigeonholed.
“I was getting [scripts for] a lot of teen comedies, probably because my videos were sort of funny and the next step would probably be a ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ or something,” recalled the director, who is best known for Blink-182′s “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?”
Co-producer Matthew Weaver, however, had something else in mind when he tracked down his favorite video director and handed him a script called “Pretty Persuasion.”(Click for photos from Sundance.)
“I read it and I was like, ‘Wait, this isn’t a teen comedy, it’s a satire,’ ” Siega said during a break from his busy Sundance Film Festival schedule. “It’s a social commentary and it talks about a lot of the things that are wrong with our society and our culture, but it’s subtle. Hopefully, people walk away thinking about issues.”
“Pretty Persuasion” centers around a troubled high school student who accuses one of her teachers of sexual harassment. Originally, the author of the script, Skander Halim, wanted to direct, but Siega convinced him he would stay true to the story. “I had a very specific vision for what I wanted it to be and he bought into it. Luckily I duped him,” he joked.
Once he signed on, Siega went searching for his lead actress. After an agent sent him a few episodes of the television drama “Once and Again,” he was sold on Evan Rachel Wood, who went on to win acclaim in “Thirteen.”
“It’s hard to say that you’re blown away by a TV show, but I was like, ‘How old is this girl? Is this an 18-year-old playing, like, a 14-year-old?,’” he said. “They’re like, ‘No, she’s 14. You’ve got to meet her.’ So I sent her the script and then sat down with her, and for a 14-year-old to understand this script, and to understand how layered it is, blew me away. She’s so smart. I know I’m her director in this movie, but I really believe she’s hands-down the best actor of her generation.”
Wood, who is in two Sundance selections this year (the other being “The Upside of Anger” with Kevin Costner and Keri Russell), was equally impressed with Siega.
“He’s a genius,” she said. “I was taken aback by him. This is so incredible for his first sort of big film.”
After Wood, Siega went after James Woods to play her father and Ron Livingston to play the teacher. Both loved the script and accepted the roles. Still, the director was missing an important piece of the puzzle: financing.
“I had Evan Rachel Wood, James Woods, Ron Livingston and a great script for three years, and I couldn’t get the movie made because no one wanted to touch it,” Siega said. “That’s what I think really embodies the sort of independent spirit; that’s why I’m so happy to be at Sundance, because we never compromised because when the studios said, ‘We’ll make the movie if you take X, Y and Z out,’ I said, ‘That’s not the movie I want to make. It’s not the movie these actors signed up to make.’ And we just stuck to our guns and raised the money and made it on our own.”
“Pretty Persuasion,” which also stars Selma Blair, Jane Krakowski and Jaime King, is still screening at Sundance through the week and is expected to be purchased.
Siega was so convinced the movie would never get made that he agreed to direct a studio movie for Miramax — a teen comedy, no less.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to be that music-video director that never did anything,’ so I went and made that movie and I’m really proud of it, but it’s really different,” Siega said of “The Underclassman,” which stars Nick Cannon and Shawn Ashmore. “I think when people see it, they’ll probably think I’m schizophrenic, ’cause it is sort of a young ‘Beverly Hills Cop’-type movie. It’s good for what it is in that world, but ['Pretty Persuasion'] is very personal to me, and I want my next movie to be as personal.”
Siega has another script he likes, but he has yet to commit. He’s also still directing videos as well as TV shows such as “Veronica Mars.”
“I’m a whore,” he joked. “I like to work.”
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