Imagine that everything you’ve ever planned for in life disappeared tomorrow. You were diagnosed with terminal cancer, and your years left on earth were suddenly reduced to a precious number of weeks. What would you do? Where would you go? What would you wish for if you could get “One Last Thing …”?
That’s the intriguing concept behind the film of that name, which arrives in theaters May 5. Starring 18-year-old “Lords of Dogtown” scene-stealer Michael Angarano as the terminally ill Dylan, the film follows his final days as he heads off for a fishing trip with his football hero (Johnny Messner of “Hostage”), searches for peace with his mother (Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City”), and attempts to hook up with a supermodel (Sunny Mabrey of “The New Guy”).
“When I read the script, I was so connected,” Angarano said. “[It was] in this scary way where I almost had no choice but to do it. It was literally like I felt I had no other choice. If it was being made for $5,000, I had to do this movie.
“The movie itself has a really nice vibe to it,” he continued. “People enjoy watching it, even though it’s a hard subject to watch. … That’s what you got from the screenplay. I cried for about two hours after shutting the script.”
“He brings weight to it,” Mabrey said of the fresh-faced leading man. “He’s the type of guy that when you meet him, he’s of course adorable, but then the more you get to know him, the more you see in him, and he just becomes this book that opens up. … He’s kind of an old soul, maybe. I don’t know what it is. He’s got a wisdom beyond his years.”
When it came to casting the film’s spiritual taxi driver, director Alex Steyermark turned to the man who in 2003 released an album calling himself The Preacher’s Son.
“I had met Wyclef Jean before, and I was reviewing my cast list for the movie, and I hadn’t seen somebody right for the part of the taxi driver,” Steyermark recalled. “It’s [based on] the mythical character of Charon, the ferryman who takes you across the river Styx to the other side. His role is really important, and I wanted it to be somebody who’s really charismatic and very spiritual, and I think Wyclef is that. I happened to be looking at the cast list we’d had up until that point, and I was listening to The Preacher’s Son, and I said, ‘Wait a minute. I know Wyclef. I should just approach him about this.’ ”
The three-time Grammy winner connected immediately with the script, in part because his late father had driven a cab in real life, so he decided to make it one of his first films. “[Wyclef's] the man,” Angarano said. “When he’s on set, he has this creative energy oozing out of him. He really does, because he is so laid-back. He’s the coolest guy.”
This creative energy unexpectedly turned his involvement into much more than just an acting gig when he amazed his co-stars by composing an impromptu song for the film’s closing credits. “We were on the beach filming something, and he was telling me about some soundtrack he was doing, and I was like, ‘Wyclef, why don’t you make a song for this movie? I bet it could be great,’ ” Angarano said. “He was going, ‘Oh man, I could make some ill sh– for this.’
“He blurted out the first line to the song, and for two hours he was screaming this song at the top of his lungs, fixing it in his head, not writing it down, just freestyling and just picking up the words, and switching the verses and the choruses,” the actor said. “It was Tuesday, and he was like, ‘All right, I’ll have it to you by Friday.’ He comes in on Friday with the song, and not only is it a beautiful, great song, but one of his best. It’s so perfect for the movie, and it captures such an essence of life itself. It’s a perfect fit.”
“It’s a beautiful song,” Mabrey said of the finished product, called “Heaven’s in New York.” “He was writing the song as we were shooting the scenes and singing it. It was really cool.”
“[Wyclef] said, ‘I’m gonna record that for you,’ ” Steyermark said. “I said, ‘Sure, whatever.’ And the last night of shooting, three nights later, he showed up with a CD that had four different mixes. He said, ‘Here, I recorded this for you,’ and it just blew us away. I think it’s one of the best songs ever written for a movie, and it’s a gift to the movie.”
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