PARK CITY, Utah — When you put angry little people wielding medieval weapons in your movie, you're getting weird. If you add an incoherent Internet billionaire with an icicle lodged in his brain, you're getting weirder. And if you throw in yuppie Satanists, garden gnomes and the accidental burial of a living woman, then you've got "Weirdsville."
Scott Speedman, Wes Bentley and Taryn Manning inhabit the upcoming movie, city and state of mind that are "Weirdsville," recently unveiled at the Slamdance Film Festival (see "Slamdance Diary: What's It Like To Have Your Film Nominated For An Award?"). In keeping with Slamdance's notorious reputation as Sundance's barely tolerated bastard stepbrother, the flick opened this year's fest with a mix of irreverence and anarchy unlike anything before seen from these three young actors — or from anybody ever, really.
" 'Offbeat' would be one of the first things I would say about it," Bentley said of the flick that casts him and Speedman as house-robbing junkies. "When I read the script, it was like, 'This could be a total disaster if you don't really commit to it and find the right people to do it, or this could be a really fun movie that you could just turn off your brain and watch.' "
Thankfully, "Weirdsville" is more the latter, due in part to "Pump Up the Volume" director Allan Moyle's mix of funky camera work, memorably offbeat characters and unpredictable plot twists. Most closely resembling such underground classics as "Love and a .45" or "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," the film also takes pride in casting its buddy duo against type.
"I like playing idiots a lot more than playing the guys with the chin and the strength — that doesn't feel like me," said Speedman, who ditches his heroic "Underworld" persona to play Dexter, a conflicted druggie who gets kicked around more than a soccer ball. "I feel much more like Dexter in my own life than some of the other characters I get to play. [Usually] there's this fake macho kind of thing."
"I wouldn't say that I feel more like Royce, because even if I did, I wouldn't tell you that," grinned Bentley, famous for portraying enigmatic smart alecks in flicks like "American Beauty." His "Weirdsville" character is so staggeringly dumb that he tries to bury a friend who has overdosed without checking for a pulse. "I started off doing comedy as a kid, so I've always loved making people laugh. I was keyed in and ready to do this."
"Weirdsville" tells the darkly comedic tale of how Royce and Dexter end up owing big bucks to Omar, a local dealer who enjoys breaking kneecaps and engaging in the Canadian sport of curling. On the run with a junkie semi-prostitute (Manning) who knows the combination to an Internet mogul's safe, they find themselves pursued by a group of whiny Satanists after crashing their ritual killing. They hatch an escape plan that includes a little-person security guard and his miniature mace- and crossbow-wielding buddies. "We didn't know what was going on half the time," Speedman said of such antics. "We would just show up and go on."
"I like the scene when I'm trying to kick the door in by myself," Bentley said of his favorite moment, a big laugh-getter at Slamdance that has his dimwitted character unsuccessfully slamming himself against an exit for several minutes. "I don't know why, but it was always fun. Every day you'd go to the set, and no matter what happened, we knew we were going to have fun."
Ultimately, "Weirdsville" is about two seemingly unlovable, drug-addled losers who moviegoers somehow end up rooting for. And that made it all the more essential that Speedman and Bentley — who didn't know each other before the movie — develop an immediate Butch-and-Sundance-like chemistry.
"I was really nervous that me and him weren't going to work," Bentley confessed. "I'd never met him and didn't know what that was going to be like. The spine of the movie is the relationship between us, and if the chemistry isn't good, then it's not gonna fly."
Asked when he knew that they'd fit, Speedman answered, "From the first night," adding, "but he was late."
"I met him three days before we started shooting," Bentley said, admitting to his chronic tardiness. "It was really good right from the beginning."
"He came down, and we had a couple of beers and just hung out," Speedman added. "It's such a cliché to talk about that in moviemaking, but we had fun together and we got to know each other and like each other."
The flick is expected to hit theaters later this year.
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