Thursday, April 05, 2007

Meet Keith David

Back when I wrote the script I didn't know I was supposed to gear my characters towards a specific actor or actor-type. Screenwriters are advised that by doing this they have a better chance of selling their script because someone will say, "Oh, this is perfect for Bruce Willis." or some such thing. Well, I didn't know that. And even though I know that now I still don't do it. Which may explain my savings account.

Even trying to dream cast the film in my head, I was never able to figure out who would work. Except for Keith David. I always felt Keith would make a good Morgan Adult. I was well aware of Keith's work because he's one of those actors who pops up on screen in a lot of films and always elevates whatever he's in. And as a fan of Ken Burns' remarkable PBS documentaries I was also very familiar with Keith's rich voice and turn of a phrase.

What's great about Keith is that he's not a "type." When you see him on screen you never know what you're going to get. Is he the bad guy? Is he the best friend? Is he the moral center of the film? When Keith answers the door and finds a desperate Jennifer Connelly willing to do anything for drugs in "Requiem For A Dream," you have no idea if she's saved or doomed. When you see Keith in that sleep chamber at the beginning of "Pitch Black" you have no idea what kind of man he is. And this keeps you watching. It keeps you on edge.

In my opinion the most condescending thing you can say about an actor is that they are "a natural." It takes a lot of work and training and preparation to look natural. And so when Keith gives off that vibe to keep you guessing, it's intentional. And it's rare. Very few can do it. And it was perfect for Morgan because when Keith arrives suddenly the audience isn't as sure about this character as they were watching him as a teenager. Which is exactly what I was going for.

The first day we shot with Keith was in my home. And I was intimidated. Until Keith arrived. He works his butt off, sings with that remarkable voice between takes, and has an amazing library of jokes at his disposal. He does challenge you as a director -- but in that respectful way that improves each scene and offers choices in the editing room.

Casting Keith was complete serendipity. Imagine my surprise learning Steven's partner, Josh Silver, was Keith's manager. And now Josh is my manager -- and a better manager one could never ask for.

There are so many actors in this film whose work I've admired for years. To have the honor of working with them and getting to know them a bit was something I never expected to happen. And Keith did for BL what he does in everything: He elevated my script and made the movie better.

NOTE: The young man in the photo with Keith is C.J. Sanders who played young Ray Charles in the film Ray. A remarkable actor with a big future.


Blogger TytianaCS said...

Keith has been a favorite of mine since his work on PBS with "Mr Rogers' Neighborhood" and I have followed his work ever since. I agree with you wholeheartedly, you never know what to expect with his characters on-screen at first glance. Perfect example: "Men At Work" with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. One moment, he could make you almost want to wet your pants in fear and the next minute, he'd make you almost wet your pant with laughter! Not the greatest example but I'm sure you get the gist!!

Thanks for Keith and take care!

12:26 PM  

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