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SXSW '06 Interview: 'The Life of Reilly' Co-Director Frank Anderson

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Life of Reilly' Pitch: Popular character actor and TV staple, Charles Nelson Reilly, delivers the final performance of his touching and hilarious one-man show.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Go to and view the trailer. Now!

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
I wanted to be an archeologist.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
I was an extra in The Right Stuff. I wandered all over the set. I caught glimpse of Phil Kaufman being able to make an epic film without all the trappings that come with epic filmmaking.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
All the time.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
Co-director Barry Poltermann called me with the idea. Within in a week, we were raising money and were into full low budget pre-production. Three months later we were rolling cameras over three nights at the El Portal Theater in Los Angeles. Then began a year-long process of shaping a very long (4 hours plus) stage show into a 90-minute motion picture, shooting original stop-motion animation, 16mm recreations of Charles’ childhood memories, searching for historical b-roll, doing score after score (the first few really sucked, one sounded like “march of the penguins“), and, of course, selecting and re-shooting television clips from the varied stages of Mr. Nelson Reilly’s career. Last time I looked, it was midnight. We were at the L’orange edit suite in Los Angeles. I had 1 hour to catch a flight home and Barry was still editing The Life of Reilly - 6 hours ahead of a flight to India where he was to begin work on another film. Last night I was pretty sure that we had finished.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Don’t tell anyone what you are doing. Keep it small. Avoid all “meetings“. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Go, go, go. Next project!!!!!!!!

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
I love Karel Zeman, Yakima Canutt, Kon Ichikawa, 50’s Japanese cinema the entire silent film era. We watched some “one man show” films in preparation for this. I don’t really enjoy watching anything in preparation for a project. I always get sucked into the story of what I’m watching and forget why I was watching it.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
No one in their right mind would offer me a studio contract. My co-director Barry Poltermann, however, is a different story. I think he would want to handle an insanely huge star-studded sequel to Some Came Running - which, of course, is already a sequel.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
I love dogs, but I also love Dean Martin.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
A “buzz” has to start somewhere.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Easy. I grew up in the Philippines. Coca Cola is God. Also, as a player of Fessenden Pedal Steel Guitars, I would just have to insist…. I love products! Can I throw Fender in?

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
A “film by Terry Gilliam” used to be just that. Now, it’s “a film by Terry Gilliam and 400 scared shitless front office guys looking over his shoulder saying things like “Gee Terry, CG can really expand your vision“.” So, in certain cases, it’s of absolute importance.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?! View the trailer ... again ... now!!!!!


The Life of Reilly, starring Charles Nelson Reilly, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and, neddless to say, be sure to check out the official The Life of Reilly website.

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originally posted: 02/10/06 06:47:48
last updated: 02/10/06 10:34:18
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