Game 6 chronicles one day in the life of New York playwright Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton). This particular day happens to include the opening night of his latest effort, which he anticipates will be torn to shreds by bloodthirsty critic-du-jour Steven Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr.). This day also happens to be October 25th, 1986.
If you, like Nicky, are a Red Sox fan, you need not be reminded why it’s not a good day to be Nicky. For the uninitiated, Game 6 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets happened that night and, in the words of director Michael Hoffman, “That game takes on the quality of Shakespearean tragedy at some point.” It’ll be more fun for you to watch the movie to find out what actually happened, if you don’t know already. If you do, you might feel Nicky’s pain, which is a headspace Keaton, though not a Sox fan, still knew how to enter. “I know that kind of passion. As an actor you use some other stuff, too, but being a sports fan is a huge advantage.”
Keaton is ably supported in the film by the likes of Bebe Neuwirth, who found the words of screenwriter Don Delillo (you read that right) to be all she needed to adopt the persona of a Broadway producer, in spite of many years of experience in theater. “I certainly know those people, but the character was on the page for me. It’s such a well-written film.” She found that Delillo has a keen eye for what really goes on behind the curtain. “There are things that happen in the theater part of the movie, the things that happen backstage, the way people talk that are just so absolutely on the money.”
The project started as a collaboration between Delillo and producer Griffin Dunne, who had created the kernel of the idea with producer Amy Robinson before Delillo added the spark of life. Dunne explains,
Amy and I had an idea about a critic who goes berserk…Over the fax came a fax from Don Delillo, through his agent, who we didn’t know, that was a far richer idea than we were talking about. Purely a coincidence that they were both about critics and the madness they can inflict.
Almost a decade later, the film was created under a completely different model from the typical Hollywood splurge-fest, or even the routine indie formula. Hoffman explains the philosophy of Game 6‘s production company, Serenade Films,
We got inspired, for better or for worse, by what InDigEnt was doing. The idea of going in, making movies for a very low budget. Everybody working for a nominal [wage] – in our case it was $100 a day – from the movie star to the clapper loader. Then everybody gets a piece of the back end.
Hoffman brings a lot to the table, including experience working with one of the most nimble performers in the ensemble, Downey, whom he directed in Soapdish and Restoration.
People talk about people being old souls. Downey’s like a new soul. He’s like somebody who’s kind of just being formed. He has this incredible curiosity, incredible creativity, openness and resilience…He’s got an amazing ability to improvise and create characters. He’ll sometimes just sit and riff and do, like, 15 characters in the space of 45 minutes.
Ari Graynor, who plays Rogan’s daughter Laurel, also enjoyed working with Downey.
I had some stuff with him that I was a little nervous about and I’d never done a scene like that before [a love scene], and I totally had a crush on him my entire life and he just made me feel so comfortable. One of my favorite stories is the first day we were filming, the first thing we did together they would do a shot of Michael Keaton walking up some stairs and we were behind this plastic curtain that we had to sit behind in case they saw our shadows in the shot. And so I was sitting there, like, straddling him on this couch and no one was in that part of the room, so it just sort of felt like there I was straddling Robert Downey. Nobody around to see it or say anything. And I was just kind of smiling really awkwardly and not knowing what to say or do. He just looked at me and started singing, “Getting to knooow you! Getting to know all about you!”
Like Neuwirth, Graynor values working in multiple media. She’s currently starring in a production of Dog Sees God, with fellow TV/film personalities Ian Somerhalder, America Ferrara, Eliza Dushku, and Eddie Kay Thomas. “You know, no one is out there for easy success, for their looks, or for the money or whatever. Everyone is there because there is something in their soul that requires them to be an actor.”
She’ll appear next in Christopher Guest’s latest, For Your Consideration. “I’d never done improv so to learn essentially how to do improv with Christopher Guest is not something that a lot of people can say they have done. You know, it’s terrifying but so amazing.”
Keaton also enjoys challenging himself and trying to chart new territory. As he says, “If I do a character that even speaks the English language twice, I feel like I’m doing the same thing.” His work in both Jackie Brown and Out of Sight as narcissistic ATF agent Ray Nicolette marks one of the few (if not the only) times one person has played the same character in two films that were not sequels.
That’s like a weird little thing that I wanted to do just because I thought, ‘I don’t think anybody’s ever done this.’ I’m always looking for something different just to keep me interested…I’d do it again. I’d like to create this thing, like…”Oh, yeah, there’s Ray Nicolette again. He had a haircut or he’s a little heavier or whatever.”
In the end, Game 6 strives to transcend the slings and arrows of life as a Red Sox fan to make a larger statement about the tragedies of life in general. Says Hoffman, “To be a Red Sox fan is really to be a human being because you’re living in a world where you’re gonna love this thing no matter how much it makes you suffer.” Keaton adds, “It’s not really a baseball movie at all, which I think is great. And it’s not really a theater/show business movie. It’s really a New York story at the end of the day.” But in a world where the Red Sox have actually won a World Series since 1918, will the film still have emotional impact? Dunne confirms, “We talked about that but no, it still is about having something you really love not work out.”
Game 6 opens in limited release on March 10th.