Lucky, a new film starring veteran actor Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, Big Love), premiered at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas, to a crowd of fans, not only of Stanton, but of David Lynch as well. Lynch was one of several veteran filmmakers and actors who appeared in this film which was at once fiction and a tribute to Stanton’s life.
Two Films in One
The fiction element involves the story of Lucky, played by Stanton, a 90-year-old eccentric living in a small southwestern town. The film is a character study, following Lucky through his daily routine — shopping, hanging out at the bar, taking care of things around his house – during which issues of the human condition such as mortality, spirituality, and loneliness are explored.
The tribute element comes from the work by screenwriters Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja to instill Stanton’s attitudes, beliefs, and spirit into Lucky. Unlike Lucky, Stanton lives in the Northwest and, unlike Lucky, as far as I know, does not water his garden wearing only his underpants.
Screenwriter Sparks has been a friend of Stanton for sixteen years. Sparks and director John Carroll Lynch, inspired by their respect for Stanton, gathered together many classic Hollywood faces to help in this tribute.
Lucky is John Carol Lynch’s debut as a director. He has had a long career as an actor with over a hundred credits, including Gran Torino, Zodiac, and Crazy Stupid Love. Along the way, he has been directed by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, John Woo, Albert Brooks, and many others. Lucky shows that he was paying attention to what it takes to direct.
The project was brought to him by Sparks and they worked for several years to put all the pieces together. The cast includes Ron Livingston (Boardwalk Empire, Office Space), Ed Begley Jr. (Better Call Saul, St. Elsewhere), Tom Skerritt (Alien, Top Gun), Beth Grant (The Mindy Project, No Country for Old Men), James Darren (Gidget, The Guns of Navarone), and David Lynch. Yes, the Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks David Lynch.
During a question and answer session after the screening at the Alamo Ritz Theater, director Lynch and screenwriter Sparks discussed getting David Lynch into the film. David Lynch plays Howard, Lucky’s best friend at the neighborhood bar. Some of the philosophical areas the film gets into are masked by the humor around the escape of Howard’s pet tortoise and Lucky’s reaction to the crisis.
Sparks recalled that when he contacted Lynch about appearing in the film inspired by Stanton, he was positive about the project, but busy with the new Twin Peaks. “Then Lynch’s people called,” Sparks said, “and told me they could give us ‘two days, in six months.’ We built the entire production schedule around that commitment. I sweated it out as the day got closer.”
Luckily for Sparks, and Lucky, Lynch appeared as promised and provided an acting performance key to the impact of the film. Another outstanding performance was turned in by Beth Grant, who plays the tough talking proprietor of the bar.