EXCLUSIVE: How Vincent Gallo Staged a Coup on the Set of His Next Film
In 2008, mercurial actor Vincent Gallo signed on to star in The Funeral Director, an independent film written and directed by Pete Red Sky. Now, in 2010, Gallo is touting his own Promises Written in Water, the first film he's written and directed since The Brown Bunny.
There's just one thing: they're the same movie. How did this happen?
Let's start from the beginning. In late 2007, Gallo and actress Allison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell) attached themselves to The Funeral Director, a pet project set up by Red Sky (who has one other feature credit to his name, the indie film The White Horse is Dead). Though Lohman fell out of the film shortly after, Gallo stayed aboard and even wrangled a producer credit. Under Gallo's watch, the cast was filled out using non-actors, Sage Stallone, and European fashion models Delfine Bafort and Esther de Jong.
The Funeral Director may have been a small film almost wholly financed by Red Sky, but its premise was quirky enough to merit some attention when shooting commenced in January 2008:
"A broken-hearted man, Kevin, finds company in a pet cricket. After ditching a lucrative advertising job, he signs on as an apprentice in a funeral home and finds himself not only working for a sexually starved pre-menopausal funeral director, but also rooming with her free spirited nymphomaniac niece. In a strange way, Kevin becomes like one of the old Renaissance masters by taking the dead corpses to study and advance his art by photographing them. While the nymphomaniac becomes addicted to the idea of helping him win back his ex-girlfriend they find themselves exploring loss, death, and resurrection. In a dark romanticism, Kevin attempts to artistically reincarnate the dead people by dressing them up in elaborate costumes and makeup, trying to recapture the memory of their best human quality and to defy the tragedy of their death."
It's a story that would require a firm hand to keep from tipping into absurdity, and according to those on the Los Angeles set, that's where the problems began. The less-practiced Red Sky was a passive presence in the directorial chair, which frustrated his lead actor. "From day one, the director was showing signs of his inexperience on set and lack of confidence in handling a fiercely unpredictable talent like Gallo," said one source. "Vincent would come to set and ask where his mark was, and the director would have to sit and think about it for ten minutes."
After bringing production to a halt on a daily basis to give "film production 101" lectures to cast and crew members, Gallo finally called for a meeting with the producers and director halfway through the shoot. His ultimatum: he'd walk if he wasn't made director.
"From that point on," said the source, "Gallo took over and assumed all rights to the project. He was now the director of the film and treated like so by cast and crew." Meanwhile, Red Sky -- usurped of his passion project by the star he'd cast -- was left with little to do but follow Gallo around on set. Unfortunately, letting Gallo have his way didn't calm him. Screaming fits were common, and Gallo harangued the script coordinator so much that she quit before filming was completed.
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