Principal photography begins Sunday in the Oklahoma City and Guthrie areas on the movie “Rudderless,” a musical drama that will star Oscar nominees Felicity Huffman and Laurence Fishburne alongside big-name actors Selena Gomez, Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin.
With a cast like that, it's hardly surprising that the film already represents a Hollywood dream come true for its Oklahoma-based writer/producers Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, even before it was shot.
Plus, they're grateful it's not all some grandiose April Fools' Day joke.
“The announcement about our cast hit the trades on April Fools' Day, and four years ago on April Fools' Day was the first email we got from Bill with interest in this project,” Twenter said with a laugh. “Four years ago, we were wondering if it was an April Fools' Day joke and ... when the cast was announced, half of my friends emailed me asking if it was an elaborate April Fools' joke.”
“Rudderless” will mark the directorial debut for actor William H. Macy, 63, who is best known for his stellar turns in films like “Fargo,” “The Cooler” and “Magnolia” as well as the current Showtime series “Shameless.”
“(It's) beyond our wildest dreams. When we started this journey, I don't think Jeff and I imagined someone with Bill's resume would even be directing, let alone compiling such a huge cast of just amazingly talented actors and actresses,” Twenter said in a recent joint phone interview.
“It's been a long, long, long process and a lot of ups and downs, but obviously, it's paying off,” Robison added.
The longtime friends first met playing fantasy football and soon discovered a mutual love of film. The Edmond residents started collaborating on screenplays about 12 years ago.
“I was kind of content with ‘OK, it's just cathartic,' and Casey wanted to really, really push to make something. So we formed an LLC, just a small little thing to hopefully let people know that we were serious about making a movie ourselves,” Robison said, adding they now operate Oklahoma City-based TeeRob Pictures and NoCoast Entertainment.
In fall 2008, they spent about five months honing the script for “Rudderless” and then contacted Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood's top talent agencies.
“We got lucky, called CAA, and Macy's agent happened to just magically answer, and within a week, he emailed us. And then within a week, we were on the phone with him,” Robison said. “Bill has stuck with us the whole time, has been very supportive and never gave up.”
Once Macy took on the project, he spent about a year working with the Oklahoma filmmakers' to refine their original story.
Crudup will star in “Rudderless” as a grieving father who stumbles across a box of his deceased son's original music and forms a band, hoping to find peace in the wake of his tragic loss.
“I don't want to put words in his (Macy's) mouth, but he gets a lot of scripts. And I think this one jumped out,” Twenter said.
The drama is set to shoot in the Oklahoma City and Guthrie areas over the next five weeks. While they were waiting for financing for “Rudderless” to come together, Robison and Twenter filmed their debut movie, the low-budget thriller “The Jogger,” last fall in the Edmond area.
“I'm very proud to be from Oklahoma. I love this state. I just really would like to kind of showcase some of it,” Robison said.
“Casey and I would love to make films here for the rest of our lives. That's our dream.”