Gillian Greene’s TV star father had an adage about career arcs that was applicable to any actor:
“Who’s Lorne Greene?”
“Get me Lorne Greene!”
“Get me the next Lorne Greene!”
“Who’s the next Lorne Greene?”
At the moment, the next Gillian Greene is Gillian Greene, whose first feature, “Murder of a Cat” premieres next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. The off-beat comedy stars Fran Kranz (Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Cabin in the Woods”) as a manchild with a proto-Bieber haircut, various delusions, and who lives at home with his mother (Blythe Danner). Just coincidentally, all of Greene’s children, ages 7 to 20, live with their mother.
“Yeah, people are surprised I have so many kids, but I started kind of young,” said the fledgling director, whose father was a star of the longtime NBC western “Bonanza” and, later, the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series. She met her husband, director Sam Raimi, when she was 20 and they had their first when she was 25. “Which isn’t that young, but I never even liked kids. I never babysat, I was an only child, I never got all excited about babies. But when I had my first child I just fell in love.”
She also fell in love with the Blacklisted screenplay by Christian Magalhaes and Robert Snow about an oddball anti-hero named Clinton (Kranz) who sets out to find the killer of his cat, runs up against a slinktress named Greta (Nikki Reed), the cop (J.K. Simmons) who’s dating his mother, and Ford (Greg Kinnear
), the owner of a big box store who seems to be behind all the nefarious goings-on in the one-horse California town where the film tales place. (There a couple of movie nerd moments: Clinton uses the alias Doghouse Reilly, a reference from “The Big Sleep”; Ford at one point watches “The Angel and the Badman,” a movie not by a guy named Ford, but which might have been).
Greene said she wasn’t just moved by the story — Clinton, as is made clear early on, will come into his own — but because it had roles that seemed so right for Kranz and Simmons, with whom she had made a comedy short, “Fanboy” about — what else — the world’s biggest Sam Raimi fan.
Kinnear’s participation was more roundabout: He and Greene had met years earlier when Kinnear appeared in Raimi’s “The Gift.” They met again at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival where Kinnear had the film “Writers” (a.k.a “Stuck in Love”).
“We were at a party and I asked him if he remembered me,” Greene said. “He said ‘Of course I remember you.’ I asked him if he’d gotten the script I’d sent. He said ‘What script?'”
Greene said she was lucky she’d run into him; she was also lucky she’d won a California Film Commission tax break on making “Murder of a Cat,” because she’d made her way from No. 100 up to where she got the virtual windfall California offers only a few filmmakers a year (rather than the general incentives offered by other states to lure filmmaking away).
She hopes the luck holds out till Saturday, when distributors are coming to see her film in New York, prior to its premiere on Thursday. She said she’s a bit stressed out about the whole Tribeca thing. Not so much about the film. But because she has to leave her kids behind.