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Weekend Preview: J.K. Simmons Stars in ‘Murder of a Cat,’ an Offbeat Manchild Comedy

Weekend Preview: J.K. Simmons Stars in 'Murder of a Cat,' an Offbeat Manchild Comedy

The offbeat comedy, which bowed at Tribeca earlier this year, 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 seven to 20, live with their mother.

“Yeah, people are surprised I have so many kids, but I started kind of young,” said fledgling director Greene, 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).

Gravitas Ventures opens “Murder of a Cat” December 5 in NY and LA and on VOD platforms.

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