Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries
Conway native Graham Gordy is on a roll. “War Eagle, Arkansas,” a feature film based on his debut screenplay, is currently racking up accolades on the festival circuit (it won the inaugural Charles B. Pierce Award at the Little Rock Film Festival in May). On Friday, he'll make a larger splash. “The Love Guru,” a film that he co-wrote with star Mike Meyers, opens nationwide.
During the Little Rock Film Festival, Gordy chatted about Myers, writing collaboratively and his future plans.
Congratulations on “War Eagle, Arkansas.” I've got to admit, when I initially saw the trailer for it and read the plot synopsis, I thought it was going to be like a Hallmark movie, but the dialogue you wrote never gets mired in sentimentality.
Thanks very much. We were always walking a tight rope. The easiest thing would be for it to topple over into sentimentality. Part of the idea for moving it from Central Arkansas, where [producer] Vince [Insalaco] had initially imagined it, to Northwest Arkansas and a smaller town is just to capture something slightly more rugged and natural.
You've now written two collaborative screenplays, “War Eagle” and “The Love Guru.” How did the process differ?
The situation with Vincent was that he brought me the story. He had some ideas written down and some scenarios, and then we met up in Arkansas, going through it and figuring out where we would set it and scouting locations. Then, essentially, I went back to New York and wrote it by myself.
With “The Love Guru,” I was working with Mike [Myers]. He had this character, which was basically an impression of Deepak Chopra, and together we wrote a stage show surrounding the character and performed it at various theaters in New York for about two years.
Once he had the character and was really in the pocket and we had this glut of jokes we'd tested on stage, we knew we had to find a vehicle for it.
It was a good collaboration at every stage of the game. We got into a room together every day and hammered it out.
How'd you come to work with Mike Myers in the first place? Shared passion for midgets, hockey and Eastern mysticism?
(Laughs) Well, coming from Arkansas, my love for midgets and hockey, you can see where that would come from. No, Mike had written the Austin Powers movies with a guy named Michael McCullers, who just wrote and directed that movie “Baby Mama,” and he was sort of ready to move on, and Mike was looking for someone else to write with.
I'd written a screenplay that Mike's wife at the time had read. And so we met and really hit it off. Then sometime after that I'd written a short monologue play that I acted in, and he came and saw it. And after that he asked me to write the screenplay with him.
Well, is it time to move on commercially?
Mike and I have a great relationship and I think we'd gladly collaborate on something again. For the moment, though, there are a couple things I'm going out with on my own. You know Rob Riggle from “The Daily Show”? We're buddies and have been wanting to work on something for a few years. So in a few weeks, we're going to L.A. to pitch a project around town. Everything I write, I'm setting in Arkansas. At least I'm trying to. Whenever you pitch something set in Arkansas, because of the lack of tax breaks here and the tax breaks in Louisiana, they say, ‘Can you set it in Louisiana?' And I say, ‘I guess,' because I want to work, but I'm really hoping they're going to get tax breaks here.
There seems like a lot of force going into that lobby.
There are extraordinarily compelling arguments for it and I haven't heard a compelling argument against it. I know actors in L.A. who've gotten apartments in Shreveport because they spend so much time auditioning there. And it's the same way with New Mexico. Mike DeLuca, who was a producer on “The Love Guru,” was telling me about a movie he was shooting in New Mexico that was originally set in upstate New York. And I asked, ‘How does New Mexico double for upstate New York?' Obviously it doesn't, but that's where the best tax breaks are.
Read a fuller version of the interview with Gordy on Rock Candy.