Tribeca 2014 – Derek Luke Talks Alex Of Veniceby Wilson Morales
April 24, 2014
Currently playing at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival is actor Chris Messina‘s directorial debut, ‘Alex of Venice,’ starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Don Johnson, Derek Luke, Katie Nehra, Chris Messina, and Skylar Gaertner.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a heartwarming performance as an environmental attorney who finds her workaholic regimen thrown into flux when her husband, George (Messina), asks for a break. For Alex, George has always been the one to take the reins at home. When his unexpected departure dawns as something more permanent, Alex finds herself caught balancing her family’s demands, her aging father, played memorably by Don Johnson, and her ambitious career, which she now struggles to maintain. Soon, Alex is forced to reevaluate her life and discover what she was always too preoccupied to notice. Messina’s assured direction, as accomplished as his own performance, creates an honest portrait of a woman facing unexpected vulnerability in order to find her own strength.
For Derek Luke, who was last seen in the romantic comedy Baggage Claim, this represents a return to the indie since he appeared with Katie Holmes in 2003’s Pieces of April. Known for his roles in Antwan Fisher, Bike Boyz, Friday Night Lights, Catch a Fire, Miracle at St. Anna, and Captain America: The First Avenger, doing an indie film allows him to some freedom he hasn’t been able to have if he were doing a big film.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Luke talks about his role, doing an indie film, and his upcoming projects.
What role do you play in the film?
Derek Luke: I play a character named Frank and what I connected about Frank was a passion. It stared with Chris Messina. When we first started, the Frank that I saw and the Frank that I played wasn’t in the page and I thought it was really important that if I was going to play Frank, I have to have an understanding of who he was. Chris was great at that. One of the statements that connected me to Frank was his argument that he wasn’t just a business man, but a business man that understood. There was a conversation in the scene with Mary Elizabeth’s character where they were discussing the legacy who has the right and who doesn’t. Frank’s basically saying that if he builds this, he’s creating jobs. “What’s your argument?” He never said that she was wrong but that he wanted a chance but he’s believes he’s right. I thought he was intelligent and was a guy that liked to have fun.
DL: I was directed by Denzel Washington on his first film and like I was told by Denzel, “It’s just film.” The most important thing that a mentor says is “What was created first, the earth or man?”. I was stuck on that and then he says, “Here’s a better answer. The earth was created for man.” Film should never be important than the subject or the people that is inhabiting it. Chris is personable and I really believe there is a language between actors that have been perfected over the last several 20-30 years; to where we can trust each other being directed by each other.
How was working with Mary Elizabeth?
DL: Mary reminds me of a couple of women that I have either met or had the opportunity to date. What I love about Mary is that she is complex in a sense that she’s sophisticated but she’s an artist. She comes to the set to work and I think that when you come to the set to work, all gender goes away and the respect evolves. I have a true respect for her. My wife threw a party for me and part of the party was doing monologues. I didn’t want to do a monologue but my wife got up and did a monologue and she blew me away. It’s the same admiration I had for Mary. There are some incredible powerful actors that happen to be women.
DL: The attraction to doing this was probably the same for doing Antwan Fisher and Pieces of April. With Antwan Fisher, I had gone on 100 auditions, but that role and the character that always resonated with me because it was a three year process. I found out later that the film was considered an independent project and for me, independent always has a connection for me. it represents launching. It represents multidimensional and it represents freedom to talk about subjects that mainstream are sometimes slow to embrace.
DL: That’s a great question. We were asked if any of us were fans of Venice and I became a fan once we shot down there. Venice Beach is something I would ignore on the tourist side. If I were to interpret what ‘Alex of Venice’ is, it’s sort of a merger of freedom and a merger of life. When you go to Venice Beach, everyone is living life. If you get to know Venice, you get to know it by its name. What makes Venice is its individual people. When you live at Venice Beach, it’s about living your life.
DL: ‘Supremacy’ has just been accepted into the LA Film Festival. Right now, they are also settling on distributors because they have multiple offers out. What I love about Deon’s Supremacy is the same thing about this film. He’s a filmmaker but Supremacy’s development and birth is outside the system because it was directed outside the system. Finally, it’s in the right place because if the film had come out earlier, it wouldn’t had made the LA festival. Right now, it’s been developing it’s grassroots support.
DL: It’s multiple stories where an ex-con, released from prison and on parole, is in a hard place being free and finding a new life; and all of a sudden he gets into trouble and on the run. When looking for cover, he runs into a family’s house, which happens to be my character’s family. I’m in law enforcement and my father’s played by Danny Glover. I’ve seen a rough cut but things may have changed between when I saw it and when it goes to the festival as far as the plot.
You also have Tarsem Singh’s ‘Selfless’ lined up?
DL: Yes. The film is being edited right now. It’s a reunion of friends. Me and Ryan worked together on ‘Definitely, Maybe.’ All I can say is that when I was cast, what they said to me was that I wasn’t the typical cast for this role. The story is surround by pedigree and I’ve always in a mixture of action and thriller. It’s a great drug for the audience.
Anything else coming up?
DL: Yes. Me and my wife are producing one of first projects. While we’re here at the Tribeca festival, we’re on location scouts and it’s a story we have been developing for the last 10 years. It was a skeleton but now we found the bones to it. We’re breathing life into it and we’ll be launching pretty soon.