Gillian Greene didn’t always think she’d be a director. Or an actor for that matter. But between her father, Lorne Greene, and husband, Sam Raimi, things took a turn — or more of a “curve ball” as she’d call it.
Greene is just getting started on the path to mainstream film success with her latest flick, “Fanboy” — about a video store employee who heads to Hollywood when he finds out his favorite director is auditioning for the film — set for release on March 22. Grit Daily spoke with Greene unpack for her own inspiration into film, and what else is brewing in her directorial cauldron.
Grit Daily: Your early career took quite a turn. Share that story.
Gillian Greene: Yes, I started off watching my father act and it made me want to become an actor, too. For me, however, it morphed into directing because I love the process of acting and I love working with actors, but I wanted to create my own content. Shortly after, I met my husband [Sam Raimi], and I was behind the scenes helping with his films.
I did that for long enough that I decided I wanted to make my own! I chose this career path because I love movies, and spent many years making them with my husband—yet I have a different sensibility than he does, and wanted to do them on my own.
GD: What led to “Fanboy”?
GG: Fanboy came from a desire to tell a story about following your dreams and risking it all, even if things don’t go your way. I really love bittersweet stories, and from the minute Jeremiah gets to Hollywood, he is thrown curve ball after curve ball but he remains un-jaded—which is very difficult and made the character really appeal to me.
GD: How did you determine whether to include your own children in the film?
GG: I needed extras! (Laughs.)
GD: What is JK Simmons really like?
GG: JK is wonderful. He is the greatest actor and the nicest, most hard-working person. There’s a reason my husband and I both keep working with him. He’s family to us at this point.
GD: How was your experience cooperating with your husband, Sam Raimi?
GG: Working with Sam is always great. It was fun to do a project where I got to direct him and people get to see Sam’s acting abilities. Most people don’t know, but Sam is a great comedic actor. He is always helpful and supportive.
He lets me do my thing as I envision it. Behind the scenes, my husband Sam was instrumental in helping me prepare for Fanboy. He inspired me and helped me bring it to life. He is a master director who understands story and character like no one else, so anytime I had a question, he was there to answer it. He was incredible at identifying when an element needed tweaking, whether it was a line in the script, a storyboard, or the way a scene was cut together.
GD: What is the most important piece of advice you wish you had known before you began directing?
GG: The most important advice I wish I had known when I first started directing is how exhausting it would be. A shoot day usually lasts ten to twelve hours, but occasionally, it can go longer, like fourteen hours!
That is a really long time to be on one’s feet answering lots of questions from the crew, working with the actors, and shooting the scenes! And when you do that for 5 days a week, for several weeks on end, it becomes really draining. I love it, but it’s draining.
My father Lorne Greene, who was a successful actor, used to have a saying, and it has stuck with me to this day—and its message is relevant to the central theme of Fanboy. He used to say:
“There are four stages to an actor’s career:
1) Who is Lorne Greene?
2) Get me Lorne Greene!!
3) Get me the *next* Lorne Greene!!
4) Who is Lorne Greene?”
GD: What projects can we anticipate following Fanboy?
GG: I’ll be in the director’s chair again soon for a feature film called “The Caterpillar”. It’s a sincere story about a father and his young son trying to get over the loss of their wife or mom.
I’m also producing a few feature projects, including “Yankees Suck”, the true story of a group of Boston boys in the early 2000s who made millions illegally selling “Yankees Suck” t-shirts outside of Fenway Park, “Tell the Wolves I’m Home”, an adaption of the best-selling book about teenage girl coming to terms with her gay uncle’s AIDS-related death in the 1980s, and “Alone”, the true story of a guy named Brett Archibald who fell overboard into the Indian Ocean, and had to tread water for 28 hours before he was rescued. They are all really fascinating, terrific projects!
GD: Who is one of the most interesting people whom you’ve worked with?
GG: One of the most interesting people I’ve been working with lately is Brett Archibald, the guy that “Alone” is based on. Here’s a guy who faced down death by treading water for 28 hours straight, with literally no one and nothing around him—and during that entire time, with rescue looking less and less likely, had to make peace with who he had been his whole life.
Can you imagine that kind of soul-searching in the face of certain death? Remarkably, he lived to tell the tale.