It’s not every day that your childhood marches off the big screen and plants itself directly in front of you on a red carpet. But that’s exactly the opportunity presented to me on opening night of the 2019 Twin Cities Film Fest.
Two-time Academy Award nominee Talia Shire (Adrian Balboa in the ‘Rocky’ series, Connie Corleone in ‘The Godfather’ series) was in town with her latest film, ‘Working Man,’ alongside co-star Peter Gerety (‘Sneaky Pete,’ ‘The Wire,’ ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’) and writer/director Robert Jury.
It was all I could do to contain my inner 6-year-old – the one who grew up on a steady dose of ‘Rocky IV’ – from asking multiple questions about Paulie’s birthday robot.
‘Working Man’ tells the story of Allery Parkes (Gerety), a lifelong factory worker who loses his job when the plastic factory he worked in closes. Also facing issues in his personal life, this disruption to his status quo doesn’t sit well with Allery, and he starts going to the plant every day, breaking in and doing as much of his previous work as possible.
While Allery’s co-workers, who also happen to be neighbors, think Allery’s actions are odd and tease the aging man for them, they begin to take notice when fellow worker Walter Brewer (Billy Brown) takes an interest in Allery. Once a plan is in action to save not only the factory, but the jobs the neighborhood so desperately needs, everyone takes note of Allery, including his wife, Iola (Shire), who just wants to know what has happened to her once-attentive spouse.
The idea for ‘Working Man’ sprouted a decade ago from a conversation the Iowa-raised Jury had with his father.
“I was living on the family farm and my dad was on his farmhouse a quarter mile down a gravel road,” he said. “And he’d drive up every morning and bring me the local paper.”
“One day he brought me the local Fort Madison, Iowa paper and it talked about a factory that had been shuttered for years, in fact a factory where my mother had worked when she was a teenager. I looked at it and l kind of laughed to my dad, ‘What if they opened up the door to this factory and found somebody that never got the memo that the place had closed down?’ From there it sort of evolved into the character that Peter plays.”
For both Shire and Gerety, these small, independent, character-driven narratives are exactly the kind of stories they’re looking to tell at this point in their careers.
“I love small movies. It’s the best thing because I want to share the things I know about making movies,” Shire said, adding that she’d been given the script by executive producer Clark Peterson, who also produced the critically-acclaimed ‘Monster,’ starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci. “I’ve done much work with Clark, he’s got great taste … I read it and said ‘Oh, this is unique’ and that’s how that began.”
Shire also noted how lucky she was to work with Gerety, a sentiment shared by Jury, who worried that Gerety’s ‘Sneaky Pete’ schedule wouldn’t allow him to be a part of the project.
“We got very fortunate getting Peter to come in, pretty late in the process, we were getting close to production” he said. “We were really concerned that he’s on this brilliant show on Amazon, and I was really afraid there’d be conflicts – that his show wouldn’t let him away to do our little movie.”
However, it did work for Gerety, as well as for Brown, whose ‘How to Get Away with Murder Schedule’ didn’t keep him from signing on as the film’s third lead.
“Everything, when it needed to work, it worked,” Jury said, noting that most projects, particularly smaller one, seem to always be on the razor’s edge of being made or not.
For his part, Gerety is thankful that this one did not, as it was a story he wanted to tell.
“Being in indie film a lot of actors really want to do it. We want to do them. They’re invariably stories that are coming out of somebody’s heart and somebody’s community, rather than some corporate decision to make the fourth incarnation of Spider-Man,” he said. “So, there are all of these stories about real people, and actors love to do stories about real people.”
More info: https://www.workingmanmovie.com/