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Director credits Scorsese, Baldwin and his unpaid cast for making Lymelife tick
There’s a scene about three-quarters of the way into Lymelife in which Alec Baldwin absolutely loses it, albeit briefly. That’s right, the distinguished American actor and star of NBC’s 30 Rock blows his top. Can you imagine such a thing?
“I think that’s Alec being Alec,” said director Derick Martini, “still inspired” that the actor chose to unleash raw emotions in a $1.5 million picture that was shot in 22 days.
Martini was standing at the back of Santa Ana’s Yost Theater, where his dark family dramedy had just been warmly received by fewer than 100 people gathered for the Lake Forest-based Etnies shoe company’s inaugural “The Cinema” screening March 27. (The shindigs mix independent films with PBR-fueled after-parties a few blocks away at Lola Gaspar.) That same morning, it was announced Lymelife would open the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 23.
For anyone who saw it at the Yost, it’ll be like seeing a different movie on the “Big Newport” screen at Edwards Newport Cinemas. Martini was aghast that Lymelife, which he shot in Cinemascope, was projected onto the Santa Ana screen via a DVD projector. And it took three tries to get the audio in sync with the images. But the story he wrote with his brother Steven Martini—who also produced, composed the original music and built the miniature neighborhoods captured in images that serve as bumpers between many scenes—shone through.
Lymelife is based on the brothers’ lives on Long Island in the early 1980s. “We sold out family secrets,” Martini joked.
Mickey Bartlett (Baldwin) is a successful subdivision developer who is respected more by his sensitive, picked-on younger son Scott (Rory Culkin) than his older boy Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), who is on holiday leave from the Army. Mickey’s wife, Brenda (Jill Hennessey), is flighty, dreams of moving back to Queens and is bugged about her family catching the Lyme disease infecting their neighborhood. Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton) is mentally damaged by the disease. Scott has the hots for Bragg’s daughter Adrianna (Emma Roberts), while Mickey and Bragg’s wife, Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), have the hots for each other.
Lymelife premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won a critics’ award. It also did well with Sundance audiences in January.
Martini told the Weekly there would be no Lymelife without Baldwin, and the Martini brothers would not be rising so quickly in the movie business were it not for Martin Scorsese.
Baldwin, who also hails from Long Island, sat on the project for years before a shooting schedule was finally arranged that had him on 30 Rock’s midtown Manhattan set for three days and three days on location in northern New Jersey for Lymelife, an arrangement Martini conceded was “a pain in the ass.” Even so, he had no complaints about working with his leading man or anyone else in his cast. How could he? They all worked for free.
“Everyone was excited about the script,” Martini said as he took questions from the audience in front of the Yost screen. “They all showed up and delivered. The thing I am most proud of is the cast. They all came and kicked ass.”
Had they worked for their normal fees and for the usual 40 days, he estimated Lymelife would have cost $40 million to make. “Everything is up on the screen,” he said.
The Martini brothers caught the eye of Scorsese at Toronto in 2000. Actually, it was their first film, Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish, Scorsese saw. Martini got a call while driving in his car one day, and the woman on the line identified herself as Scorsese’s assistant, who had the filmmaker on hold. Martini gave a “yeah, right” reply before the legendary director cut in. “Holy shit, this is Martin Scorsese,” Martini said to himself as he pulled his car over. Scorsese told Martini he liked the film, but no one would see it unless a big name was attached to it. He suggested it be marketed in theaters as “Martin Scorsese presents Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish.” Scorsese also advised deleting a couple of scenes because the film was too long. “He was right,” Martini said, chuckling at the memory.
After the Lymelife script was completed, a copy was sent to Scorsese’s agent. Scorsese contacted Martini, said he loved it, but, again, complained the picture was too long.
“He’s always saying, ‘Keep the train moving,’” Martini said in his best Scorsese delivery. But Martini recalled some lengthy Scorsese films where it was obvious Marty had not heeded his own advice. Martini told Scorsese Lymelife was very personal to the brothers and that they disagreed with the suggested cuts. Expecting the sound of a slammed receiver, Martini instead heard Scorsese break into laughter. He recalled Scorsese then saying, “You know what? You’re right.” Scorsese is credited as an executive producer on Lymelife.
“He’s been great to me,” Martini said, “and I appreciate it.”
Martini found promoting Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish a chore because that was “a calling-card type thing” to prove the brothers could deliver. But he loves showing and talking about Lymelife because of the pride he has in the work.
“Come hell or high water, I was going to make this picture,” he said. “It’s really important to do something you’re excited about.”