- BC Games
West Van 'Glee kids' head to VIFF
Tony Pantages wants to talk about 3 Days in Havana without really having to talk about it.
It’s kind of “I’d love to tell you about the plot but then I’d have to kill you.”
Because talking about the plot of this thriller/mystery/crime movie dances dangerously close to revealing the plot. In fact, the co-director even tells me that it would be better not to screen an advance copy because I would miss out on the thrill of watching its world premiere on the big screen of a darkened theatre with a whole bunch of other movie lovers at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
If you head to VIFF.org and look up 3 Days in Havana, it says this: “In Havana on business, Jack Petty (Gil Bellows, who directs with Tony Pantages) finds himself mixed up in a conspiracy that includes assassination, kidnapping and more. The fun here comes not just from the gritty details, sharp plot twists, close shaves and slick repartee, but from the knowledge, quickly acquired, that nothing is what it seems.”
So, now that we have the plot out of the way…
But there’s something else we should clear up, first. 3 Days in Havana is not Seven Days in Havana, and not just because it was made with a lot less money and five fewer directors. Bellows (Smallville, Ally McBeal, Shawshank Redemption) and Pantages came up with the name of their movie first but Benecio del Toro et al finished and distributed their seven days/seven directors film first.
For Pantages, 3 Days in Havana pays homage to some of his favourite films by mentor John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man). It also celebrates Cuba. Even though the film is about deception, conspiracy and murder, Cuba is not cast as the bad guy. It’s the people who go there who do bad things.
“Havana is fuelled by spirit, resilient to tragedy and buoyed by pride,” says Pantages. “Cuba is the David to the world’s Goliath…. It made us hold up a mirror to ourselves. The villains aren’t Communist Cubans. The villains are people you and I know.”
It was a dream to shoot there because everything was possible. Need a street scene? No problem. Have a sign on a building in the background? You don’t need to have it removed. Besides, it’s a city of great beauty and charm. “A blind man could shoot an award-winning film in Cuba,” Pantages says.
Pantages and Bellows wrote the initial script with lots of input from friends. In the final stage, Steve Pink (Gross Pointe Blank, High Fidelity) came on board. He was working with Bellows on another project and “fell in love with” 3 Days in Havana. “He directed scenes on the written page,” Pantages says.
As co-directors, Pantages says he and Bellows “had each other’s back. We’re a two-headed beast. Gil’s an intelligent, analytical man who break things down. I’m ‘throw the spaghetti against the wall and see if it sticks.’”
Twenty-six years ago, Pantages and Bellows met when they were both acting in a project in Tofino. “We were sitting on a log telling stories to one another. We shook hands and said we were going to make quality films.”
Christopher Heyerdahl (Twilight Saga, True Blood, Hell on Wheels) plays a Canadian Consulate official in 3 Days in Havana. He and Pantages have been friends since they were in Barry Rector’s musical theatre class at West Vancouver secondary. “We were the Glee kids and Barry really inspired us. He’s still a mentor to a lot of us,” says Pantages, who gives a shout-out to Rector and Schlesinger in the movie’s credits.
Heyerdahl shares Pantages’ reticence about giving too much away about his character, Anders. “It’s difficult to describe…,” he says. “You can’t say good guy or bad guy. He creates conflict and he’s not who or what our hero expects. He surprises both the characters and the audience.”
“What we perceive and what is happening can be two different things,” Pantages says with that air of mysteriousness.
Other actors include Greg Wise and his mother-in-law Phyllida Law, John Cassini and fellow Vancouverites Robin Dunne and Lauren Lee Smith.
3 Days in Havana screens Sept. 28 at 6:15pm at the Rio Theatre and Oct. 4 at 4:10pm at International Theatre. Go to VIFF.org for tickets.
- Martha Perkins, Black Press