Leading up to the Arizona International Film Festival, Tucson actor, filmmaker and reviewer Brendan Guy Murphy talks intentional faux pas, ramming whaling boats, and respect. By Joan Calcagno.
Early bird or night owl? “I’m predominately a night owl, but it kind of comes and goes. That’s just part of being a Gemini – and depending on what work is happening at the moment. I mean, I love mornings but I love sleep even more, so I do lean more towards night owl. My girlfriend and I live together and she works kind of normal hours so for us to spend time together, it helps dictate when we go to bed – we want to go to bed together.”
Favorite accessory? “It used to be watches, but I think the cellphone has killed that industry a little bit. Now I really enjoy glasses. So far, I have three pairs – two regular and one pair prescription sunglasses. I’m fighting hard not to get any more!”
Favorite faux pas? “I kind of feel like I’m a walking faux pas. I am always saying something inappropriate, but not mean-spirited. For me, it’s more of a disarming thing – it allows me to break into a new situation and allows me to connect with somebody much more quickly. Intentional faux pas – just little jabs. I think you can tell who you can do that with. It’s an ice-breaker and cutting through the bullshit very quickly.”
If I weren’t an actor/reviewer/producer I would… “If I stayed in the arts, and went back in time, I would be an opera singer or photographer for National Geographic. If not in the arts, I would want to do something to help preserve wildlife – like join a vessel that rams whaling boats or some other very active participation. I was so captivated by the guy who was one of the originators of Greenpeace and then broke off, bought a boat. They put themselves in between whaling vessels and whales – spears flying over their heads. I thought ‘Now that’s really putting your money where your mouth is!’ Something that drives me – that I want to make another short film about – is empathy, decency and respect for wildlife. Nothing moves me more.”
If I could change one thing I would… “The idealist [in me] would wish for a re-start button for the world, and the U.S., since that’s where I’m living. I think there are institutions and laws that perpetuate racism, sexism and homophobia and wealth disparity. Life is challenging enough without ignorant human-made tremendous hurtles to overcome as well. With a re-start, I wouldn’t put everything in a small group’s hands. There would be a level playing field, with everyone having as much power and respect and a voice as everyone else.”
What’s your involvement with this year’s Arizona International Film Festival? “I reviewed about 30 films for the Arizona International Film Festival to help the organizers make decisions about what films should be included. I try to become the film viewer that I would like other film viewers to be. For some festivals, reviewers only watch the first minute and half of a short film or the first fifteen minutes of a feature film and make a decision. But I know the work that goes into [making a film]. It can be difficult, but I watched every film I was given at least once all the way through and sometimes two or three times if I was on the fence about something. It can be hard not to have preconceived notions, because you’ve heard about [a film] but good reviewers allow themselves to be taken somewhere unexpected.”
What film will you not be missing at this year’s Arizona International Film Festival? “Some of the films I reviewed I really want to see on the big screen. One will be showing opening night of the festival. It’s a South Korean feature film: Late Spring. It’s an interesting story about a man with a physical ailment who is somewhat catatonic because he cannot do sculpture anymore. His wife looks to find him a muse. It’s not just about his rehabilitation or the love his wife has for him, it says a lot about Korean society and the family unit. It hit me on deeper levels every ten minutes. And it’s beautifully shot.”
Favorite cinematic moment? “I’m a huge fan of Stanley Tucci. I got to meet him briefly. James Redford, Robert Redford’s son, made a movie here called Spin and I was cast as Stanley Tucci’s brother. I didn’t have any scenes with him; I die in the beginning. I wanted to be there longer so I asked if I could be a stand-in so I could be around for the whole film, waiting for a moment.
“One day Stanley Tucci came up to me and asked for a cigarette and I thought ‘Here’s that moment’. [We talked] about his movie Big Night – it was his casting, he wrote it, produced it, those are all his friends in it – and the cinematic moment at the end when there’s not a word spoken and the brothers come back together in the kitchen and are quietly eating eggs made in olive oil together and they pat each other on the back and hug a little as if to say ‘big fight – we don’t agree on these things, but we’re brothers’. I’ve never made eggs in butter again.”
* Find all the details about this year’s Arizona International Film Festival, April 11-27, here. Brendan will be appearing in the festival in the short film Sheltered Love. He will begin shooting Blood Widow, the first feature film for his company Murphy Speaking Films, this fall.
* Want to go to the film fest’s opening party? We’re giving away two sets of tickets!