Interview with 'California Solo' Writer/Director Marshall Lewy

Photo Credit: Photo by Alexandra Wyman – © 2012 Getty Images – Image courtesy
December 3rd, 2012

Writer/Director Marshall Lewy graciously took the time to sit and talk with us here at Movie Room Reviews about his new film California Solo which is being releases December 7th in LA, and stars the great Scottish actor Robert Carlyle who well known for his roles in Trainspotting, The Full Monty, and currently stars on the hit TV show Once Upon a Time.  Marshall talks about what inspired him to write a movie about a washed up British musician struggling with his demons. 

Movie Room Reviews- I’m here talking with the writer/director of the new film California Solo, Marshall Lewy.  Marshall has done several films in the past including 2007‘s Blue State which he also wrote and directed.  Marshall how are you today?

Marshall- I’m doing very well.

MRR- Well we’re here to talk about your new film California Solo, can you give our audience a break down of what the movie is all about?

Marshall- Yeah, it’s a film starring Robert Carlyle, who you might know from Trainspotting, and The Full Monty, and right now he is on the ABC show Once Upon a Time. He plays a former brit-pop rock star who has settled into a life in southern California working on an organic farm. At the beginning of this film he gets a DUI which leads to a chain of events where he is now facing deportation from the United States, and he has to face something he has been avoiding for quite sometime.

MRR- I just watched the film and I thought it was very well done.  I knew you directed it, but until I saw the ending credits I hadn’t realized you also wrote it.  What inspired you to write this film? The main character Lachlan is from Scotland and is played by Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, is this a coincidence?

Marshall- No I actually wrote it with Robert Carlyle in mind. I didn’t have him in the film yet, but I have always been a big fan of his and I thought it would be kind of interesting to put him at the center of an American independent film. I wrote it with his voice in my head, and so it made the character really flow.  When he agreed to do the movie there was a lot he was able to bring to the table because he came up at the same time that this character Lachlan was supposed to have hit it big, the early to mid 90‘s brit-pop era.  He knew the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, and he knew Paul Weller of the Jam, and he knew the guys from Massive Attack, so he brought a lot of that experience. The big night club of that movement is called the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester which is sort of like Studio 54 of that time period.  That’s where Robert Carlyle met his wife, which I didn’t know when I wrote the script, but there all kinds of little connections like that which were huge for him bringing the character to life. 

MRR- Was the band in the movie that he played in, The Cranks, a real band?

Marshall- Glad you thought so but no they are made up.

MRR- I thought they might be because the name sounds legit.

Marshall- It was drawn from some bands from that time period, but we invented a fictional band.  The song that you hear in the movie that he plays off The Cranks big record, Bank Street Waltz, which people are talking about all throughout the film , was written by a Brooklyn based band that’s inspired by brit-pop called the Violins.  We worked together to make a song that would of sounded like one of the big brit-pop anthems of that period. 

MRR- Why a musician for this film?  Why not an athlete or actor?  What made you want to make your main character a washed up musician?

Marshall- I don’t think I thought about it too much and I love music.  There’s obviously a tradition of movies about washed up musicians that goes back to Tender Mercies, and probably before that.  It probably just represents something for people with lost dreams and aspirations.  The film actually started with a quote from Neil Young, “It’s better to burn out then to fade away”, which didn’t make it into the final film, but that idea has been there for a long time.  There’s something about these fantastic flame outs, which is the name of the podcast he does in the movie, or maybe better than the just sort of slowly withering on the vine like Lachlan is doing in the film.

MRR- It was actually a little hard for me to watch personally because I always wanted to become a big musician, and have been playing for 20 years, but I was always too apprehensive to go dedicate my life to it because it is so hard to make it, and what happens when the music’s over?  Lachlan in this film is what happens.

Marshall- (laughs) Well not always.  That was one of the things Carlyle knows, I know musicians as well, and he knows some from that period.  The good, the bad, and the ugly; all versions.  The one’s that are still doing it and the one’s that didn’t quite make it.  One of the cool things about making the movie and getting it out there at places like Sundance, where people see it, and especially the fact that musicians seem to really respond to it when they see it is really gratifying for me. 

MRR- Most musicians would also love to have that Gibson Les Paul in the movie.  Was that borrowed?

Marshall- Oh yeah it was borrowed and it was definitely the most expensive thing we had on the set. I remember the prop department just constantly warning people saying “This a real Les Paul Reissue Sunburst so be careful”. 

MRR- You did a good job at making the audience like Lachlan.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t like this guy in real life.  He’s a nice guy under the microscope but he is pretty crazy and selfish.  How did you want to portray Lachlan?

Marshall-  Well I wanted the audience to make up their own mind.  I kind of like trying that as a filmmaker, and I did it a little bit in Blue State, but not quite as much.  Taking somebody who might be a little hard to like at times, but you’re not always agreeing with what they are doing to him so you want to sympathize with that.  I don’t know, I think it’s an interesting challenge as a filmmaker and it makes for interesting characters, which is why I think in today’s day in age a lot of the TV characters you see fit this model because it makes for interesting, and compelling, drama.  There’s definitely moments in the movie where I want the audience to cringe, or I want the audience to be sitting on their hands saying, “What are you doing?”, and hopefully in the end, like you said, you do like this guy despite all that.  That’s kind of how the people around him have felt. He’s the guy who has coasted on his charm for a long time, and in a way the movie is about the moment where that coasting runs out of gas. 

MRR- When I was watching it I noticed that you are getting Lachlan’s view on everything and the other characters just kind of come in and out of his world.  In other movies, you get the mother’s view, the father’s view, the main character’s view, and so forth, but in this one it’s pretty much Lachlan’s view throughout the movie.

Marshall- Absolutely. There are a couple movies I was inspired by for that. It’s definitely Lachlan’s view, and that’s why you don’t delve into the lives of really anybody else.  Carlyle was in not just every scene, but literally almost every shot of the movie.  It’s very much from his perspective.  You don’t see anything about other characters except for what Lachlan sees.

MRR-  How will our audience be able to see the film?

Marshall-  The film was released in New York on November 30th and will be in LA on December 7th.  Then it will move on to San Diego, Palm Springs, San Francisco, and it’s gonna continue rolling out to theaters from there. 

MRR- The film has already won a couple of awards right?

Marshall- Yeah that’s right.  We won best film last month at the Woodstock film festival and Carlyle’s won a couple of best acting awards.

MRR- When will it be easily accessed for anyone to watch like on VOD or DVD?

Marshall- Well hopefully it will come to a theater near you in December or January, and will probably be out on DVD a few months after that.

MRR- What other projects can we look forward to seeing from you Marshall?

Marshall- I am making a film called Exodus that we are going to shoot early next year which is a thriller set in the Caribbean.  I also wrote the script for a film called Born to Run which is from a great New York best-seller called Born to Run by Chris Mcdougall. 

MRR- Well thanks Marshall for taking the time to talk with us here at Movie Room Reviews and I hope the film is a huge success for you.

Marshall- Thanks Nick.