The Big Empty - Press Archive - Feeling blue: Steve Anderson left Las Vegas and came back with The Big Empty

 

Source: Las Vegas City Life
20 November 2003

 
Feeling blue: Steve Anderson left Las Vegas and came back with The Big
Empty
 
By Matt Kelemen
The idea for a noirish comedy about an actor, a blue suitcase and UFOs first
came to Steve Anderson as the New York native was leaving Las Vegas on
his way to Los Angeles. "Basically I just drove straight across the country.
I didn't even stay in any hotels or motels along the way; I'd just sleep in my
car. I remember that I'd stayed overnight in Las Vegas. I had pulled in behind
some casino among some trucks that were parked there and woke up early
the next morning."
 
Anderson's head was filled with pre-programmed, California-associated
expectations as he hit the border: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Ventura Highway.
"It's like this big moment, but of course you right in the middle of the
Mojave, so the first town you see is Baker. I like Baker, but it immediately
helped lower expectations."
 
Baker became the destination for the protagonist of The Big Empty, Anderson's
first feature. The finished film comes in for a landing Thursday, Nov. 20, when
the Hard Rock hotel-casino rolls out the red carpet for its premiere.
 
Usually an indie film with a limited release will appear here weeks, if not
months (or at all), after its New York/L.A. debut. The Big Empty arrives with
no critical buzz, a rookie director and an absurdist plot about a down-on-his-luck
actor who is hired to drive a locked blue suitcase to Baker, where he gets
wrapped up with the space-alien minded locals before delivering it to "Cowboy."
 
But Anderson has some odds working in his favor. Jon Favreau - white-hot right
now as the director of the No. 1 movie in the country, Elf - signed on to play
John Person, an aspiring actor who works as a courier to make ends meet. Bud
Cort (Harold and Maude) plays the crazed neighbor who offers him $27,000, the
exact amount he is in debt, to deliver the suitcase. Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings)
is the mysterious Cowboy, whose ultimate goal is hidden from Person, and
whose ultimate purpose is hidden from the audience. Daryl Hannah, Rachel
Leigh Cook and Kelsey Grammar round out the cast.
 
Anderson has spent plenty of time behind the camera. He has shot seven
documentaries for PBS, trotted around the globe on assignment for CNN and
was on hand to capture the L.A. riots. "I was intent on writing and eventually
directing a film, but I got caught up in the cameraworld. But I never considered
it my career. I was still writing every day."
 
Inspired by a screening of the low-budget film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane
at Sundance, he decided to write a screenplay that might be affordable to
make. " I had a few rules: There wasn't anything in the script that I didn't own
or could afford to rent, and I wanted to set it some place where we wouldn't
have to worry about permits. The desert was perfect."
 
Once Favreau read the script and liked it enough to star in it, the rest of the
cast fell in to place. Then Echo Lake Productions, who had backed previous
critical successes such as Allison Anders' excellent Things Behind the Sun and
Jill Sprecher's Thirteen Conversation About One Thing, picked up the film.
With a $1.9 million budget, Anderson was on his way.
 
The primary reason for premiering in Las Vegas is to benefit the Lili Claire
Foundation, a charity for children with neurogenetic disorders such as autism
and Down Syndrome, and Anderson expects most of the main cast to attend.
But he also figures since he shot the film in this city's "backyard," it made
sense to open it here. "We shot the whole movie in Baker, which is a stone's
throw from Vegas, and on weekends off, we made the mistake of thinking, 'Hey,
we got two days off, let's go rest in Vegas.' You're up for 48 hours and then
you come back more tired than before. But it was still fun."
 
The Big Empty premieres at the Hard Rock on Nov. 20. Tickets are $10,
and $25 for premiere seating with meet and greet.
 

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