Wednesday, March 9, 2016
By 1981, I had returned from Paris and had already made two movies that I filmed out in the desert on and around El Mirage, a dry lake bed located between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The first was Desert Center with Gérard Ismaël and Georganne LaPiere (who played the original Heather on General Hospital and was Cher Bono's sister) and the second was Success with Gérard Ismaël and Vinny Argiro (an actor who owned the trendy men's clothing store Mike Bain on the Sunset Strip). I decided to make a third film with Gérard when a friend who was an art gallery owner in Palm Springs offered me the run of the Palm Canyon Hotel, also in Palm Springs. I could shoot there to my heart's content for as long as I needed without restriction; it was an offer I couldn't refuse.
During that period, I made it a policy to welcome anyone visiting from France to stay in my apartment at no cost as a way of thanks for the exceptionally nice treatment I had received during my time in Paris; giving back, as the saying goes. At the time, I had two Frenchmen--Serge Georgeon and Yves Morel--living as guests in my apartment, both involved in their own film projects, who agreed to come onto the project as actors playing international traffickers of art forgeries. Serge introduced me to jazz bassist Bunny Brunel who would score and perform the music for what would become Fait Accompli.
I was having difficulty casting a leading lady though I auditioned a large number of actresses in the weeks leading up to the filming. Leading men and leading ladies must have qualities that can be optional in other roles. Not only must they be competent and fascinating, they must have sexual appeal and, together, they must have chemistry. I was learning that this was not the easiest combination to achieve.
One day, I received a photograph from an actress that took my breath away--not only was she beautiful and statuesque looking for all the world like Rachel Ward, she exuded an intelligent playfulness in the photo that would serve the role very well. I have my leading lady!, I thought to myself. When the time came for her audition the next morning, in walked a woman that had nothing in common with what I saw in the photograph except dark hair. She was much older, much shorter and weighed at least three times as much as the actress in the photograph I had received. Feeling, perhaps, that an accurate photo would not have gotten her any roles, she sent one she (rightly) believed would get her in the door. Sadly, that's as far as it got her on this occasion.
On the heels of this development, Serge suggested that I might want to consider Bunny's wife Nani who he thought would be perfect. He was right; she was. A beautiful brunette whose native language was French, her English was flawless and she had great chemistry with Gérard. Thank you, Serge!
A few days before we were to leave for Ensenada where I wanted to shoot part of the film, Gérard came to me and told me that he couldn't go to Mexico. His immigration status required that he stay in the US and leaving would have interrupted the process causing him no end of grief. So, here I was with a cast and crew ready to leave for Mexico minus one leading man. How did that happen?
My options were to shoot the entire film in California or go to Mexico and add another role in the film that could take up the slack caused by Gérard's absence. I decided I wanted the exotic Mexican locations in the film and quickly put out a notice to find Leading Man, Part B. With only days to find a candidate, I was not hopeful and could not find what I was looking for. In the end, it was easier just to play the role myself. I wrote in a character who is killed in the opening scene and who we see in punctuating flashbacks through the balance of the film. His death became the impetus for Gérard's actions in what was a story of love and revenge.
It would not be the last time I would have to introduce a new character in a film to take up the slack created by circumstances; it became a useful solution when I was making Dead Right. I found that using conservative, 'old Hollywood studio system' concepts combined with guerrilla filmmaking tactics was a very effective approach to movie making.
We had a great shoot and part of the fun is described here:
In addition to everything else, Fait Accompli brought me an unexpected reward. As I was marketing the film to producer reps, Robert Lecky was one who responded and though another company took the film, Robert became an important friend and mentor for almost two decades. He passed in 2000 and is deeply missed.