Returning to their hometown can often offer people the most insight on how they should move forward with their lives, and how their families and childhood friends won’t hold them back from pursuing their dreams, like they originally believed. That’s certainly the case for Jeremy Piven’s protagonist of Mick in the new comedy, ‘Last Call.’
IFC Films is releasing the feature today in theaters and on Digital and On Demand. The movie marks the feature film directorial debut of Paolo Pilladi, who also co-wrote the script with Greg Lindo. In addition to Piven, ‘Last Call’ also stars Bruce Dern, Taryn Manning, Jamie Kennedy, Cathy Moriarty, Chris Kerson and Cheri Oteri. Pilladi, Lindo, Piven and Manning also served as producers on the comedy.
‘Last Call’ follows successful real estate developer, Mick, as he returns home to his offbeat blue collar Irish neighborhood of Darby Heights, which is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, for a funeral. While there, he becomes obligated to stay to ensure his parents’ ailing family business, the local Irish bar, gets back on course.
Amidst all of this, Mick grows closer to his childhood crush, Ali (Manning), who’s also back in town, while also enduring the constant ridicule from his old hometown crew. As he begins to reconnect with the neighborhood he grew up in, he finds himself at a crossroads when he becomes forced to either close or resurrect the family bar.
Pilladi and Lindo generously took the time recently to talk about writing, directing and producing ‘Last Call’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the filmmakers discussed what inspired them to in pen the screenplay, and what the process of creating the story together for the movie was like. Pilladi also delved into what his experience of making his feature film directorial debut on the comedy was like, and how working on the script influenced his helming style on the set. The duo also mentioned what the casting process was like for the movie, and how they think the actors’ natural comedic talent helped improve the story.
ShockYa (SY): Together, you co-wrote the screenplay for the new comedy, ‘Last Call.’ What was the inspiration in scribing the script, and what was the process like of creating the story together for the film?
Greg Lingo (GL): I had originally sat down with friends of mine, Bill Reilly and Michael Baughan, and we compiled together stories about the zany people we met growing up. I was lucky to have been introduced to Paolo through a friend of ours, who ended up shooting B-roll for the film. After we met, Paolo was able to take that raw script and really develop it into a proper three-act film and weave in a love interest. His talent really brought the film to life.
Paolo, in addition to co-penning the movie, you also directed the feature. How did working on the screenplay influence your helming style? How would you describe your overall directorial style?
Paolo Pilladi (PP): It was tremendous. This is my feature directorial debut, and by far the largest cast that I had ever worked with, both in sheer size and in talent. So it was a dream come true, and a blessing and a tremendous experience to be able to have.
As an independent filmmaker, you spend so much time developing and raising money, and not as much time creating the story. But having sat with these characters for so long, before we finally started filming, and to be able to get talent like Jeremy Piven, Taryn Manning, Bruce Dern and Jamie Kennedy to give a voice to these characters, was great; it gives me chills just talking about the feeling. It was a great experience, and really fun.
SY: Speaking of the casting process, ‘Last Call’ stars Jeremy Piven, Bruce Dern, Taryn Manning and Jamie Kennedy, as well as Cheri Oteri. What was the casting process like for the comedy?
GL: We were very fortunate that Paolo had a connection to DJ Dodd, who ended up becoming one of our producers. He linked up with (fellow producer) Rob Simmons to help with the casting. We also had another producer, Ante Novakovic, who helped with the casting. Between the three of them, they had really good connections with casting. So we were able to skip the casting director role, and went right to talent.
Since the film is partially based on my hometown, it was important for me to reach out to local talent that was originally from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, including Cheri Oteri and Jamie Kennedy. I was able to reach out to them directly, while the other producers went directly to the rest of the cast.
SY: Once the actors were cast, what was the process like of working with them to create their characters’ backstories and arcs throughout the film? Did you have any time to rehearse with them?
PP: It was a really great experience. You never know when you go out to talent what attracted them to the project. For me, it was fascinating to hear how many of our cast members became interested in starring in the film.
For example, Zach McGowan’s family had an Irish bar in Manhattan, so there was a ton of experiences in the film that he could relate to during the shoot. Then with Jeremy, he grew up in a neighborhood that wasn’t quite like Darby Heights, but he had a lot that he could bring from growing up in Chicago. Bruce Dern went to the University of Pennsylvania, which is quite close to the town that Greg grew up in Upper Darby. He also golfed in this famous golf course right there. So there were always connections, and actors can really stretch those connections to make them work for them
I believe it was about a month from the time we cast to the time we shot the film. So it was a remarkably quick process from when Taryn first came on board to when we started shooting the film. So we were pretty fortunate that we had a veteran cast that was able to dive right in and stretch out their characters.
SY: Since ‘Last Call’ is driven by comedy, did you encourage the actors to improv at all during the shoot?
GL: We were really fortunate with this cast, as they were able to think on their feet. They’re all funny in their own respects. I don’t know if you’d agree with this, Paolo, but I’d say that given his stand-up comedy chops, Jamie Kennedy was able to bring humor out of all the characters. Do you agree?
PP: Yes, I think so. Like Greg said, everyone, including Jeremy, Taryn, Bruce and Jamie, all have strong comedic chops. Jeremy’s so fast and quick on his feet that it gave me, as the director, the ability to really play in a scene. Like Greg also said, we had people like Jamie, who were able to give the comedy balance.
The overall experience of working on the comedy was tremendous because we did a good deal of improv in each scene. That gave the actors a little bit more autonomy over their characters. It also helped because if I knew there was a weak spot in the script, the actors were able to help improve those scenes. It also made something that we thought was funny that much more so.
A lot of that comes with experience. Jeremy does stand-up now, too, and Jamie comes from that world. Bruce is also an improv master, so it would have been negligent not to lean into that.
SY: The story in the movie is largely driven by the community, and how it influences the characters’ professional and personal lives. What was the process like of deciding where you wanted to film the feature, and securing the locations for the production?
GL: We really wanted the neighborhood to be almost an equal character. Prior to shooting, we went to Upper Darby with a couple of the other producers. I wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable with the town, and how we were visually trying to replicate it, and they got it right away.
I would say it was about in about a week or so that everyone reported back and said that Bayonne, New Jersey was the perfect place to film the movie and replicate Upper Darby. About 20 percent of the story takes place at the Jersey shore, and since we were so much closer to the water there, that helped, from a setting standpoint.
PP: I agree. Filming in Bayonne was great, from a practical standpoint. Everyone was welcoming, and it was a great town to film in. It’s a very genuine town. I hope that besides the laughter, the audience can take away how heartfelt the town is while they watch the film.
For us, it was perfect to replicate Upper Darby there. The bar we happened to find and use was a 100-year-old Polish tavern, and in our script, we had a 100-year-old Irish pub. (Pilladi laughs.) It had so much charm and history that I instantly fell in love with it. So it worked out well for us.
SY: Besides penning and helming ‘Last Call,’ you both also served as producers on the feature, like you mentioned earlier. Why did you decide to also produce the comedy, and how did you balance your producing and directorial styles during the production?
GL: For me, the producing process was eye-opening. This was my first attempt at producing, and seeing the level of project management and teamwork that has to happen is really remarkable and eye-opening to me.
PP: It was a great experience. On all projects, especially on an independent film like this one, you have to stretch a dollar. This project is a really good example of making the limitations work for you.
From a production standpoint, going back to Bayonne, its proximity to New York and the crews there was very helpful. Being able to shoot a large part of this film there also made a ton of sense, in terms of the locations; we were able to set up shop and take over the bar for a month. It was our main location, and also served as our holding trailer and where we set up the catering. Being able to consolidate things is a really wise way to produce on this level. Like Greg also mentioned earlier, we had three other producers who brought their own skill sets to the table, which was obviously also very helpful.
SY: IFC Films is releasing ‘Last Call’ (today) in theaters and On Digital and On Demand. Why do you feel the dual distribution is beneficial for this type of movie?
GL: We really consider ourselves to be fortunate because we partnered with IFC Films on this release. I think the story really resonated well for them, so I think it’s a good fit.
They’re a top-notch distributor, and have a great national reputation and distribution model. So we’ll be in 120 theaters (today) and nearly all streaming services. So we’re really excited about the release.
PP: I agree. I’m thrilled that we’re working with IFC Films. From a filmmaking perspective, to have a distributor like them is a dream come true, and they’re the perfect home for this movie.