Michael Pressman on Frankie and Johnny are Married

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Frankie and Johnny are Married tells the story of TV producer Michael Pressman and his actress wife Lisa Chess’s attempt to mount a theater production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire De Lune.” Pressman and Chess play themselves, though the story of their troubles is heightened for comic effect. For example, in reality, the duo lost the actor playing Johnny to an independent film. In the movie, Alan Rosenberg plays the actor who causes disaster with his insane techniques, explosive personality and drug habit.

Pressman recalled, “Alan was probably one of the most inspiring aspects to writing the script because when we talked about the idea, he said, ‘If you play yourself, I’m going to play Alan playing Alan Rosenberg.’ And the reason that he wanted to do it wasÂ… that he wanted to have that sense of immediacy and reality. Alan is truly playing a character, a prototype. Alan is not only a terrific actor, but he’s a terrific guy. He loves tapping into parts of himself that were never dramatized. He’s never done that or been that way, but those are feelings that are deep down for him. He feels sort of believing and confident that people will certainly know that it’s a character he’s playing.”

The film is full of showbiz archetypes. There is the production manager who doesn’t deliver anything she promises. There is techie immediately jumps to a more prestigious project. And there is the assistant who enters with a strong personality but cracks quickly. “I think the nature of that character is the confident, youthful, inexperienced amateur that in essence is the person who’s like straw. She comes on real strong and then you knock her and she collapses. That’s how I perceived that character. It’s the 21-year-old person who feels like they know it all and tells the star, ‘You’re late.’ It’s like the young girl who’s the P.A. on the movie, her first day and is told to tell the actors to come to the set and she bangs on Jack Nicholson’s trailer door and says, ‘Mr. Nicholson, they’re waiting for you.’ Well, she’s fired and then of course she’s in the car going home crying hysterically. That’s the image of the character.”

Pressman enlisted many of his celebrity friends for cameos as themselves. Chicago Hope stars Mandy Patinkin and Hector Elizondo appear, as well as Picket Fences‘ Kathy Backer. CBS executive Les Moonves appears and Pressman’s friendship and collaboration with David E. Kelley is explored.

“I spoke to him a couple days ago, we won the acting ensemble award at the Ashland film festival and his first response was, ‘Gee, my first award as an actor. Do I get the statue?’ I said, ‘David, it’s just one for the company.’ I’m thinking of sharing it and taking it down to his office and letting him have it for a week so he can get a photograph next to his award. God, I cannot tell you how amazed I have been by his spirit to have fun and poke fun at himself. The big part that’s really the fun part is with his character, I chose to write in such a way that he reveals nothing. That’s David Kelley. He and I never talked about it, I’ve never had that scene with him, I’ve never asked him about his personal life. So in the film, I ask him about his personal life and he rolls the window up. And it was written in the script, he did it as written and he and I, of course, have worked together for 10 years and actually have grown to be really good friends and transcended business. He loves the movie.”

IFC is releasing Frankie and Johnny are Married in select cities, but Pressman does not feel stressed about the shadow of IFC’s previous hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “You know, everyone dreams, but I will say that IFC is hoping for a commercial hit. If it does one 20th of what ‘Greek Wedding’ did, we’ll be thrilled. We’re a complete wild card. The fever of the reaction at festivals has utterly surprised me and has propelled me forward to stay on top of distribution and make sure that we come out in the right theater with the right kind of perception so that the picture has a good chance to build. It needs four to six weeks of just sitting in one theater in LA and one theater in New York and one theater in Chicago and letting word of mouth pull it forward.”

The film has played at the Montreal film festival, the AFI film festival, the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Ashlan Film Festival and the Venice, CA Film Festival. Look for Frankie and Johnny are Married in select cities starting May 26. For more information, visit FrankieJohnny.com.