December 8, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Actor J.K. Simmons's digits are all intact, thank you.
The question of Simmons's endangered appendages naturally arises in conversation with the actor, not from his role in the horror film Dark Skies, in which he plays an aliens-are-among-us conspiracy theorist.
It has to do with his experience in Winnipeg shooting the icy 2009 rom-com New in Town opposite Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. a few years back.
Simmons is a busy actor who has often bounced between TV (Oz, Law & Order, The Closer) and movies, often turning up in prestige films by the Coen brothers (Burn After Reading, The Ladykillers) and Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air).
The experience of making New in Town still registers vividly in the 58-year-old actor's experience.
"It was 54 degrees below Fahrenheit when we were shooting exteriors one night," Simmons says. "I come from Detroit and Ohio, so I know from snow.
"But that was something else," he says, laughing at the memory of Louisiana-born Harry Connick Jr.'s reaction to that especially bitter winter shoot.
"Harry was in a state of shock," Simmons said with a laugh. "He couldn't get his brain around it."
The horror of a Winnipeg cold snap notwithstanding, Simmons says he hasn't dipped in the horror genre very often.
"I've never really be drawn to horror," he says. "But with Dark Skies, I don't think of it as science fiction-horror film. To me it's a family drama."
As for the credibility of Dark Skies' conjecture of mind-controlling aliens, let's just say Simmons is a lot less cynical than, say, his hard-bitten editor J. Jonah Jameson in his Spider-Man movies."I don't necessarily believe," he says. "But I don't discount it either."
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Winnipeg writer Bill Fugler wasn't actively seeking a credit on the Internet Movie Database when he was at work in his Wolseley bookstore/coffee house The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café.
The credit came to him when filmmaker Sean Garrity walked into the Westminster Avenue establishment one day.
"He came into the cafe and asked if I would work with him, Fugler says. "I thought he wanted to rent the café as a set. But he said, 'Do you write?' I said, 'Yes, how do you know?' And he wouldn't tell me."
From this auspicious (if mysterious) beginning, Fugler would submit a story to Garrity titled Killing Someone that would be transmogrified into the thriller Blood Pressure, which is showing at Cinematheque.
Fugler says he loves the film and appreciates Garrity's perseverance with helping him finish the original story.
"It was a story that I started and never finished and it kept coming back to me because I wanted to finish it," Fugler says.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 G4