Writer/director Tony McNamara, while on hand to talk about his new film, “Ashby,” after a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, said he “just wanted to make a coming of age, facing death movie.” Well, that he did.
I really enjoyed this movie, which took a lot of interesting twists and turns. The character who is coming of age is Ed, played by the wonderful Nat Wolff (“The Fault In Our Stars”), and the person who is facing death is Ashby, played by Mickey Rourke. You couldn’t ask for a stranger pair in a film. Yes, they’re even stranger than Bill Murray and the little boy in “St. Vincent.”
Ashby, it turns out, is dying of a brain tumor, while Ed misses his father, who is building a new family in another city. Meanwhile, Ed’s mother, played by Sarah Silverman, is a bit lost and dating men who don’t treat her very well. Emma Roberts (Eric Roberts’ daughter) plays the girl who captures Ed’s interest. She’s definitely an actress to watch.
Ashby and Ed are unlikely friends, especially when Ed finds out Ashby’s dark secret – that he is a retired CIA assassin. I don’t want to give away too much because the many surprises are what I enjoyed most about this film.
Tony said he’s influenced by filmmakers like Barry Levinson, who mix humor with drama, and that’s evident in “Ashby.” While it’s primarily a comedy, it’s often very dark. There is violence and threat and plenty of pathos. Tony said that he wanted to make sure the film didn’t become “too cute.”
With regard to casting, Tony said that after Mickey had read the script, someone called and said, “Do you want to go to Mickey Rourke’s house?” Tony’s reaction was, “Seems kind of scary … but yeah!” He said that while Mickey is a “character,” he was great to work with, and Mickey and Nat got along well on set, discovering that they had the same acting teacher in New York.
Primarily, Tony wanted actors who were capable of being both truthful and funny on screen. Yes, Mickey Rourke is quite funny in this, although he plays the character straight – similar to what Robert DeNiro does when he’s in a comedy. He also has some very touching moments that brought me to tears.
Funny, touching, surprising, and just plain weird, “Ashby” is a really fun ride. I’m not sure when it will make it into theaters, and there isn’t yet a trailer. But watch for this one!