Ability Magazine Good Luck Interviews
Good Luck. The Movie inspired by real events, is a story of Bernard Lemley (Gregory Hines), a dental technician in Seattle who is fed up with his job. He has been harboring a wild dream-to win a raft race across the ferocious rapids of Oregon’s Rogue River. Even wilder, he decides he wants his partner to be Tony “Ole” Olezeniak (Vince D’Onofrio), an ex-football superstar who lost his sight in an accident. Bernard Lemley is paraplegic.Good Luck is a rollicking and spirited film about two men and a journey called life.
There was a sneak preview of the film at the Olympic Village in Atlanta, during the Paralympic Games. The film was sponsored by AT&T, Kodak and the Atlanta Governors’ Council. They paid for an outdoor screen and a DTS audio system because there are no theaters which house more than two or three wheelchairs at a time. Over1,000 athletes, judges and staff members saw the film. Later they said “it was one of the most important films Hollywood has produced about people with disabilities because it is the first time they are portrayed not as victims, but in a truly positive and uplifting light.”
CC: How do you prepare yourself to play the role of a person that is blind?
VD: First you need to find out how the character you are playing became blind? Was he born blind or was it an accident of some kind? Because their physical behavior and their physiological behavior is different if they were born without sight than if they have lost their sight in an accident. I read a bit about blindness and I went to visit the Braille Institute. I spoke with some people there and I watched a few educational tapes. These tapes were
designed to help family members learn how to understand the psychological impact of being blind. Those were helpful. Once I thought what the psychological behavior was going to be like I knew how I would play the role. My character was depressed for a long time. He had lost his career and his wife had left him. The character of the story is not a heavy drama, so there is only so much you can put into it without making the movie too heavy because you want to keep it in the comedic genre. So you can’t go too heavy with it for this particular film. You
need to figure out what you can use. Then the actual technique of it as an actor to perform it as if you were sight impaired or without sight. My character had no sight at all. To do this you need a concentration technique called the Stanislavsky system of acting which turned into the Straussberg Studio of method acting. I don’t follow it all but it was a part of my schooling at the American Stanislavsky Theatre. You formulate your own technique through a blend of all the others you learn. The technique I would use to portray a sight impaired person, your
eyes still have to move. The muscles around the eyes, unless you have been injured, still work. So there is eye movement, you blink. So the way to do that is you sit in a dark room with a straight backed chair and you create an object that is familiar to you. Something that is easy to create. Something that you can put right in front of your minds’ eye, floating right in front of you. Less than two feet in front of you. Then you create this. In my case I used an eight ball. It was easy for me to create. So I pictured it and became comfortable viewing the eight ball with my eyes closed. Then you open your eyes and move your head around and move your eyes around but you are never seeing anything but what you are concentrating on, in my case the eight ball. This is how I play blind in plays and theatre.
CC: Has anyone discussed the concept of having a blind person play the part of the blind character, instead of a sighted actor portraying a blind person
VD: There have been people who have mentioned this but not actually discussed it with me. There have been blind people in the audience who have listened to it and have loved the film. But nobody has ever brought it up. I am conscious of it though, that these problems exist for actors with a disability. They don’t get to play disabled roles very often. My opinion is that the producers are having to take into consideration that if they are going to hire someone to do the things Greg and I were doing, white water rafting, wheelchair antics, and things that could be
dangerous, the financiers, the bond companies and the banks would not like the fact that their money would be at risk. The insurance companies would never go for it. I do think that in a story with less antics in it would be fine to use a person with a disability. I can’t understand why they don’t use them every time. If they can act. They should not use somebody just because they are disabled, the person with a disability has to be able to act as well. Like any actor, they should be used if they are right for the part.
CC: What movie are you producing?
VD: A movie called the Velocity of Gary. It is about the New York street. It is a three character piece and it’s about their relationships as they live on the street. I produced a film about a year and a half ago with Director, Dan Ireland, called The Whole Wide World. He and I will do another one in September.
CC: You also played the villain in the movie Men in Black.
VD: Yes that was a great part. Barry gave me the control of my character and he let me do some things that weren’t in the script. This is why I have stayed a character actor all these years. Unless you look like Brad Pitt, it’s really hard to have full control of your character. When you are a character actor they trust you will go in and give them a full character and leave. I prefer that. They are much more fun.