The husband and wife team to Screen about working together on Love Ranch.
Love Ranch, which will have its market premiere tomorrow (May 15), marks the first film that husband-and-wife team Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford have worked on together since they met on White Nights in 1985.
“Obviously I did want to work with Taylor again, it was a constant question in my mind,” Mirren told Screen during an interview in Cannes. “On every film he does, I go to the set, I hand out candy to the crew. But we hadn’t worth together since the 1980s, and it was always a question in my mind, will we work together again?” She was also drawn to the character: “It was a wonderfully intriguing character, situated in a milieu in which I don’t usually work.”
Mark Jacobson wrote the script, based on the true story of Joe and Sally Conforte, the couple who in the 1970s opened Mustang Ranch, the first legal brothel in Nevada. Mirren plays madam Sally, Joe Pesci plays her husband Joe, and newcomer Sergio Peris-Mencheta plays her boxer lover. The “girls” include Tayryn Manning, Bai Ling and Gina Gershon.
Hackford, whose last feature film was Oscar-winning Ray, did not make the film overly sexy and glamorous. “I’ve always liked to make films about the workforce,” he said. “The brothel is a bizarre workplace but a workplace nonetheless. It’s not romanticizing this workplace as a great sexy world, but the day to day working of it.”
Mirren took her madam-ing seriously as well: “I met the present madam at Mustang Ranch, Susan Austin, I met her and I found that enormously helpful. She really takes her role seriously. There is the sense of being a businesswoman.”
While she was backing her husband of course, Mirren said she fit in with the cast as she would on any other film. “As the madam, I had to create a family with the girls, I was there spokesperson, I was on their side,” she explained. “With Taylor, what we didn’t go was go home at night and say, ‘This didn’t work, let’s try this…’ We didn’t dissect the day’s work.”
The film shot mostly in New Mexico in 2008, and its completion was delayed by financial issues related to the David Bergstein financial meltdown (his Capitol Films had been selling; E1 recently came on board for worldwide rights and the US release). Hackford says: “It was very frustrating because we shot the film within the allotted time and budget, then we started to cut the film, and then everything stopped, literally for a year it was in limbo. There’s nothing wrong with the film, we didn’t have any reshoots or anything. The great thing is that we were able to finish the film and the film is about to be seen.”
Hackford has several projects in development and it currently waiting to see which one goes first: a big film set in 1870s Shanghai, a film about Cortes and the conquest of Mexico, and a smaller biopic about Tennessee Williams.
“I put things off to stay with this film and complete it, that does interrupt your flow as a filmmaker,” he said. “When the film is released July 4 that will be my release too.”
Next up for Mirren is playing a nanny in Russell Crowe’s Arthur remake and playing a housekeeper for Istvan Szabo’s The Door. “I’m playing a nanny and a cleaner, there’s no more Queens for me,” she quipped. (Her forthcoming releases include The Tempest, The Debt, Brighton Rock, and Red).
The pair said they’d work together again if the chance comes up for the right project. “Actors are mostly motivated by a great role,” Hackford said. Mirren quickly added with a smile: “I’m motivated by spending time with my husband.”