Inspired by the Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign, 18½ follows Connie, a White House transcriber who exclusively receives 18.5 minutes of never-before-heard Nixon tapes. Intending to release them to the public, she contacts Paul, a Times reporter, and together they find a safe place to hear them. Despite their good intentions, they encounter many distractions and problems, including technology, a hippie cult, and swingers.
Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro star18½. Rounding out the cast are Gina Kreiezemer, Marija Juliette Abney, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Richard Art. It is directed by Dan MirvishCo-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, who co-wrote the screenplay with Daniel Moya.
The theatrical release is set for May 27th, but before that Kind and Mirvish came to Movieweb to chat about the film.
Richard Kind in 18½
Art is recognizable from a long list of shows and films Curb your enthusiasm to from the inside to the outside. He plays Jack in 18½, an eyepatch clerk at the motel that Connie and Paul deem a safe place to listen to the Nixon tapes. “The motel was spectacular. It was great. It had this real throwback to the 70’s look with neon signs and the rooms were so unusual. It’s a beautiful location right on the water. The role… she lent herself to the craziness that is the film’s essence, and what really defines it is the eye patch. There’s no explanation as to why I’m wearing it, but you want to know how I got it, which makes me want to wear it – who knows? And I really like that weirdness in the film.” Art said.
The eye patch also helps emphasize comedic elements in the script, as Jack jokes about a football game that was so exciting he had to watch with one eye closed. “I think it fits the character that I’m not necessarily a hippie, but I’m a free spirit. And things don’t bother me.” Art added.
Kind also commented on working with Mirvish, recalling the experience as being very beautiful. “He is a nice guy. I admire his courage in business… I’ve done a film for him before which is intelligent and funny and smart… he’s passionate… he’s aiming for good artistic success which I think of 18½ does.”
Dan Mirvish on 18½
“The whole thing started because the last day of my last film, Bernard and Huey, was during the 2016 election in November. And the next day I wanted to see Jules Feiffer… and inevitably we started talking about the election and Trump. And Feiffer has won a Pulitzer Prize for political cartoons … most notably on Nixon and Watergate. And so this conversation inevitably turned to talking about Nixon and Watergate.” Mirvish explained.
“I then took a ferry and saw this great motel, the Silver Sands Motel,” he continued, recalling how his friend Terry inherited it from his grandparents. “He’s been directing it for about a decade and he said, ‘We do a lot of fashion shoots, but we’ve never done a feature film here. We closed for the winter so the cast and crew can stay here.” … it’s like, “Ah! This is my time to do a Watergate film.’”
With the location and general idea established, Mirvish began to do further research to determine exactly what angle he wanted to take. While this was happening, his co-writer Moya was conducting original research, being fresher on the scandal itself. “We discovered that there were several offices in the Nixon White House that had a voice-activated recording system … and that there really are tapes of Nixon listening to his own tape recorder in one of those rooms and fumbling with the buttons, pushing them around.” And when I realized there could plausibly be a tape of a tape, by someone listening, and suddenly erasing the gap opened up a world of possibilities… It could be a transcriber in the White House, and then she could go to the motel go to give the tapes to a reporter.”
During this research and writing, Mirvish noted that he envisioned Kind playing Jack. “He was in my last movie Bernard and Hueyand so we had him in mind as the voice of Jack when we were writing the script, not knowing for sure if we were going to get him… Coincidentally, his schedule fitted ours very well… He fitted like a glove.”
After its initial release 18½ will be available on VOD and Blu-ray in July.
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