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The guy behind the gun: William B. Davis.

Perfect Casting

Local filmmakers Joe and Dan Masucci knew they needed someone special to play their latest project’s darkest, most enigmatic character. While the character appeared only in the opening and closing moments of the film, his performance had to establish the tone for everything that followed and set the story in uneasy, suspense-driven motion. Finally, when the time was right, the character had to answer just enough of the audience’s questions to keep people talking about the film—and, hope the film’s creators, telling their friends about it.

Yet, the two brothers admit that even they were surprised when their ideal candidate for the role—the actor they had in mind when they created the character, in fact—agreed to lend his talent to the Scotia-based duo’s first feature-length production, The Last Round.

“I do get my share of these mysterious characters, don’t I?” smirked William B. Davis from behind a desk in the basement of a cast member’s home.

Clad in his trademark dark suit, the actor best known for portraying the sinister, paranoia-inducing Cigarette Smoking Man (aka CSM) on the The X-Files television series explained that a mutual friend put him in touch with the Masuccis. After reading the script, he agreed to fly from his home in Vancouver, B.C., to the Capital Region for a few days to play “Mitchell,” the man behind the film’s central event: a game of Russian roulette.

“The rules of the game are simple,” said Dan Masucci. “One spin, six pulls . . . one of them has to die.”

“It’s really a compelling story,” said Davis of the screenplay that brought him here.

The brothers wrote the script together, along with author (and former Metroland editor) Peter Hanson. Based on an award-winning short film, The Last Round tells the story of six desperate souls who end up in a desolate shack together playing the deadly game. Each of the men—who range from a racecar driver to a shy recluse—has his own unique reasons for participating in the game, explained Joe Masucci.

Filmed over the course of two years, The Last Round was shot entirely on digital camcorder “for the price of a car,” said Joe. The scenes with Davis were shot only after the rest of the filming was completed.

While both filmmakers agreed that Davis’ presence “raises the bar” for the entire production, that’s not to say that the former X-Files villain is the only cast member with movie experience. The list of cast and crew provides a relative who’s who of local talent, including Albany native Rich Lounello, who has appeared on episodes of The Sopranos and Sex and the City, as well as the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Producers. Here, Lounello plays one of the film’s six roulette participants.

In less-prominent roles, the Masuccis cast local horror-film auteurs Bruce Hallenbeck and Jeff Kirkendall, and former Albany congressional candidate Warren Red lich even makes an appearance. Thanks to everyone from local town justices to family members, the Masuccis said they rarely had any problems finding aspiring thespians in their social and professional circles.

“We’re really lucky because most of the people here are our friends,” said Dan Mas ucci, gesturing around the cramped basement set at cast and crew members. “Probably the farthest away anyone has come for this film, with the exception of Bill [Davis], has been Saratoga.”

“This all just goes to show that it can be done in this area,” he continued. “If you’re creative, you can find everything you need around here to make a great film.”

And in many ways, that’s exactly what the brothers did. According to the duo, when a scene at a racetrack was needed, the cast and crew arranged for filming to take place between events at Lebanon Valley Speedway. When they needed a hospital set, they made a deal with a local high school to use the nurse’s office. When the script called for Davis’ character to set up a temporary base of operations in a “seedy, dirty, abandoned warehouse,” the crew set up shop in a cast member’s basement in Albany.

Davis said that it’s that supportive spirit that provides one of the biggest advantages to local filmmakers—and that’s drawing him back to independent filmmaking.

“If you’re in a film town and you want to make a movie, everybody wants a piece of it,” he said. “When you come to places like this, there’s a much more friendly and supportive feel to the whole process.”

With filming finished and only the final editing left to complete, the brothers hope that the “friendly and supportive” vibe will carry over into other regions as they plan to begin touring the film festivals once the The Last Round is released in 2006.

—Rick Marshall

rmarshall@metroland.net

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