It's not often a director's feature film debut lands an established Hollywood actor. For that matter, it's not often an actor's feature film debut includes a part alongside a Hollywood actor. Both came true recently for William and Mary professor Martin Fusi and one of his students, Jack Stuart.
Fusi, assistant professor of theater, speech and dance at the College, recently finished shooting scenes locally for the independent film “The Outsider.” The movie -- written, produced and directed by Fusi -- also includes Larry Holden. The actor has had roles in mega films such as “Batman Begins” and 2002’s “Insomnia,” which stars American film icon Al Pacino.
“There aren’t that many actors who would say, ‘In my feature film debut I was able to be the lead, first of all, and also to act alongside a guy like Larry,’” said Stuart (’09).
In recent years, the Williamsburg area has become somewhat of hot spot for Hollywood actors. Stars Colin Farrell and Christian Bale (Batman himself) were in town to film 2005’s “The New World.” Just recently, Paul Giamatti came to town to film parts of the HBO miniseries “John Adams.”
“I did not know him; I did not know anyone who knows him,” the professor said.
Trying to attract local talent to the project, Fusi‘s assistant director posted the film’s synopsis on an audition web site. The posting caught the attention of Holden’s assistant.
“I remember the struggles to get films made, so my assistant went scouring looking for projects that were smaller and independent, people that really couldn’t afford me ,but people we could help by me being in it or involved or whatever,” said Holden.
Weeks later Holden was in Williamsburg.
“Things moved very fast,” Fusi added.
In fact, he noted, the project has been on a fast track since its inception. The film is loosely based on a play Fusi wrote four years ago about a college student from Cameroon who spends the summer with a wealthy American family. Turning the play into a screenplay only took about a week, said Fusi.
Holden, who plays the father of the American family, said he was instantly drawn to the project. He also had an instant connection with the director.
“It was that two-hour conversation- what he was telling me he was trying to do, who he was as a person – it was all him,” Holden said. “It wouldn’t really have mattered if I’d seen the script at that point.”
Fusi added that support for the project has been immense – from the College and Kimball Theater to local production company Seven Cities Media. A number of students, such as Stuart, are also involved in the project. For them, the experience of working with Holden has been a chance of a lifetime.
“Larry has changed my views on film,” said Stuart, who plays the international student. “Before he came along I had a very mainstream, very limited view of film and film acting and of even being an artist.”