Interview: Dean Cain and Christie Burson from “Dirty Little Trick”
Interview: Dean Cain and Christie Burson from “Dirty Little Trick”

The Massie Twins recently had the opportunity to visit the set of the upcoming movie “Dirty Little Trick,” a thriller filmed chiefly in Arizona, directed by Brian Skiba and produced by The Ronalds Brothers (Brian and Dean). The film is slated for 2011 and stars Michael Madsen, Dean Cain, and Christie Burson. For this particular day of the shoot, we’re on location at a bank in Phoenix; the insides were gutted and rebuilt for interior shots and the outside parking lot is being used for a couple of scenes with vehicles. Dean Ronalds served as liaison, introducing us to the cast and crew, giving us details about production, budget, and cinematography, and showing us the various sets and locations. Filming for “Dirty Little Trick” will take place over a course of a mere 14 days.

First, we caught up with star Dean Cain to ask him a few questions about his involvement in the film.

The Massie Twins: Can you give us a quick intro into your character and tell us what drew you to this project?

Dean Cain: Yeah. The same way you always get involved – you read a script, think it’s interesting, look at the character, look at the piece and think it could be fun. The character’s name is Michael and he’s an editor and a stay-at-home kinda guy and doesn’t do too much or anything too crazy. He picks up a beautiful young hitchhiker on the side of a desert road and his life gets topsy-turvy from that moment on.

MT: Considering where we are, there must be some bank stuff going on. A heist perhaps?

DC: There’s some gangster stuff (we filmed a lot of that yesterday), but what I’m involved in is more psychological, with my character in a situation where he has to figure a lot of things out. Today is a lot of establishing shots in the bank, but also a surprising moment when I discover she’s under 18 (laughs). So you’ll see a few boring things today, but it’s a really fun script (laughs).

MT: How did you prepare for this role? Is it something you associated with and fell into naturally?

DC: I think every character you play, there’s a little bit of yourself in it. I love editing and this guy’s an editor. I live a pretty exciting life, although this guy leads a fairly bland life.

MT: Well that’s cool to say! Life for you in reality is more exciting than a fictional character in a movie!

DC: Yes! And when he sees this girl on the side of the road and picks her up, there’s a little danger, a little excitement and then a little hell. That’s why she has a black widow tattoo on her lower back.

MT: Do you find yourself gravitating toward any particular genres?

DC: Depending on the character and the piece, I like to do everything. I’ve got a wide variety of films coming out, including family dramas and an anti-war epic. I like to bounce around. I’m actually flying home tonight to coach my son’s football game tomorrow and then flying back to finish shooting here. It’s a matter of me working hard and these guys being accommodating. That’s the hard part of being an actor – there are parts of life that I really don’t want to miss. My life the last ten years has been a balance between work and being a very present father. It’s how my dad worked and I felt that he was always there, and I want my son to feel the same way. I want to give him that security.

massietwins_deancain

Next we spoke with Christie Burson, the lead actress, who previously appeared in Miss March and Spread.

The Massie Twins: Good morning! We don’t know too much about the story yet, so please fill us in on your character.

Christie Burson: I play two characters, actually, but I can’t reveal too much. She’s a bit of a sociopath. She’s basically the epitome of a black widow spider in the form of a human. She’s horrible and evil and she’s obviously had a troubled childhood. She’s into seducing men and then extorting them for money. She’s a taker and has no emotions about what she’s doing. It’s a fun character! (laughs)

MT: So we’re guessing you have nothing in common with this woman in real life.

CB: (laughs) I hope not. Sarah’s a little bit softer, which is who I’m portraying today. She’s a little more playful and fun-loving. Brittany, on the other hand is scary and dressed all in black. She’ll definitely be the audience favorite.

MT: Everyone loves the villains!

CB: It’s been a fun character and there’s definitely going to be some surprises.

MT: Are the scenes you’re shooting today the introduction of the Sarah character?

CB: The introduction is essentially when Dean sees me on the side of the road. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out where I’ve come from. He thinks he’s helping me out, but really I’m setting him up for trouble. Dean and I have a little bit of a love affair. Ultimately, Sarah doesn’t really like anyone but herself.

MT: What’s the best part about filming in Arizona?

CB: Umm….

MT: Don’t say there is no best part!

CB: Actually, it’s kind of crazy, but the makeup doesn’t run because there’s no humidity. There’s no sweating and even though we’re hot as hell on the set, we just drink water and the makeup doesn’t need to be retouched. And the hair works out great too. As far as maintaining your looks, Arizona is the best. There is a positive – and it’s beautiful here. And there are pretty moons here.

MT: Well we’re in the movie theater most of the time so we miss those. (laughs) So what is your favorite Michael Madsen movie?

CB: Kill Bill. Definitely. He’s great to work with. The whole cast and crew have been amazing. Probably the best that I’ve worked with. It’s like a family here. Madsen’s very inspiring for developing actors. It’s great just to watch him and Dean. I think the audience will really enjoy seeing them together.

massietwins_christieburson

In between scenes, we also caught up with director Brian Skiba, to shed some more light on the plot and behind-the-scenes elements.

The Massie Twins: What can you tell us about the storyline and what it’s been like working on Dirty Little Trick?

Brian Skiba: It’s a double-cross, mobster type film with a young woman who is a con artist. She puts together this plan to steal a bunch of money from the mob.

MT: Aha! So that’s how the mob gets involved. No one revealed that yet.

BS: That’s the gist of it. My experience on the set so far has been amazing. I have a two picture deal with the company that I’m doing this for and this is the second one. Most of the crew that worked on the first one has returned, so we’ve all been together and a lot of them have actually worked on three films with me.

MT: So now they can interpret what you’re thinking and guess how you’ll be planning things.

BS: We’re like family now and we know what we’re doing and can move very quickly.

MT: I’ve heard that the story has changed a little bit and that everyone has been able to give their input on certain aspects. What has the evolution of the story been like?

BS: We’re not altering anything much anymore. At first the writer, out of LA, wanted to make some changes, so the first four or five days was a struggle to try and get the script up to speed. It was a process of back-and-forth with him, but we got it hashed out last week.

MT: Were you involved with casting? If not, what’s it been like working with Madsen, Cain and Burson?

BS: I was only involved a little. Dean Cain – you couldn’t ask for a better actor. And Madsen is an amazing guy. When I was in film school, I was enthralled with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and all the classic Tarantino films. And he’s in many of them, so to work with a guy so iconic is amazing. Directing the man from Reservoir Dogs and befriending him is great. Definitely a pinnacle point in my directing career.

MT: We saw some of the footage in black and white with a few colors brought out. Very impressive stuff. Was that your idea or something you influenced?

BS: Yeah. When they originally approached me for the film I was thinking about “Kalifornia,” the Brad Pitt/David Duchovny movie, and how it would be cool to go for that kind of look. And then I did this short film awhile back called To Hell We Ride, where we did black and white and pulled some colors and I just threw it out there. I had four looks to pitch, like Kalifornia and Desperado – some classically dirty, 70’s style films. And as an afterthought I brought a few pictures from either Sin City or The Spirit and they went for that. I said if we were to go black and white, we’ve got to go Hitchcock, because he’s the master of black and white. So the DP and I studied Hitchcock like crazy to get the feel and look of the film.

MT: So what are the advantages and disadvantages of filming in Arizona?

BS: I’m from Arizona, so of course I love filming here. I’ve filmed in Texas and in Los Angeles. Arizona’s got a great crew and I know everyone here. There’s not a lot of equipment here, though – we’re having stuff flown in from L.A. for this film. We’re also lacking equipment for the stars, such as wagons, so we’re getting RVs and things. There’s good and bad. And the government’s not the most helpful. We call them for certain things and they don’t get back to us. We’re not a multimillion dollar picture, but we’re not a terribly small budget either.

MT: We heard there’s going to be a car blown up toward the end of the shoot. How will you be approaching that scene?

BS: I’ve done quite a bit of pyrotechnics and a lot of squibs and two explosions. So I’m fairly familiar with how to do it. It’s going to be a propane controlled explosion. We’ll have a water truck out there and licensed professionals. I enjoy those days because everyone gets excited and it’s a change of pace. These kinds of things separate student films from bigger productions – it’s the next level.

One scene later, we met up with costar and producer Brian Ronalds, who plays mobster henchman Jimmy T.

The Massie Twins: Can you tell us about your involvement with Dirty Little Trick and your role as a gangster?

Brian Ronalds: Yes! I play Jimmy T., who is Vigo’s right hand man, played by Michael Madsen. I do all the dirty work for him, but I’m also very afraid of him. I help put the pieces together concerning the “dirty little trick.” Brian Skiba and my brother Dean and I became friends a couple of years ago when we saw a short film of his that we liked and we ended up turning it into a feature. We admired that he started something and finished it. We told him if he ever needed a hand to give us a call – and about a month ago he did! We jumped on board as producers along with Michael Z. Gordon, who is one of the executive producers on Narc.

MT: What was it like working with Michael Madsen?

BR: My experiences with Madsen were simply awesome. It’s probably the pinnacle of my acting career so far. It was very relaxed and low key and he was great to hang out with and was loaded with stories. A scholar and a gentleman.

MT: Is he a prankster at all? Any behind-the-scenes stuff you can divulge?

BR: He likes to laugh, but no.

MT: So he’s no Clooney?

BR: (laughs) Well I can’t give away all his secrets.

MT: What was behind the decision to shoot in Arizona?

BR: It just worked out. They had a studio over here that they used for their last production and maybe a month later jumped into this. I don’t know why we keep choosing to shoot features in Arizona in the summertime – we promise the next time it’ll be in the winter so everyone can enjoy the weather. Los Angeles is so close that it’s easy to bring people out here. We’ve really established a great group here in Phoenix. People know us and how we work – we make it happen with a little less money and a little less time. We’ve got a great crew.

MT: Did you know that you’d take an acting part in the film?

BR: I started as a producer, but acting is my passion. Brian said there might be a part for me, and suggested I read for two roles. I put myself on tape and Brian and a producer figured out where I’d be best.

MT: Your brother said he got the slightly larger role. Any sibling rivalry there?

BR: Yeah, he got a little larger role – he gets to do a love scene. I don’t get to do that.

MT: (laughs) Is that good or bad. Less stressful perhaps?

BR: (laughs) Work is work.

MT: So what’s your favorite Michael Madsen film?

BR: Reservoir Dogs. Does everyone say that?

MT: Surprisingly, no! Most are Tarantino films, though.

BR: It’s either that or Free Willy.

MT: (laughs) We’ll go with that one.

BR: He’s actually quite proud of Free Willy. Dirty Little Trick is like his 159th movie or something. It was great – he got the whole crew together and thanked us for taking care of him and said he had a great experience. He even got a little watery-eyed. He’s so cool. He’s what Fonzie wishes he could be.

MT: Do you have other projects already in the works?

BR: Actually we have three comedies we’re finishing up that we hope to start producing by the end of the year or maybe kick off next year with.

MT: Will you act in those as well?

BR: I don’t know. We’ll see. If I’m right for the part. I think I’m really right for this part. As they tell the kids on American Idol, you have to know who you are – are you Country or Rock… As an actor, who am I? I’ve never played a bad guy before, but that might be where I go to. We’ve also got writing plans, having done an episode for Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns – we’re ready to produce and direct something we’ve written, to lay it all down.

massietwins_brianskiba_brianronalds

massietwins_deanronalds

And lastly, we met with costar Mario Lanza, who plays Ritchie, a particularly bulky and muscular mobster, to share his experiences on Dirty Little Trick.

The Massie Twins: Would you give us a quick briefing on your role in Dirty Little Trick?

Mario Lanza: My character is Ritchie and I’m the muscleman. I break things and hurt people. My job is to torture and terrorize for the main boss Vito (Michael Madsen).

MT: (laughs)

ML: Actually, I’m a very nice guy. My regular profession is an engineer. I escaped from that to do this.

MT: What kind of cool “tough guy” scenes can we expect, and what did you have to do to prepare for the role?

ML: Some of it’s implied. I spend my time watching the sci-fi channel and Spongebob Squarepants. But for this I just get into the mentality that I’m having a very stressful day and think of someone I’m really furious at. It’s kind of healthy in a way to take out my anger in the form of acting. (laughs)

MT: How did the casting process work for you?

ML: Actually, they came and found me. Brian Skiba did a film called Blood Moon Rising and they needed someone to fit into this armor, which was kind of big. They didn’t have someone who could fit into the shoulders and he saw me and asked if I wanted to do that. That role was a demon, Faust. It was fun.

MT: Does this mean you’ll be typecast?

ML: (laughs) Apparently, yes. It happens all the time. I call this stuff my real job, and my real job is just a hobby. I really enjoy acting.

MT: That’s how it happens – when you play the villains in films, you’re a nice guy in real life. It’s the good guys you’ve got to watch out for.

ML: Big and mean. That’s the way to go. (laughs) I’ve got a couple people who’ve approached me for more roles, so I’ve been really lucky to work with Brian Skiba and the Ronalds brothers. I really enjoy the environment and watching the crew work. There’s a lot of energy on this set!

MT: Okay, last question: What’s your favorite Michael Madsen film?

ML: For me, it’s Species.

MT: (laughs) Wow! Everyone has a different answer!

massietwins_mariolanza