Exclusive – CANDiLAND Part 2

I recently had a great stroke of luck tracking down the screenwriter/director Rusty Nixon, as well as actor James Clayton from the film Candiland.  They are two thirds of Motorcycle Boy Productions. Blaine Anderson is the other third of the production team. Blaine also has a small cameo in the film playing a doctor alongside the author of the book, Elizabeth Engstrom. She has a small role as a nurse. The film is based on Elizabeth’s book, Candiland. It was written in the 80’s. Rusty approached her fifteen years ago for the rights to the story. It originally had another director attached, had been discussed by multiple financers but Rusty was always going to adapt it into script form.   


A terrific spell binding, dark psychological twisted decent into the abyss of madness. This film will move you, it will cause you to pause and question your own purpose, your life’s motivation, your relationship with your father and what color to paint the furniture.

I found the flavor of this film to be one of an aged blue cheese that floods the taste buds accompanied with a red merlot capable of leaving you with a slight hangover but easily absolved with two aspirin.


The story follows two slightly socially damaged people that have a chance meeting at a club and go back to the man’s apartment. It’s all fun n games until their reality takes a spin that only turns in one direction, toward Candiland. Gary Busey plays the father figure in the film. He attempts to reach his son and help to bring him back from the brink of madness. It’s a very touching tribute of a father’s love and devotion. Gary brings an incredibly dominant performance that matches the equally intense and brilliant performance from James and C  that .


Chelah Horsdal plays James love interest, Tess. Originally, another actress had auditioned and gotten the part but backed out shortly before shooting. Slightly frantic to find a replacement, they had received a video audition from Chelah that answered their prayers. They took her out for dinner to discuss the script and a deal was struck.


“We were so lucky to have Chelah attached as Tess. She actually fits the story’s description of the character so accurately.”


They told me her dedication to the role was magical and admirable. Hers and James role both involved some huge weight loss. James lost 55 lbs. and Chelah lost a tremendous amount as well. They filmed for three weeks in Feb. of 2014 then paused for two months for the weight loss. Gary Busey flew in from Malibu for two days of the second half.  Wanting to utilize Gary’s time as efficiently as possible, they poured through 9-10 pgs. of script per day.


“Gary was a true master. A gifted actor that brings so much to the character. He brought one idea after another and if we didn’t jump on them it was a lost opportunity. Gary’s mind is so focused on the character that it never leaves him. Working with an nominated award winning actor was an experience none of us will ever forget and we will be forever grateful for his generosity and huge dedication to the film. We were so fortunate that Gary liked the script enough to accept our offer and provide us with his unparalleled talent.”


Originally Gary’s role was written as a carpenter but Gary said he’d played one in another film. He felt the character could be better portrayed as a marine. The idea worked well with the storyline and the strained relationship between the controlling father and rebellious son.


The film festivals were unfortunately unwilling to welcome this film with open arms. It took a lot of coaxing. Because of the dark psychological content

of Candiland, it has the potential to make audiences feel uncomfortable and slightly uneasy. I believe it is the films strength. It keeps you talking about it long after the credits roll.


“How did you prepare for the role of Peter?”

“When I read the script, I saw my character as slightly autistic. We have a close family friend that I studied for inspiration and insight into the personality traits. I also used another old acting technique. One in which your character becomes an animal. Robert Deniro used it in Taxi Driver. He portrayed a turtle. For my character, he became a caged rabbit.”


Although they used approx. six locations in the film, the apartment was built inside of a paper storage warehouse. It was a team effort on behalf of the crew, the cast, the production designer and Rusty. The set was built in a portion of the warehouse that sat over the water. Filming began in February and it was near impossible to heat while shooting. Rusty tells me the actors used the discomfort of the cold to evoke more emotion into their characters.


“When a problem/obstacle presents itself, you can spend money and time to eliminate it or you can choose to use it. We chose to use it and feel that it brought out a better/stronger performance. The last film I directed required forty-one locations. To be able to work on the same set everyday definitely had its advantages. One night after shooting I started handing beers out to the crew and then gave them all a paintbrush. Everyone on that film personalized the apartment in the film. If you watch the film closely, you can actually see the background change slightly as the film progresses.”


Having seen the film, the apartment is covered from corner to corner with paint strokes of all colours. It almost becomes the third character in the room. The multi coloured apartment was not in the story but Rusty did take some liberties when it came to visual story-telling. He also had the idea of creating an improv song and dance one day on the way to the set. It became an integral part of the film that demonstrated the contrast between happier times versus the demise of the characters happiness.


A piece of trivia I was informed of was the fact that this was not the first time James Clayton had lost 55 lbs. for this role. Years ago it was going to be directed and financed through other parties. The idea of filming it in reverse had been agreed. James lost the weight only to learn two weeks before shooting that the production had been cancelled. The fact that he was willing to do it a second time shows true grit and phenomenal dedication to his craft. He says it took him almost two years to gain it all back this time. He refused to be in a relationship while losing the weight for the role and was fortunate to meet his wife a year after filming was completed.


Rusty edited the film. At times he’d have to walk way from the editing process because it was so draining and depressing. It was imperative to include as much realism as possible. Although the story ends tragically, Rusty includes an earlier funny out-take as the credits roll. It acts as a reminder of the silliness of innocent new love and the positive emotional behavior it can trigger.    


Rusty and James have a very close working relationship along with Blaine. Rusty was very pleased to inform James that his next character has a healthy appetite in the next film. Candiland was completed in Dec. of 2015 but their distributor postponed the release until Feb. of this year.


You can find the movie at Walmart and on iTunes.


When I asked both men to tell me the best thing about making the film, they both replied with the same answer.

“The opportunity to work with their best friend and Gary Busey.”


It doesn’t get any better than that. I highly recommend watching Candiland. It’s a great adaptation that sticks around like a London fog long after the credits stop rolling.                                                    

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