Michael Masucci Talks American Sunset

Michael Masucci takes us behind-the-scenes of Corey Haim's last film, available on Blu-ray and DVD now

It has been one year since the death of beloved actor and former teen idol Corey Haim. In remembering the star of such classic films as The Lost Boys and Lucas, Global Universal has released American Sunset on Blu-ray and DVD. This murder mystery from director Michael Masucci features Corey Haim in his last starring role. We're huge fans of Corey, and having recently seen the film, we can tell you in all honesty that it's a great sendoff for Haim. It's a movie he would have been proud of, and it reestablishes the once troubled reality show celebrity as a great actor worthy of his former fame.

Corey Haim goes toe-to-toe with Frank Molina for a great deal of American Sunset's runtime, in a story about a young man desperately searching for his missing wife. Haim and Molina form a unique relationship onscreen, making for a combustible, edgy ride that is as enthralling as it is fascinating to watch.

We recently caught up with writer-director Michael Masucci to chat about the film, reminisce about Corey Haim, and learn more about the Blu-ray and DVD, which is also available on Itunes (to buy, CLICK HERE).

This is our conversation.

Frank Molina is outstanding in this movie...

Michael Masucci: I have known Frank for a while. I've worked with him on some other projects. He and I came up through acting school together. He is just dynamite in this role. I think he and Corey have great chemistry.

They really do. This is a really interesting performance coming from Corey Haim. At the beginning of the movie, he is drugged-up, and he is sick. He looks like he is dieing. He is vomiting on himself. He meets Frank, and that off-balance performance going up against Frank's drunk, strung out detective is mesmerizing. Its amazing work from the two of them.

Michael Masucci: I appreciate that. That is a nice comment. That was our intent. We did a lot of research on chloroform poisoning, and ether. This and that. We talked to doctors, we found out what the symptoms were. Your nose would be constantly running, your eyes would be constantly running. You would be throwing up, experiencing nausea. It is not a pleasant experience, and that's why we set it up in the beginning like that. The two of them have a nice character arc. They both start out on opposite sides. Towards the end, they respect each other.

Its interesting watching the beginning of American Sunset. How Corey is presenting this messed up state of mind on film. Especially with the personal troubles he experienced in the past, before he passed away. Was he ever worried about looking so in-shambles in what was supposed to be his comeback movie? Did he ever express that concern to you? Did you ever have trouble convincing him that this is what was right for this particular role?

Michael Masucci: No, I never had any trouble convincing him. As a matter of fact, he came up to me on day one, and he said, "Whatever you need." He knew this was his comeback. He was ready to do anything he needed to do. The funny thing about it is, you know...People always ask me, "What was it like to work with Corey Haim?" I didn't know Corey before we did this. Like you, I grew up watching his movies. I grew up watching The Lost Boys. Dream a Little Dream. Lucas. I didn't watch his reality show. I didn't know what to expect when I cast him, and when I first met him. I'll tell you what, though. I didn't find a sixteen-year-old kid that was a drug addict. I found a thirty-eight year old man who had made amends for his past. He was basically willing to do anything to get his career back. He wanted to put his past behind him. He came to set, he was dedicated. He was professional. I had no problems with him. We became very good friends, and it was a tragic loss. My heart goes out to his mom. His lovely mother. He liked getting all dirty, and sweaty. He enjoyed not being the pretty boy. It was good for him.

I did watch the reality show. And I remember the scene where he puts the ad in Variety, expressing his desire to work. Having watched his struggles to get another film lead, with a lot of filmmakers turning their backs on him, why were you willing to take that chance? To give him a film that he was the star of?

Michael Masucci: The producer had worked with Corey in the past. We were looking for someone we could get, who had that look that was traveled. Corey had been through some stuff. This character had demons as well, in the movie. I don't think we took a chance on him. I knew his work as an actor. From that standpoint, I knew what he could bring to this film as an actor. I didn't think we were talking a chance at all. And it really showed when he got to the set. He had done thirty or forty movies before this. He had headlined some major Hollywood films. He had that experience behind him. He was just out of the business for a while. It's like getting a ball player back on the field. Once you get that rust off of them, there's that world class talent, so to speak. I never looked at it as though we were taking a chance on him. And his fan base never really wavered. That fanbase that grew up with him? That was apparent. Whether they were showing up on set, or the Internet response he got when he joined the project. That was all still there. The industry as a whole, and the general public? He had to earn their respect back. Those were the people that, like you said, might have felt we were taking a chance. Once they got to know the Corey I knew through the promotion of the film, they would realize that he was genuine. That he was making a comeback. That he had put his past behind him. Unfortunatly, he passed away before he got a chance to do any of that. What I felt is, these mistakes that people think of when they think of Corey Haim? He was a kid. I am not condoning it. I am not saying its okay. But he was a fifteen-year-old kid when he started doing this. Kids make mistakes. They grow and they learn. He just did it under the watchful public eye.

It was sad that The Academy left him out of the Oscar Memoriam. What were your thoughts on that?

Michael Masucci: I didn't think that was going to be as big a deal as it was afterwards. There was a lot going around about him being snubbed at the Oscars and the SAG Awards. It reaffirms the notion that when you think of Corey Haim, you think of this troubled teen who was into drugs. He was a recovering drug addict. You don't think of the body of work he left behind. Which was very substantial. He was in a lot of movies, and he did some great movies. I hope at some point in the future, people will move past that. That they won't think of Corey Haim as a troubled teen. You won't think of the drugs. You will think of this great work he left behind. I think him getting snubbed from the Oscars really affirms how people think of Corey at this point.

In American Sunset, Corey Haim plays a painter. He was a painter in real life. Did that aspect of this role come from his own desire to showcase that onscreen? Or was that always in the script?

Michael Masucci: That was always in the script. The only thing that we didn't enhance was that he had a lot of tattoos in real life. When we first met, he asked if I wanted him to cover up those tattoos. I said, "No. You are a painter. Your tattoos, they are like a canvas, just as the canvas you paint on." That added to the character. Those little colorful things that happen when the actor starts taking things off the page and bringing them to the screen.

American Sunset was shot in Canada, but more interestingly, the story actually tales place in Canada. We don't see that too happen to often in film. Why did you decide to keep the action locked into the countryside?

Michael Masucci: There were a couple of reasons. From a production standpoint, you have to go where you can get the movie made. This gave us an opportunity to get our movie made. But I also liked the look of it. I was looking for a metropolitan city that had bars they could go to throughout this treasure hunt. But we also needed remote locations where we could take these characters. Places that would make the audience feel as though these guys were on their own. I really think we found that up in Canada. It's a visually beautiful place. We were able to use that nature, which I think adds to the film. I have to give credit to the people up there. They are very hospitable, and they are not like the people when you shoot in some of the bigger cities, like New York or Los Anegles, were they are just mad because you took their parking spot.

I want to go back to Frank Molina for a minute. This guy is mesmerizing to watch in American Sunset. You two have worked before...

Michael Masucci: We went to acting school together. He is hardcore method. And you get whatever stalemate, or stigmatism that comes with that. It's all about preparation, and really knowing about your backstory. He and I sat down for hours to discuss this character. What he is going through, and the demons he has. The interaction between Corey Haim and Frank Molina? Me, as a director? I had to step back and let them do their thing. Let the magic happen. There were certain scenes where I didn't move the camera at all. The camera has to move. That is the generation I grew up in. But I wanted to stick to these two guys. There was a definite chemistry there. An interaction between the two of them. When we first started doing read throughs in rehearsal, I immediately noticed what they had between the two of them. You just don't know until you get them in front of the camera. Frank? I think you will be seeing a lot more of him. He has been everywhere. He does a lot of plays. He does a lot of independent movies in New York. He is someone who is really dedicated to his craft. I am glad you liked him in the movie, that actually means a lot.

You two are going to actually appear onscreen together in Plaster Rock...

Michael Masucci: That film is completed. That is something we did after American Sunset. I just had a small role in it.

Now, I want to ask you about Bernard Robichaud, who appears in the film as well. We are huge fans of his from The Trailer Park Boys. How did he get involved with American Sunset? Were you a fan of his from that show?

Michael Masucci: To be honest? I hope I don't alienate all of the Canadians. I had never heard of that show. I met Bernie because one of our producers had worked with him on another show years ago. She said, "Here's this guy! He is going to be great!" I met him, I liked him. But I didn't know who he was. After we got to know each other, I started to watch as many episodes of Trailer Park Boys as I could. But I didn't realize the magnitude of it until he came to read. We had all of these people at the audition, and they were all getting their pictures taken with him. They were asking for autographs. I took a step back and said, "Oh, my god! Who is this guy?" I knew nothing about him or his character on that show. But he had the physical look needed for our character, He has this deep voice. He is very fit, and he played the character well. I had him in to read, and he was great! I loved working with Bernie, and I can't wait to work with him again. He is an awesome golfer. He is up in Canada, where it snows ten months out of the year. So, I don't know about that, man. This is one of those things were he hit it off with the entire cast. I want to mention the entire cast and crew as well, I think they did a fantastic job. Of course we talked about Corey Haim, and Frank, and Bernie. But we also have Angela Cullins, who is a new comers. She is tremendous. Eric Leffler, who was also one of the executive producers. He is a very talented New York actor. Caleb Marshal, Ernie Tremblay. We had all of these supporting cast members who were really dedicated, and they made my job a lot easier.

Jacqueline Giroux, who directed you and Frank in Plaster Rock, wrote the screenplay for American Sunset. Why did she you pull you in as a director here?

Michael Masucci: I met Jacqueline Giroux through a mutual friend, and we had talked about another project. I had a couple of bucks I was bringing in. Not a lot. But I said, "If I am putting this money in, I want an opportunity to direct." She and I talked in-depth. She learned about my background. I had worked on a lot of movies. Other aspects of the job, as a producer or whatnot. It was time for me to direct. So when we got together to talk about American Sunset, I told her, "This is my vision. This is how I see it." She said, "I like that. I will give you a shot." In this industry, you need people to give you a chance. That is what she did. These guys believed in me, and I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity they gave me.

The point-of-view we see playing throughout American Sunset is interesting in this age of horror movies like Saw and Chain Letter. Usually, we're given the villain's side of the story, here, the focus is back on the two main victims...

Michael Masucci: This story is really about these two guys and their character arc. They are brought together because of this event, where Corey's wife is taken. You have the scary voice. And that is what is driving them forward. You have these two guys who would have never met otherwise. You have a war hero, then you have this other guy who doesn't like guns. I wouldn't say it's a buddy movie. But in a lot of ways, there is this certain relationship, and that's what the movie is really about. I looked at it from that angle when I went to direct this, and tell that story. I guess it naturally came out that way. The movie is, more than anything, about this relationship. The bad guy is secondary.

Right now, in cinema, it is so popular to make the bad guy the good guy. If someone else had of gotten their hands on this script, its easy to see that they could have told this story from the kidnapper's perspective. Corey and Frank would have been secondary characters in any other movie.

Michael Masucci: Some of that happened because I come from a background of acting. And in the story, that is what I saw. I thought this was the best way to go about it.

This is Corey Haim's last starring role in a feature film. What does it mean to you to be a part of his legacy, and have this stand as his final work?

Michael Masucci: I am really proud of the movie for several reasons. One of those is the fact that it is Corey Haim's last movie. I am honored that I could be a part of that. Part of it hasn't hit me yet. He died a year ago. Sometimes I am still in shock and awe that this happened. We were planning on doing other projects. Then this happened. I am just glad I could be involved in just one of his projects. I didn't realize how big he was. Honestly. You look at him back in the day, and he was a giant movie star. I knew that, but it just never hit me. You know what I mean? Because he didn't carry himself that way. He had been through a lot. I didn't know the fifteen year old Corey. Maybe I would have a different opinion. I don't know. But he didn't carry himself as a movie star. He was just an actor who loved his craft. I am proud of what we accomplished with this movie. We had a very limited budget. We shot it in fifteen days. We shot nine or ten pages a day. Typically, you shoot two pages in a day. everyone had to come in, band together, and work. I want to thank everyone for giving me this opportunity, and give a mention to the crew. We had roughly fifty people, and the crew was out there first thing in the morning, in the rain. They don't get the credit the actors or the director gets. But this film itself is a testament to the talent and hard work from them. They deserve a big thank you! We lucked out weather wise, and these guys were troupers. I have nothing but good things to say about them.

American Sunset is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and on Itunes. To buy, CLICK HERE