Victory Square has never been so pristine. Lions Gate Entertainment’s dramatic thriller Liberty Stands Still, written and directed by Canadian Kari Skogland, has been shooting in the grubby little war veterans’ memorial park on Hastings Street for the past three weeks. Daily, the film’s crew hoses down the grassy knoll and the nearby alley where they’re also shooting and searches for drug paraphernalia, just in case.
Linda Fiorentino plays Liberty Wallace, an unhappily married international arms dealer who is taken hostage in the park and handcuffed to a hot-dog stand by a man named Joe (Wesley Snipes) on a mission to avenge his daughter’s death.
Across the way on Cambie Street, the Architectural Institute of B.C. has been transformed into the Los Angeles TheatreCentre, where her lover, stage actor Russell Williams (Martin Cummins), is starring in the play “In A Lifetime”. The cast also includes Oliver Platt, who plays Liberty’s husband, German actor Hart Bochner, local actors Ian Tracey, Fulvio Cecere, Roger Cross, Peter Williams and former Global anchor Suzette Myers, who plays a TV reporter.
Cummins is not complaining about having to do love scenes with Fiorentino. How did he snag that role? In his trailer, parked in the movie’s “circus” a few blocks away, the handsome young actor laughingly replies: “I dunno. Just luck, I guess.”
Cummins is on a career roll after winning a Genie last year for his role as boxer Matthew in the just-opened Canadian film Love Come Down. His dark, semi-autobiographical film We All Fall Down, which he directed and co-wrote with Richard C. Burton, won his pal and former Poltergeist co-star Helen Shaver a Genie this year for her role as a hooker. But he says he’s in no hurry to do that again. “It’s too much work to make a movie, to my mind anyway.”
And speaking of luck, after doing love scenes with Fiorentino, Cummins goes to his home in East Vancouver and his wife, former Penthouse Pet turned actress Brandy Ledford, who played Dawn Masterton on Baywatch. They have a 4-year-old son. But Cummins says the Penthouse thing doesn’t impress him. “I didn’t know when I met her,” he says. “My experience of her is of Mom and home and the whole schmear. I don’t have the experience of Penthouse Pet, I don’t know who that is—it’s somebody else.”
Tracey, who plays Detective Mick Leary on Da Vinci’s Inquest, has the role of swat leader Mac Munro in Liberty Stands Still. He’s called in with the bomb squad to nip a sniper situation in the bud. Tracey brought home a Gemini last year for his role in the true-to-life TV movie Milgaard, playing the wrongly incarcerated David Milgaard, who was exonerated after spending almost 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. “I think it really changed my life in some ways,” he says of that role. “My outlook, from a simple aspect of freedom alone—what it means to be your own person and what it could possibly be like to have that robbed away from you for such a long period of time, almost a quarter of a century.” Although Milgaard wasn’t available for a pre-filming chat, he showed up unannounced one day on the Winnipeg set. “I told him I was surprised that he didn’t seem like a bitter, angry person going through all that. He seemed very open and positive—more than a lot of people I know. He said that the world consists mostly of good people and you have to focus on that. To me, that was amazing.”
Tracey began his acting career at the age of seven, playing a 1940s shoeshine boy in the locally shot 1976 film The Keeper. At 12, he played Tom Berenger’s son in the sexy and controversial 1978 Canadian film In Praise of Older Women. Tracey admits he was pretty innocent and didn’t really understand the movie at the time, but the director walked him through the role. “I remember years later going, ‘Oh. Wow,’ ” he says with a laugh.
Skogland has spent most of her career directing documentaries and episodic television. She directed the pilot of Traders, setting the style and tone for the successful Canadian series, and recently worked on the controversial and sexually raw series Queer as Folk. She began writing the Liberty script about five years ago, then put it aside for a time. “Then after Columbine,” she says, referring to the Colorado high-school shootings, “I think the characters just started speaking to me. … I felt that everybody needed to look at the whole gun issue and that we needed to bring it into entertainment and bring it into a place that we could, I guess, air it.” It’s a new and different role for Snipes who, although he’s known as an action hero, began his career on Broadway. “He has some serious thespian chops,” says Skogland. “And I wanted that kind of juxtaposition, where we have an action hero who we’re now asking to stand still and to be in one place, and,” she says, laughing at the thought, “to do 40 pages of dialogue.” “Linda Fiorentino could not have been a better choice for Liberty,” she says. “And Oliver Platt, who also has brought a wonderful sense of interesting depth to what otherwise is kind of our evil character, is a pivotal character in the movie.”
Skogland is enjoying every second of the shoot. “It’s a pinch-me moment as far as I’m concerned,” she says, “every day I come to work and go ‘I can’t believe we’re shooting my movie—also a movie that has some soul.’ ”
March 17, 2001