Michael Maxxis: “For ‘Puppy Love’ I chose a story about my cousin, who has inspired me all my life”

  • The first feature film by Michael Maxxis, a debuting  filmmaker with a splendid career as a video clip director, has that halo of American independent cinema that adapts so well to the Valladolid Festival’s  auteur film standards. The film, however, was not exempt from difficulties starting with production problems

25/10/2010.- As pointed out by Nicolette Saina, one of the film’s producers who was present at the press conference that took place after the film’s first screening at 65 Seminci, making a film like this involves “a collective risk”. She further explained that “when art and business are combined, there is no single right path. This film has taken a long time to prepare, but it has grown and improved as it went along and I have loved Michael’s independent voice. The film’s  subject was  a personal choice by  the director, according to his own words: “When you are a filmmaker your goal is to make films and you always want to make films that are close to you. I was looking for something that had a message that could be passed on. So I chose a story about my cousin, who is someone who has inspired me all my life.

Michael-Maxxis-puppy-love

Michael Maxxis, director.

A first-rate cast

But telling the love story of a young man with a brain injury and a prostitute addicted to crack and heroin, whom he begins to pay to be his friend, required extra doses of sensitivity. And that’s where the casting process came into play, a process that Maxxis has described as very special. “This being a story very close to me and  my family, I wanted to be very careful with the cast. Morgan, Danny and their mother I know personally. I didn’t get to know Carla, so I had to spend more time looking for the right person to play that role, and I’m very happy that Paz was able to do it; she has taken it far beyond my own imagination and I am very grateful.

To play the main character, the director had Hoppe Jack Penn, who fits the character perfectly: “Morgan, my cousin, is a very sweet and very good person, and with Hopper I connected very well, since he had all those qualities. “The director is not the only one to praise the qualities of Hoppe Jack Penn. Paz de la Huerta herself, who insisted  in her speech at the Opening Gala and in the press conference that she was really sorry that her co-star was unable to accompany them to Seminci, also stated that her main journey during the filming of the movie  was with him: “and it was incredible: a very organic process.”

Regarding the rest of the  characters, the director grew up with Danny (Morgan’s brother, played by UFC’s professional wrestler Cowboy Cerrone), with whom he shared fights in bars and even a stint in prison. Candy, Morgan’s co-worker and the closest thing to a best friend, “is a slippery and wicked character”, in the words of Michael Maxxis, and is superbly played by rapper Mickey Avalon. Finally, in the roles of the criminals, he cast “true criminals.”

Actriz Paz de la Huerta

Actress Paz de la Huerta

A crack-addicted prostitute

Carla’s character deserves a separate mention. She is a drug addict and practically a homeless prostitute, who has lost her home and her son and  lives with a gang of criminals who are also heavy users. She runs into Morgan after a home service to her brother Danny. Morgan begins to approach her as the puppy whom, little by little, his need for affection helps him overcome his panic and reach out for a helping hand, even if it is by paying.

Paz de la Huerta found the story convincing : “At the time I didn’t feel like I wanted to act again, I thought it was a finished stage in my life, but the script came to me and it moved me: that love story between two people who are broken inside.

Then began the process of preparing the character  to which she applied her usual methodology: “When I have the script, I memorize the lines from top to bottom so as  to forget about them;  and then, when I’m shooting, I do meditation to put myself in the role and connect with my inner self. For example, if I am in a sad state, I try to connect with that sad side and turn it into joy; it is a true transmutation. People say that acting is like playing a lie, but I don’t think so, I think it is about getting in touch with a real truth that is inside of  you. That allows me to improvise scene by scene, and I am very grateful to Michael for letting me do it. “

A story in a swimming pool

The way in which the protagonist becomes  the narrator of his own story is not conventional either. Morgan, who after a year of direct contact with his friend Carla and several criminals has finally cast away his  fear of relating to others, begins to narrate his story to a group of strangers with whom he shares a massage pool: a middle-aged man, a young woman and her mother, a mother and her two children… Children listening  to a very hard story involving drugs?

“The pool actually represents the audience and the  real people. Sometimes when we show the film, they think that we represent the margins of society, poor and disfavored people, but in reality I see them as the heart of society; normal people, who have problems and difficulties. There is a contrast between the real life of the people and the blue water in the pool “.

Yet the pool also plays  a role in the structure of the narrative. The same role as  Forrest Gump’s bench in the film by Zemeckis,  as Maxxis  explained: “We go back to the pool several times. It’s actually to fill in the gap and allow the characters in the film to get out of the narrative; something like going out to take some air “. On the other hand, Morgan manages to trap those present into  his lurid history, attracting more interest than scandal. “The pool is the place from where Morgan imparts his wisdom, which is his own, his unique perspective and vision of things, and that enables his  healing: his  is an honest opinion. He does not judge anyone, neither Carla, nor his brother, nor the drug dealer. And that attitude is what allows Carla to heal too.

The result of the entire process has been to the complete satisfaction of the film crew. Now it only remains to know the opinion of the Valladolid Festival audience.

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