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Cast and Crew of 'Frank' Shed Light On Upcoming Film

by Photo of Matthew Golda

‘Frank’ may seem zany, but there’s real emotion inside that head.

Cast and Crew of 'Frank' Shed Light On Upcoming Film

In this article…

At a press conference for the upcoming film Frank, a few of the actors (Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal), the director (Lenny Abrahamson), and the writer (Jon Ronson) kindly discussed their new movie at the Crosby Hotel in New York City. There are the obvious takeaways people can get from it, like how there is a lead singer who is constantly wearing a giant head or how Clara, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, doesn't have a lot to say, but much of it deals with human emotion. 

The character of Frank is looking at the bi-polar state. They weren't trying to hide Frank behind the mask. That was Frank. "Frank is that character," director Lenny Abrahamson said at the conference. And Michael Fassbender reiterated those sentiments by saying "Frank is Frank and Frank lives in his own universe." Fassbender, after all, plays the mysterious man behind the mask, who also didn't hate having to wear the giant head. "It was really liberating," Fassbender said. It brought "an element of mischief. It was a lot of fun."

The character of Frank draws inspiration from Frank Sidebottom, who is actually Chris Sievey's comic persona. Sievey fronted the band The Freshies in the late '70s and early '80s. However, Frank's mental instability in the film is not drawn from Sievey, but Sievey told Ronson that it was okay to change Frank's outlook. "Chris loved chaos," Ronson said, and "chaos is an admirable character trait." Ronson also said he thought it would be funny if everyone in the band was "completely serious" about the music they were making.

The music is clearly an integral part of the film and had to be perfect before production started. Fassbender said there was a "three-week rehearsal session before filming started." This was for the actors, who perform in the band themselves and play the music you hear, to work up a rapport with one another. It was also to get the music right. They wanted to "find music that was artful, but not pretentious," said Fassbender. It was a fine line that they needed to figure out, otherwise the film would fall flat. (side note: The band's performance on The Colbert Report was their last. It was quite stressful according to Fassbender.)

Fassbender was asked how much of the recorded music did he actually sing and he answered in the best way possible: "None of it. And I thought the guy we got could have done better." Who says Germans don't have a sense of humor? Okay, he's half German, but still, dude is funny (Fassbender broke out a Werner Herzog impersonation at the press conference too, not unlike Paul F. Tompkins' portrayal on Comedy Bang Bang). Abrahamson assured me though that Fassbender did, in fact, record all of the music you hear in the film, which makes even more excited to see it now.

If you haven't seen the trailer for it yet, here it is:

Okay, so Fassbender can sing a little. Big deal. Can he play the theremin though? That was the task handed to Gyllenhaal, out of pure vanity too. Writer Jon Ronson loved the line "get away from my fucking theremin" that he could not see another instrument taking its place. So, Ms. Gyllenhaal was stuck attempting to learn that instrument. She "knew what most of the knobs did," which was as good a start as any. Gyllenhaal continued and discussed performing for others. It's all about "acting like you're good enough at it." She drew confidence from seeing the band Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. "We were acting like we were awesome," she said, "but they were really awesome."

The wardrobe in Frank is something that pops out even from watching the trailer. Gyllenhaal said about Clara: "She thought she was in a French new wave movie all the time." When Fassbender was asked what costume was his favorite, he responded by saying, "the wrestling suit." Because of course he did. 

Then there's the head, which Fassbender said he didn't mind wearing. He primarily used only one head. Six or seven were made, according to Abrahamson, but those were for specific scenes and stunts. And nobody dared to put on that head. Not because they were scared of something Fassbender would do, but because "It's like wearing somebody else's underpants," said Abrahamson, in a joking manner. Domhnall Gleeson chimed in by saying that "if we loved [Michael], then we would have tried it on." Hey, sweaty/smelly/disgusting, if you asked me, I'd try it on in a heartbeat. And P.S. Michael, don't worry, I love you.

Be sure to check out Frank, which hits theaters in a limited release in select cities on August 15th before a wide release at the end of the month.

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