Saturday, August 16, 2008

"The Rocker" Set To Rock Cleveland - and The World

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently featured a movie whose story is set in Cleveland, with some of the exteriors filmed in Cleveland. It’s called “The Rocker” and stars Rainn Wilson. The film opens nationwide on Wednesday, August 20. Take a look at the trailer; the Plain Dealer article is below.

"The Rocker" Preview Clip from the Film's YouTube Channel



Rainn Wilson pounds and preens for laughs as 'The Rocker'

by Clint O'Connor/Plain Dealer Film Critic
Friday August 15, 2008, 8:00 AM

Rainn Wilson rocks.

As Dwight on "The Office." As the wisecracking convenience store worker in "Juno." And as Robert "Fish" Fishman, the bitter hair-metal-drummer-turned-rockin'-role-model in the new comedy "The Rocker," which opens nationwide Wednesday.

Wilson plays drums, cavorts with Christina Applegate, jams with Teddy Geiger and generally has a rowdy good time in the flick that is set in Cleveland. He was here last summer shooting a few scenes. But before we get to all of that we need to establish "The Rocker's" vaunted position in the pantheon of great drummer movies. Such as they are.

"This is the first movie ever about a rock drummer," said Wilson, 42, in his deadest deadpan tone. "It's the second movie ever about a drummer, preceded by 'The Gene Krupa Story.' Now you see, Sal Mineo was brutally stabbed to death on a Hollywood street, and he played Gene Krupa in the 'The Gene Krupa Story.' "

Pause.

"I hope that is not my fate."

Mineo was, in fact, murdered. But it was 17 years after the Krupa movie was released. Wilson is therefore safely absolved from the playing-a-drummer-in-a-drummer-movie curse. We think.

"The Rocker" opens in 1988 when Fish was the kick-ass drummer for Vesuvius. Just as the hair-metal band is about to strike it rich, they dump him. Twenty years later we find Fish stuck in a mindless job in Cleveland, living in his sister's attic. He seeks his rock-revenge through his nephew, Matt (Josh Gad) and Matt's band, A.D.D., which features Curtis (real-life heartthrob singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger), and Amelia (Emma Stone from "Superbad").

Wilson was not well-versed in metal. "I really, thankfully, slept through the mid- '80s," he said on the phone from Chicago. "At that point I'd gotten into the Clash and Elvis Costello and REM and XTC. But since coming back to it, I realized [heavy metal bands] made rock more accessible, fun and just a rockin' great time. We could use a little more of that today. I think rock musicians tend to take themselves a little too seriously."

As part of his pre-film prep, Wilson was given a drum set and a drum coach.

"Not only did I learn how to drum, but I had to learn how to capture the essence of the heavy-metal drummer. If drummers are dumb, then heavy-metal drummers are preening idiots," he said.

"I had to learn how to physicalize that. But it really helped me define the character. There's something about the mentality of someone who likes to sit behind other people and thump on things and make incredibly loud noises."

Geiger was the only real musician in A.D.D. (and he sings most of the songs in the film). "Everyone was taking lessons, so they all kind of learned at least the songs in the movie," said Geiger before a gig at the Agora last month. "Watching back, I think it looks good. You wouldn't know they had just learned to play their instruments."

Wilson had a head start. In high school he played in a band called Collected Moss.

"It was the worst cover band you could ever imagine. I was the lead singer, and we did covers of 'Magic Carpet Ride,' 'Fire on the Mountain,' and bunch of other crazy songs. I actually grew up playing a lot of instruments. I played piano and clarinet, saxophone, and -- yes, Cleveland -- even the bassoon. I am maybe the first bassoonist that you've ever interviewed."

This is true.

Most of "The Rocker" was filmed in Toronto, but Wilson and a small contingent zipped down to Cleveland last August for two days to shoot some exteriors -- the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Public Square, Browns Stadium and Jacobs Field before the name change.

Two days. Plenty of time to catch the Cleveland vibe.

"There was a hail storm," said Wilson. "It had been like 90 degrees outside and all of a sudden it was hailing, and it was hailing like the size of grapefruits, thundering down on the cars below, and I thought, 'This is some crazy-ass weather. And this is the summer? I wonder what the winters are like here.' "

Churning "The Rocker" out quickly on a relatively small budget (about $15 million) meant lengthy hours. "It was exhausting, about 15 hours a day six days a week," said Wilson. "But it was so worth it. It's a sweet, coming-of-age comedy. I think it's refreshing in these days of either really broad, dumb comedies, or R-rated giant sketch comedies, to have a really small human story."

Wilson was in Chicago promoting "The Rocker," then was headed to Los Angeles to film a brief appearance in "Transformers 2," before shooting new episodes of "The Office." The fifth season launches on NBC at 9 p.m. Sept. 25.

"The Rocker" is a big switch for Wilson. He usually plays the oddball supporting character. Now he's the lead, responsible for carrying an entire film.

Of course, most people know him as Dwight Schrute, Dunder Mifflin's bungling sycophant. I asked Wilson if he was cool with that being his signature part, with people screaming, "Hey, Dwight!" when they see him.

"You know, unlike Lindsay Lohan, I got famous at around age 37 or 38, so I have been around for a long time," he said.

"The fact that I'm now on a TV show that's taken off and is really high quality and that people love, I could not be more thrilled and more grateful. What a great job I get to do. I get to play a really memorable character. I get to show up with a bad haircut and be really annoying, and do some really off the wall stuff. And I love it."


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