The Capitol Theatre is as much a star as notable Canadian actor Nick Mancuso in Stephen Wallis’ The Performance.
The film, which wrapped up three weeks of shooting in Windsor, paints a dramatic portrait of a life filled with inevitable regret.
The Performance is about an aging actor at the end of his career who decides he will mount an autobiographical performance about his life. He arrives at The Capitol Theatre the same day his ex-wife is committing suicide. There, he encounters his director and actors who will be playing his mother and his wife. He starts running into old friends. All these events and interactions start a process where he is forced to reexamine his life in what he’s written in his play versus what really happened.
“My father passed about a year ago,” said writer and director Stephan Wallis. “He wasn’t like our protagonist [but] he was certainly affected by the weight of the regrets that he had over a lifetime. I was fascinated by how that little bit of weight comes from every wrong decision and how that can affect every other decision you make.”Wallis himself knows regret. He worked for years in IT to support his family while holding off on a career in film.
“I was in film school when I was much younger. I had a daughter when I was very young and my sense of responsibility was stronger than going off and chasing dreams. I’m glad I made that decision but when I hit my mid 30s I was kind of stable financially to pursue a dream without affecting the rest of my life,” said Wallis, who has written and directed a handful of films over the last decade that vary from comedy to thriller, horror and drama.
Wallis now resides in California but made his way back to his native Ontario to shoot The Performance, which stars bigger Canadian names such as Nick Mancuso, Graham Greene, Sienna Guillory, Art Hindle and Men with Brooms actress Polly Shannon. There’s also one Windsorite on cast, Rhys Trenhaile, who doubles as a producer. He is credited for securing Windsor as a filming location.
“With The Birder it was two Windsorites that were thinking about making a movie down here. With The Performanceit’s me, with The Scarehouse it’s me and Gavin (Booth). For all these movies you’re talking about five Windsorites total and it doesn’t take much more than that to start creating a cottage industry down here,” said Trenhaile.
“The Performance is arguable the biggest movie ever shot in Windsor to date. Especially if you base it on the quality of how big the names are,” he added.
Wallis said some of the film’s producers are from Windsor and “are extremely passionate about their town in a way that we really hadn’t seen before.”
“I went down to Windsor, which was a city I wasn’t very familiar with, and really loved it. It’s … perfect for the movie,” he added.
Although the theatre had initially been named The Riverside in the film, audiences will see The Capitol Theatre being represented as its true self. The movie, however, doesn’t suggest it takes place in Windsor.
“Sometimes it’s just better to let a place play as itself,” said Wallis.
Inside the theatre the lights are being made to flicker, the venue is supposed to look as weathered as its performer.
“It’s had better days … but it’s still a magnificent theatre,” said actor Art Hindle, who plays a director in the film. “I think Windsor [is] a fabulous place to film. Like many other cities a lot of the population … has moved to the suburbs so the downtown streets tend to be deserted. For that reason it would be a fabulous place to shoot street scenes. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a lot of films that happen in Windsor.”
Wallis thinks Canada has gotten into more quirky cinema over the last 20 years, but said this is an old fashioned gut wrenching drama.
“This is a movie that isn’t made very often in Canada anymore. It’s something I’m not sure has ever been done here … It’s a different kind of movie,” said Wailis.
The Performance will premiere in Windsor in fall of 2015.
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