Actor-director Jon Abrahams took some time this week to talk with Solzy at the Movies over the phone about the recently released Clover.
Clover is a modern twist on the American crime film. Were there any films in particular that influenced the way the movie was shot?
Jon Abrahams: Absolutely. Certainly Mikey and Nicky, which is an Elaine May-directed film with Peter Falk and John Cassavetes is a big inspiration as is John Cassavetes’ film, Gloria. I’m a big fan of all the John Cassavetes crime films. Also, a film called Point Blank and certainly Midnight Run is a big influence on us. Furthermore, a lot of the sort of action comedies from the 70s and 80s that they don’t make so much anymore. And passed that, you’re always going to have your influences from—when working in the crime genre—the greats: Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, and even Quentin Tarantino.
Do you have a favorite film from those three filmmakers?
Jon Abrahams: Oh, gosh, of course I do. I absolutely loved The Untouchables. I couldn’t argue that it’s Brian De Palma’s best film but it’s a movie that I can watch over and over and over again and I just love it. I feel like they don’t make movies like that anymore so much. I just love that film. Taxi Driver is my favorite movie of all time. I’m definitely not alone in that. It’s a lot of people’s favorite movie of all time. And probably a lot of directors’ favorite movies of all time. But, yes, Taxi Driver, definitely although, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Irishman are wonderful and all the Scorsese things are wonderful. Tarantino—I love Jackie Brown. I think Jackie Brown is my favorite Tarantino movie. It’s interesting because it’s adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel and there’s certainly an Elmore Leonard-ish vibe to Clover. That’s also an inspiration.
Not only do you direct the film but you co-star as Mickey Callaghan. What can you tell us about Mickey?
Jon Abrahams: Mickey is sort of the smarter of the two fool brothers in our scenario. He’s more uptight. He’s the one who sort of has to clean up his brother’s mess his whole life. His brother’s a little more freewheeling and makes mistakes and has a gambling addiction. He has to clean up for his brother and that in turn affects his life. He’s trying to hold it all together and he’s definitely not Zen about it.
How did you first learn about the screenplay?
Jon Abrahams: I’ve been involved in the screenplay from egg to chicken. I had an idea that I was knocking around in my head for years about two Irish twin brothers. Like I said, Mikey and Nicky is one of my favorite films and has always been an inspiration so I wanted to do something about a relationship that’s maybe grounded in betrayal at a certain point between two friends or brothers. I brought it up to Mike Testone, who’s the writer of our first film All at Once and also Clover. He liked the idea and sort of said, “Let me go and do my thing to it.” So I said, “Cool.” He went off and did his thing and came back with what you’re pretty much seeing on the screen. We kind of broke story together and then and then he went off and wrote it.
What was the most challenging part of production?
Jon Abrahams: The most challenging part of the production was that we shot Clover in the winter in Buffalo, New York. I think that lends something special to the film because it’s a real tense kind of situation and when it’s actually freezing cold outside, that’s going to make everybody a little on edge and on their toes and tight. It gives something great to the film but there were moments there where it was just brutally cold and you’re shooting outside all night long. You’re just like, it’s unbelievably cold. That can be a challenge for sure.
Coming from Chicago, believe me, I know all about the cold.
Jon Abrahams: You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Yeah. I have to ask—what was it like to be able to work on Meet the Parents?
Jon Abrahams: I mean that was just a dream. Obviously, they’re two greats. I grew up in the same neighborhood as De Niro so my awareness of a movie star starts with him also with a great actor kind of starts with him so obviously that was just a dream. They were both so generous and so kind to me and I will never forget it. It’s still to this day something that I kind of you go, Wow like that actually happened and nobody can take that away from me. They’re wonderful to answer your question.
With everything that happened over March, the film is going straight to digital instead of a theatrical release. Given the non-traditional press tour, are you afraid of the film getting lost under the radar?
Jon Abrahams: Yes. Your concern as a director is always that your movie is gonna be lost under the radar or something that no one will see it. It was a big disappointment that the movie can’t be shown in theaters. I made the movie to be shown in theaters. It’s very hard these days to get a movie that’s going to show in theaters. I’m of an age where I still think of movies as being played in theaters, not on small screens. But at the same time, my hope is that the silver lining is that people are stuck at home and they’re looking for entertainment, and they find us, get involved in the movie, and get some entertainment and escapism from it. It may work out that way. We may get more eyes than we would have. It was a bitter pill to swallow but at the same time, I think I remain optimistic about it.
Press tour aside, what are you doing to keep yourself from going stir crazy?
Jon Abrahams: Well, I’m promoting a movie that I have coming out on Friday called Clover. (Laughs) I am a visual artist as well so I’m just doing a lot of art at home and trying to stay busy that way. I’m trying to catch up on television shows that I that I haven’t watched—that I never watched in the past. I, like everybody else, watched Tiger King. These kinds of things. That’s what I’m doing—trying to stay active as much as possible because I think that’s very important.