Begrudgingly envying friends and colleagues as they began to garner the success you have so longingly yearned for is a difficult emotion for many people to admit to feeling. However, that sentiment of defeat and overcoming a series of setbacks is amusingly and satirically emphasized in director Ellie Kanner’s new comedy, ‘Authors Anonymous,’ as the flawed ensemble of characters struggle to find their own happiness and contentment. Led by the versatile and dynamic pairing of actors Chris Klein and Kaley Cuoco, the film shows that while people’s resentment can be amusing on certain levels, that continued unwarranted jealously can also cause emotional pain between friends who otherwise had a strong connection.
‘Authors Anonymous’ follows a group of aspiring Los Angeles novelists who are filming a documentary about their weekly support group, as they’re all eagerly waiting to be published. The group is led by Alan Mooney (Dylan Walsh), an eye doctor who longs to also be a writer, but is unable to successfully translate them into enticing stories. His wife, Colette (Teri Polo), is an aspiring romance novelist who releases her marital and sexual frustrations through erotic fiction. Alan is intimidated by his wife’s attraction to the young William Bruce (Jonathan Bennett), who adores Charles Bukowski but can’t write any of his own original material.
Meanwhile Henry Obert (Klein) holds a vast literary knowledge, but finds himself delivering pizza and cleaning carpets to make extra money as he strives to find the right literary deal. He longs to have a romantic relationship with the ditsy Hannah Rinaldi (Cuoco), who becomes frustrated their current relationship isn’t enough for him. Also feeling deceived after he discovers she doesn’t follow her own compassionately trite advice. Henry and his fellow writers become jealous when she’s the first group member to secure an agent and sign a publishing deal. Her eminent success also pushes the Tom Clancy-obsessed veteran, John K. Butzin (Dennis Farina), to rush off to become the group’s next success story.
Klein generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Authors Anonymous,’ which is now available On Demand and on iTunes, over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to appearing in the comedy in part because of the chance to collaborate with both his talented co-stars and Kanner, and how he felt they were all well-suited for their work on the film; how starring in independent movies, as opposed to studio films, doesn’t change his approach to acting, and how he feels making indies is all about freedom of expression; and how he’s a fan of Christopher Guest’s comedies, and the documentary aspect of ‘Authors Anonymous’ is a bit synonymous with the tone of the actor-writer-director-producer’s films.
Question (Q): You star as Henry Obert in the new comedy, ‘Authors Anonymous.’ What was it about the character and the script overall that convinced you to take on the role?
Chris Klein (CK): In ‘Author’s Anonymous,’ I play Henry Obert, who is an aspiring novelist. He’s a member of a support group of friends and fellow aspiring novelists. Henry’s a shy, introverted guy, and a genuinely good soul. He really loves being a part of the support group, and the friendships it brings.
What really attracted me to this character and movie initially were the other actors. I was the last piece of the puzzle that joined this cast. It’s a great cast, starting with Kaley Cuoco, who’s a brilliant actress and is very funny. She’s just right for her role of Hannah in the movie. I’ve been a fan of Dennis Farina for a long time, God rest his soul. He was a Chicago guy, and being a child and growing up there myself, I was a fan of his acting.
Dylan Walsh is wonderful in the picture, and I think Teri Polo stole the movie. All these terrific actors were already part of the movie. Also, to work with Ellie (Kanner), the director, who has such a beautiful touch on the stories she tells, was really exciting.
Q: Speaking of Ellie, she has experience in the romantic comedy genre, having helmed such films as ‘Wake’ and ‘Crazylove.’ What was your overall experience of working with her on the set, since she is so familiar with the genre?
CK: Working with Ellie was fantastic. She’s a wonderful director, and had a really great handle on the material. She was the woman for the job, no doubt. I think when people see this movie, they’ll really enjoy it for the soft, intricate touch that she brought to the comedy.
Another thing about this picture is that Ellie did a great job of allowing the actors to bring what they wanted to the characters. She allowed freedom of expression, in terms of the character and the script. There wasn’t a lot of improv, but she allowed us our own ideas to the picture, which I think adds a lot to it.
Q: Speaking of improvising, did you offer Ellie any suggestions on your ideas on building a backstory and motivations for Henry while shooting?
CK: Well, I had as much input as I wanted to bring. I brought some very specific ideas to what I thought the character was. All of those conversations were done before I took the part. In our creative discussions about who this character was, Ellie and I came to the conclusion that I was the right guy to play him. We also figured out that my ideas were going to fit along nicely with Ellie’s ideas, and married our two ideas together. Then the rest is about servicing the film, its script and Ellie’s vision. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.
Q: ‘Authors Anonymous’ features a diverse cast, like you mentioned earlier. What were your working relationships with your co-stars like, particularly Kaley, who played Henry’s love interested, on the set? Were you able to have any rehearsal time with them before you began shooting?
CK: Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time for rehearsals. However, we did have a few sessions. Once in a while, you join a film whose cast gets along right from the beginning of production. That was definitely the case with ‘Author’s Anonymous.’
Al of us got along right away. We knew what the material was about, and formed that support group that was so important for the film. Everyone really came in character. When that happens, it’s going to be a wonderful acting environment, and you’re going to make a complete picture. That’s what we were able to do here.
Q: The comedy was shot independently on a smaller budget. Did having that smaller budget influence the way you portrayed Henry, or pose any challenges on the set?
CK: The only difference is there’s less money to make the production happen. Starring in independent movies or studio pictures doesn’t change my method. Acting and storytelling is what I do. Making independent movies is a wonderful experience, because it’s about freedom of expression. There are a lot less cooks in the kitchen, so you’re able to explore the character in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do on the big budget films.
I love making independent films, and have a part of them throughout my career. I hope I have more opportunities in the independent realm moving forward, because there are some beautiful stories to be told there.
Q: ‘Author s Anonymous’ is currently playing on VOD. Are you personally a fan of watching movies On Demand, and why do you think the platform is important for smaller films like this one?
CK: Well, I’m certainly not an expert on the subject, but I am a customer of Video On Demand. I think that platform is a wonderful way to watch pictures and get movies into your home. For myself, it’s my preferred method of watching movies, as opposed to Redbox, Netflix or DVDs. On Demand is made to order, and that’s nice.
With that, I do believe it’s a wonderful way to get independent films out there to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to see them. There’s a massive hunger for independent films in more places than just the coasts. Typically, independent films will have just enough distribution to get into theaters in New York and Los Angeles. But with On Demand, films are able to get to all independent film lovers across the country and world. That’s a big deal, because it opens up the market in a much bigger way.
Q: In the film, Henry, Hannah and their writing group are filming a documentary about the experiences in their writers’ group. Do you feel it helps build the characters’ relationships and arcs?
CK: Yes, I do. The documentary aspect of the film was what got me interested in the project in the beginning stages. I’m such a fan of Christopher Guest’s comedies, and he does such a wonderful job in the documentary style. The interview portions of ‘Author’s Anonymous’ is a bit synonymous with the tone of Christopher Guest’s films. So to do a bit of that was a lot of fun.
Q: Besides films, you have also starred on several television series throughout your career, most recently ‘Wilfred.’ Since there are so many great television series airing right now, do you have an interest in returning to television in the future?
CK: I think television is a wonderful medium to work in. There are so many great things currently being done on television. I’ve certainly loved the opportunities I’ve had in television, and I hope to have more of those opportunities. I’m an actor first, so wherever I’m invited to act, and the right story comes along, I’m happy to do it. The medium isn’t as much of a concern to me as the story and the part I have the opportunity to play.
The time commitment is the only difference. The production value is also different, since most projects are now shot digitally. But otherwise, the mediums are about the same.
Q: You also have experience in theater, including taking part in ‘Unscreened’ in 2012 at the Lillian Theater in Los Angeles. Are you interested in doing more theater again in the future?
CK: I would absolutely love to do theater again. For better or worse, those opportunities are far and few between, especially making my home base in Los Angeles. But I love the stage, and hope to take part in another play again in the near future.
Q: Besides ‘Author’s Anonymous,’ do you have any upcoming films lined up you can discuss?
CK: I’m really excited about ‘Author’s Anonymous’ being On Demand and on iTunes. I’m also excited about the next season of ‘Wilfred.’ We’re currently filming the show’s last season, and it’s going to premiere (next month) on FX. Speaking about forays into television, that show has been a really fun one for me.