On set with Don McKellar’s Last Night

Last Night marks the feature film directorial debut of Canadian actor/writer Don McKellar and raises the question, if it was your last night on earth what would you do and who would you do it with?...

Last Night marks the feature film directorial debut of Canadian actor/writer Don McKellar and raises the question, if it was your last night on earth what would you do and who would you do it with?

The $2.3-million bittersweet comedic drama produced by Niv Fichman and Danny Irons of Rhombus Media takes place on Dec. 31, 1999, the last day of the millennium and the last day of the world.

The project originated a few years back when McKellar was approached by production company Hout et Court of Paris to work on an anthology series about the end of the millennium for arte. Directors from Brazil, Taiwan, Africa and Europe were also commissioned to direct films on their version of the end of the millennium. McKellar took it one step further, turning the end of the 1900s into the end of the world.

When it came to writing the script, McKellar asked acquaintances how they would ring in Armageddon. The top 10 answers formed the basis of the story, which follows a number of characters as they approach zero hour.

The cast is all-star, all-Canadian. Sandra, played by Sandra Oh (Bean, Double Happiness) is trying to make it home to her husband in time to fulfill their midnight suicide pact but runs into car trouble along the way. Craig, played by Callum Keith Rennie (Due South, Men With Guns), has made a list of sexual experiences he would like to have while he still can. To help him attain his goal, he approaches Patrick, played by McKellar, who is struggling to get out of dinner with his folks who want to relive a happy Christmas from the past.

The film was shot by dop Doug Koch Sept. 15 to Oct. 19 on locations in and around Toronto.

One sunny October day saw the entire crew packed into a once elegantly decorated Toronto condo, now covered with drop cloths and cardboard, to shoot director and sometimes actor David Cronenberg’s scenes.

With the end approaching in just 30 minutes, Cronenberg’s character sits calmly at home waiting for his wife, while outside people riot in the streets.

Summoned to the door, he finds a young gun-toting punk played by Michael Barry (The Hairy Bird). The camera pulls back as the kid makes his way up the stairs and into the house, all the while pointing the gun straight into the camera as Cronenberg backs away, repeating ‘I’m not afraid of you’ in a calm soothing tone.

Other members of the cast include Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter), Roberta Maxwell (Dead Man Walking), Robin Gammel (e.n.g.) Arsinee Khanjian (The Sweet Hereafter) Jackie Burroughs (Road To Avonlea), Genevieve Bujold (Dead Ringers) and Tracy Wright (Blue).

McKellar, whose writing credits include Highway 61, Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Twitch City and The Red Violin, says at first he was hesitant about directing and starring in the film, but he soon developed a system he felt comfortable with, and as shooting progressed, he relaxed into the dual role.

‘I am keeping the direction fairly simple,’ said McKellar during a break in shooting. ‘The style is fairly austere and elegant to contrast with what is sometimes very chaotic action. The film is about people who have dealt with the issue, they knew the end was coming, but some are running through the streets smashing things and killing people. I represent those people but I don’t focus on them as much.’

The entire action takes place in daylight and in order to give the film a high-contrast, stark look they are experimenting with a bleach bypass process.

Last Night is not an official coproduction. There was a distribution advance from Hout et Court against some of the territories and Rhombus International will distribute.