The Funny Guy Returns

The actor who appeared wearing a Castle Knights T-shirt in the January/February 2007 issue of this magazine has returned to his old stomping grounds to make his first feature film. Michael Rosenbaum, best known for his role as Lex Luthor on the drama “Smallville” from 2001 to 2008, is making “Old Days” in his hometown of Newburgh, Ind., this month.

Two years ago, the 39-year-old Rosenbaum formed Rose and Bomb Productions with the mission to make films that appeal to him and his brother; 33-year-old Eric Rosenbaum left his career in the pharmaceutical industry and joined the company as producing partner. Already, the brothers have made a horror short, “Fade Into You,” in post production, and also wrote and produced a festival-circuit award-winning fantasy short, “Ghild,” in 2010. Michael stole a moment away from production planning in late February to talk to Evansville Living about “Old Days.”

EL: What’s it like taking on the task of a full-length film?
MR: It’s a tremendous amount of work and also very rewarding. Our team is working around the clock because there’s so much to get done and so little time. Casting, producing, production design, editing, cinematography, props, makeup, wardrobe — making a movie is really a machine. And if any part of the machine breaks down, you have to fix it pretty fast or things can fall apart quickly. As a director, every day 50 people come up to you and they all have many questions. And as a director you have to listen to each and every one. With my ADD, that isn’t always easy! Most of the great directors I’ve read about, have worked with, or admire hire people they know they can just leave alone to do their job. It’s all about trust. Allowing your crew to have a freedom with their job is the best way to go. Let them bring you ideas. Directing a feature film and starring in it is everything I thought it would be plus 10 times as hard, but I never stop having fun. It’s the most adversity I’ve ever faced, and I’m absolutely loving it!

EL: Was “Old Days” a project you’ve been planning for a long time?
MR: I wrote “Old Days” 10 years ago, and when another one of my movies fell apart I was determined to get this project done. I didn’t care how — I just made a decision that it was going to get made. It’s always been a passion project of mine, and when I teamed up with my producer Kim Waltrip, she showed the same passion and helped me get the ball rolling. She recently produced a movie I did with Bradley Cooper, Dax Shepard, and Kristen Bell (“Outrun,” scheduled for release this summer). I truly believe that the only way to get anything done in this business or any business is to do it yourself. No question about it. You can’t wait around for people to cast you in the role you want or hand you money to make the movie you want. You really have to do it yourself or your chance might never come. This is my chance to do it my way. I want to make something special.

EL: What is the shooting schedule and anticipated release date?
MR: We start early March with principal photography. One month of prep and one month of shooting. I honestly think this movie has a real chance of not only making money and having a wide release, but more importantly becoming a movie people can really enjoy and relate to. I want to make movies that people don’t really have to think about too much. They can just go to the theater and have a real laugh — enjoy themselves. Most movies take themselves too seriously. If I’m not laughing every day on set, I’m doing something very wrong.

EL: “Old Days” is about a Hollywood “star” (though unsuccessful) returning to his small hometown in Indiana. How personal is this film?
MR: It’s very personal. But the beauty about this film is that it’s simple. I think there’s a little bit of the character I’m playing in everyone. We all miss home and we all want things to be as easy as they might have been when we were kids. And the truth is, there’s no reason why they can’t be.  And I think that’s what sets “Old Days” apart from other films. I haven’t seen many movies where the lead character comes back home for his reunion and actually embraces his hometown. My character, Jim Owens, falls in love with the town he ran away from so many years ago. I think people like to exploit these small towns and make fun of them. I’m doing just the opposite. Sure, there will be craziness and absurdities — we are making a comedy, but I want people to see how beautiful Newburgh and Evansville really are. I miss going to Kramer’s Lake back in the day. Or having a stromboli at Pizza King. Or cutting through backyards with my friends and drinking from garden hoses.  Those were the days.  Don’t get me wrong — I have a lot of fun in Los Angeles and I’m very grateful for all my success, but nothing beats a whiffleball game with all your boys and a few beers on a beautiful Indiana day.

EL: Tell us about the cast
MR: Female lead Morena Baccarin (“Homeland” and “V”) is not only beautiful and charming, but very funny. And like me, she has a big sci-fi following. Sci-fi fans are the best fans there are. Loyal as hell. Sarah Colonna (“Chelsea Lately”) is a stand-up comedian. Her book, “Life As I Blow It: Tales of Love, Life & Sex . . . Not Necessarily in That Order,” is on the New York Times Best Seller list, and she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Harland Williams (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something about Mary,” and “Half Baked”) is the funniest person I’ve ever met. Just look the guy up. You’ll see him and instantly laugh. Nick Swardson (“Grandma’s Boy,” “30 Minutes or Less” and most of Adam Sandler’s films) is another talent that we are just lucky to have. He can say just about anything and I’m laughing. Mike Haggerty (“Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and tons of movies) is a character actor who is playing our crazed principal. He has so much energy and talent, and we are delighted to have him. Kristoffer Polaha (“Ringer”) is a really fine actor and is a southern boy who really brings a lot of authenticity to this movie. Jay Ferguson (“Madmen”) is a true pro and a very talented actor. We’ve known each other a very long time. This movie is moving full speed ahead. We have two weeks to go and then the magic really begins. Overall, the cast consists mostly of actor friends of mine and actors our casting director, Annie McCarthy, in Los Angeles has suggested and helped me cast. Our Indiana casting director and local casting director Lori Lynn also has worked incredibly hard. She has given me so much to choose from. And believe it or not, Evansville has some really talented actors. I’m very happy with all of my choices.

EL: You’ve said the community has been very helpful. Who would you like to thank?
MR: I’d like to take the time to thank the City of Evansville and Town of Newburgh and everyone who has been so supportive on this project. It’s truly unbelievable. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and former Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel have been so helpful in making this dream of mine come true. Not to mention countless business owners and friends. I can’t tell you how many people have offered a helping hand. From Castle High School Principal Andy Byers to my friends Kent Brenneman and Dave Clark, Sheriff Eric Williams, and the list goes on. We’ve had help getting RVs for actors, and generators, gym memberships from Bob’s Gym for the cast and crew, use of cars from Town and Country Ford, signage from Signs by Design, catering by Beef O’Brady’s, Pizza King, and accommodations at The Comfort Inn and Le Merigot. I couldn’t be more impressed by my hometown. You’d never see this in Los Angeles. I may actually move back here. I’ve certainly entertained it enough.

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