Double Whammy (2001)

Writer/Director: Tom DiCillo
Cast: Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Luis Guzman, Melonie Diaz, Donald Faison, Keith Knobb, Victor Argo, Chris Noth, Steve Buscemi.
Festivals: Sundance, Tribeca, Gijon, Deauville.
Awards: Best Picture; DVD Premiere Awards.

Double Whammy TRAILER

This is a tough film for me to write about.  It is the only film I have made that did not get theatrical distribution. That’s not to say it wasn’t supposed to.  Double Whammy premiered at Sundance in 2000 where it was picked up for US distribution by Lionsgate. Variety announced the sale and included Lionsgate’s stated intention to release the film theatrically in September of 2001.

Then a couple of things happened. The guy who’d championed the film at the film’s original financing company got fired. Then the guy who’d championed the film at Lionsgate was asked to find other employment. I suddenly had a film that was orphaned. In both cases, the executives who replaced the ones who’d departed wanted to start with a clean slate of their own films and the last thing they felt was any loyalty to films left behind by their predecessors.

A lengthy, disturbing silence came from Lionsgate. Finally, I received a cursory email stating they’d never intended a theatrical release and instead were dumping the film straight to DVD. That was my first lesson in Legality in this business. The fact is, there really is none. If someone wants to violate a contract they will. These people did whatever suited them because they knew no one would, or could, stop them.

But, before all that there was the film which I’d seriously enjoyed writing and directing. My intent was to poke some satirical fun at the whole Violence Is Cool craze that was saturating independent film. Part of it was based on real events; a young girl in the Bronx had really plotted to kill her father because he wouldn’t let her get a tattoo. Part of it came from my own experience of having a back that would go out on me at the worst possible times. I gave that affliction to Hero Cop Denis Leary and the rest of the stuff came out of my brain.

I had a great time with the crime genre. I was finally able to cast Chris Noth in one of my films. He plays a cop but one with a sharp twist of malice and ego. Ends up he’s the only one who figures out the crime.

The young actors Melonie Diaz, Donald Faison and Keith Knobb were a joy to work with. Their enthusiasm was exhilarating. That kind of willingness is the greatest gift an actor can give a director. I find it the most common with young, eager non-stars and this is why their performances light up the screen.