BWW Interview: Lee Wilkof of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Unveils New Film Project, NO PAY, NUDITY
Broadway veteran Lee Wilkof may be best known to many for his iconic portrayal of the nebbish florist Seymour in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Off-Broadway, and to others for his Tony-nominated performance in the 2000 Broadway revival of KISS ME, KATE. But now Wilkof's trying his hand at something else - writing and producing his first film. He's been in several already, most notably 2009's LEAVES OF GRASS and most amusingly indie director John Putch's "ROUTE 30" trilogy, for which he just wrapped up shooting the third and final installment, but it's time for him to try the other side of the camera. On September 9, he announced his Kickstarter campaign (http://www.KickstartLee.com) to raise funds for the production; we met with him near the end of August to discuss the project.
This is his first time producing or directing. "It's something that I've often thought about. I've written a few scripts but they've gotten away from me - but if I don't do what I want to do now, I'll never do it. I'm 62; it's time."This script, for NO PAY, NUDITY, hasn't gotten away, possibly because it's rooted in what he knows best -- theatre. "This is a script I wrote with another young man, Ethan Sandler, based on a story I wrote. I dusted it off last year in Chicago while I was doing THE ICEMAN COMETH with Nathan Lane. I decided it was good when I re-read it, and I'm going to try to get it made. I called up Ethan and I talked to him. I had my wife, director Connie Grappo, look at it. Ethan and I made some changes, did some rewriting. A cousin of mine was very generous about giving me some money. We decided to start a Kickstarter campaign to get the rest of the money. I just got off the phone with my producer and a woman who's a Kickstarter expert. I have a video John Putch helped me shoot."
Those familiar with Kickstarter are aware that there are usually gifts or prizes awarded for donations, and Wilkof is following that policy, with some unusual awards to donors. "We have prizes, yes. If someone gives us a thousand dollars, I'll sing to them on Skype. If they want "Happy Birthday," they've got it. If they want "Suddenly, Seymour," they've got it. For ten thousand dollars, there's dinner with Nathan Lane and me at Joe Allen's for four people. There's speaking parts in the movie."
Major donors aren't the only people who may be gracing the screen. Wilkof's friends have expressed interest in parts in the film. "Some really neat people are interested if they're available. Nathan Lane - who's not starring. Ted Levine, who I'd like to have starring. Laurie Metcalf, Jessica Hecht. So many people are interested - it just depends on their schedules and when we're able to start filming. Boyd Gaines, Brent Spiner, Lewis Black, a lot of good friends." (This author just encountered Spiner, one of the stars of television's STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION at science fiction event Dragon Con in Atlanta, after talking with Wilkof; Spiner has confirmed to us his great interest in participating in the film. He's an old friend of Wilkof's, dating back to LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.)