'Pittsburgh' premiere: Three Rivers Film Festival opens with quasi-documentary on Jeff Goldblum

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Harry Giglio
Catherine Wreford and Jeff Goldblum starred in the 2004 Pittsburgh CLO production of "The Music Man," recounted in the film "Pittsburgh."
By Barbara Vancheri
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chris Bradley is getting his fill of Pittsburgh -- happily -- this week.

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Related coverage of Jeff Goldblum's 'Pittsburgh'
Actors, filmmakers give story behind comic film 'Pittsburgh' (at Tribeca Film Festival, May 5, 2006); includes audio clips of Goldblum, two directors, Conan O'Brien
Goldblum's 'Pittsburgh' rides line between reality and role playing (review, May 5, 2006)
Related coverage of Goldblum in Pittsburgh
Jeff Goldblum resurrects fond memories with a journey through his hometown haunts (July 4, 2004); includes audio clip of Goldblum and then-fiancee Catherine Wreford
Reviews of Goldblum in 'The Music Man':

July 7, 2004: Stage Review: Goldblum opens 'Music Man' on a jittery note
In the Wings: 7/16/04

Jeff Goldblum and Me (May 2, 2006)


Yesterday, he was scheduled to accompany the movie "Pittsburgh" to a film festival in Savannah. Today, he lands in the title city itself, and Friday he flies to Fort Lauderdale.

He is co-director of "Pittsburgh," the comedy about Jeff Goldblum's return to his hometown in summer 2004 to star in Pittsburgh CLO's "The Music Man" with his fiancee, Catherine Wreford. (They later broke up.)

The opening-night selection of the Three Rivers Film Festival defies easy description. It's not a straight documentary, like "March of the Penguins," or a mockumentary like "Best in Show."

Someone dubbed it a "biomock," and it floats between genres, a bubbly blend of fact and fiction. Audiences always want to know which is which, says Bradley, who feels like a magician asked to explain his tricks.

His question-and-answer sessions are a game of "Real or Not Real?"

The "actor" playing Goldblum's stepfather? His actual stepfather, Harvey Tyson, married to Goldblum's mother, Shirley Tyson.

Ed Begley's solar-powered invention? Not real, although the environmental activist told Bradley, "We were very close, one part away from having it work."

The calls from Goldblum's agent about a Michael Bay cloning movie? Well, Bay did make "The Island," but Goldblum wasn't offered a role in it, although he did pass up another film to pursue "Pittsburgh."

Goldblum and Wreford, who played Marian to his Harold Hill, actually encountered one of his boyhood competitors from Little League on a bridge near Downtown. You can't make this stuff up. Well, you could, but you don't have to.

Bradley, talking by phone from Los Angeles before starting his three-city swing, says, "I hope that people like the film. Who knows what the reaction will be? It could be mixed. I personally really enjoyed going there, I'm from Philadelphia. ...

"I wanted to try to create Pittsburgh itself as sort of a character in the film. One of the scenes is Jeff's homecoming, and we were staying right near all the bridges and PNC Park, and we really tried to incorporate the city into the movie as much as possible. It's really a beautiful city to photograph."

Alyssa Cwanger, Post-Gazette
Chris Bradley, left, and Kyle LaBrache discuss their film "Pittsburgh" at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in May.
Click photo for larger image.

And the audience shouldn't think actress Illeana Douglas is pulling a Sienna Miller when she tells Begley, "It doesn't get better than this, right? Here we are. You, me, Pittsburgh. I'm gonna kill myself."

She was "in character," as "Illeana Douglas," talked into playing the mayor's wife in "Music Man" and mooning over Moby.

"If you asked Illeana about her time in Pittsburgh, I think she really loved it and thought it was a great city and enjoyed her experience there. Part of that, also, is her character in the film is going through the 'break-up' ... and she's alone."

Bradley, who worked with co-director Kyle LaBrache, said Goldblum was aiming for a "fictional-feeling story arc set in real life. He didn't want anyone to be acting or seeming to be acting; a lot of the people we would just tell, be yourself. ...

"There were no second takes, everything was just live, shot like a documentary. ... Also, we used some fictional styles and techniques. We didn't want to have interviews or people breaking the fourth wall, talking to the camera."

Any movie that attempts to document a version of real life raises the question of how the camera colors behavior. A tearful Goldblum prays, "Please, God, help me" before stepping onto the Benedum Center stage.

"That really was the moment before he walked on, on opening night ... Although Jeff will tell you he was acting pretty much any time the cameras were on, I think he absolutely was feeling that kind of stress about going on, and having to do this role that was definitely outside his comfort zone."

Bradley and LaBrache shot 300-plus hours of footage over six months in Pittsburgh, New York and L.A. They met Goldblum after making a documentary called "Jon E. Edwards Is in Love" and spent months kicking around ideas with him.

"In real life, Jeff met Catherine and it sort of got him inspired about musical theater again. ... Catherine's agent came upon 'The Music Man' in Pittsburgh, then we all kind of talked and thought, 'Is this a good concept for us to start filming this project?' "

He says they "took what was really happening and turned up the volume or tweaked it a little bit, hopefully in a comedic way."

Some moviegoers think the entire film is real and others think it's all fake. "We wanted to try and tell a story that you wouldn't be sitting there the whole time saying, 'Is this real or fake?' but more you'd be sitting there thinking this is funny and enjoyable.

"And, maybe at some point you'd be thinking, wow, that guy who just brought up the room service was good." He was, serving a side of wisdom with his cart of food at the Renaissance Hotel.

"Pittsburgh" will screen four times. Today's 7:30 p.m. show, at Regent Square Theater in Edgewood, costs $35, which includes a Q&A with Bradley followed by a reception at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.


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