Santa Cruz Sentinel from Santa Cruz, California on October 14, 1994 · Page 50
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Santa Cruz Sentinel from Santa Cruz, California · Page 50

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Santa Cruz, California
Issue Date:
Friday, October 14, 1994
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Page 50
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y7 iPO n PS r i, m. , - - - v 1 " " ' '' The story of three UCSC alums in search of their youth y ... . ... jV'' ! Ofcfc .-a t t l -, . . ' .-' . U I v.i. (s XJ ! v 'A ,v-X - i f ' r - .' ...... .. . .1 '. xv ) J .4' 'J v..---:. "1 . 4 1 t ; - f ' man -'A'" r v ' -: ' Vn. - " f V! K I r 'It's not a funky 'Reality Bites says debut. 'They spent $14 million on - ,v " s fit ? -Li . ; '" 1 - -A 1 j . "Even after I moved to Hollywood, my parents wanted me to go to night school to be an accountant." SCENE II: The roommates Set scene: The quad below the Porter College campus dorm rooms. An unscheduled squadron of paper airplanes showers down from the dormroom windows ruining the third shooting of a thoughtful tete-a-tete scene between a professor (actor John Rhys-Davies of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") and a bewildered looking student, Dennis (played by actor French Stewart). The director shakes his head. Retake. The film crew start moving equipment all over again. Fourth take. Raise the boom. The UCSC extras, unpaid undergraduate students (cheap labor), giggle nervously off to the side. "Everyone clear the set," the booming voice of the First Assistant Director Chris Medak, (that's Peter Medak's son someone whispers with raised eyebrows and a knowing nod, like we should know). Actor Davies pauses to get hairsprayed then helps move things along with words of encouragement, "Up and down, like a bride's nightie." The guy in the ponytail claps the black and white clapboards and it's rock 'n' roll time again. This is where the three college buddies Chris, Rich and Vinnie first met. They were freshman living in the Porter College dorms. Drinking beer, eating pizza, switching majors. They had a lot in common. All three loved the Three Stooges and liked to make fun of Steven Seagal movies. So they eventually moved off campus together with two other guys and into a house. Stage set. Roll the film. The plot: five guys live in a house at the base of campus. Facing graduation, they've decided to put the future off for a year and keep "the house" alive. It's about friendship, comradery, growing up. "It sounds sort of cheesy," Wilkes says. "It's not heavily plot-oriented. It's not a funky 'Reality Bites.' They spent $14 million on that. We're under a million. It's kind of a meandering slice of life thing. It's personal. We could've got money together, done a slasher, T&A thing. Might as well do something that means something." He shrugs. It's not autobiographical, exactly. On the other hand, the actors "act and walk and talk" like the guys he knew. UC Santa Cruz graduate Rich Wilkes has scored in Hollywood with SCENE I: Graduation Set scene: It's graduation day. Jack (played by Ben Affleck of "Dazed and Confused") plasters a fake grin on his face. Jeaned and T-shirted, he stiffly shakes his suited dad's hand and kisses his mother's rouged cheek. Did you find the hotel all right?" tattooed Jack meekly asks. "Yes, right next to the methadone clinic," Dad says with controlled sarcasm. Then the BIG question. "So, Jack, just what have you got planned for the future?" "I've only been a college graduate for 17 minutes Dad. Gimme a break." "And what was all that hooting and hollering during the graduation ceremonies? In my day, graduation was a solemn affair." Easily explained. "Dude, this is Santa Cruz. Dude, this is "Cruz," a low-budget independent film, brainchild of UC Santa Cruz graduate Rich Wilkes (screenwriter for the recently released "Airheads" and the upcoming "Jerky Boys") about his days as an undergraduate theater arts student, partying in a house at the base of campus with his buddies and facing the horror of a 9-to-5 future like his parents. Seven years after graduation, he's proud to say that he and his buddies have still managed to avoid the 9-to-5 trap. Uh, instead they're working dawn to dusk, but that's beside the point. The man, 28-year-old Wilkes, slouches in the director's chair in a corner, script supervisor at his right arm, headphones as headband holding back his long blond hair. His alter ego, Jack, reflects "ff the metalic blue mirrors of his movie-sta. sunglasses. One of his former college roommates and co-producer of "Cruz," Chris Slater (no, not Christian Slater, the movie star) is off filming with Unit II at West Cliff Drive. Another former roommate and actor Vince DeRamus is playing himself in this scene. Jack's best friend. It's like art imitating life, imitating art ... or something. Watching Jack squirm in front of the "par-ents-fromhell" can't help but bring up old baggage for Wilkes. And it does. Jack, after all, is just Rich with a mohawk. "It's like you get a degree in theater arts. Nice. What do you do with it?" says Wilkes, sitting next to, well, himself "Jack" or rather Ben during a lasagne lunch break. 14 Spotlight Sentinel Friday, Oct. 14, Story by Tracie White, Sentinel staff writer Photos by Bill Lovejoy, Sentinel staff photographer and the upcoming 'Jerky Boys.' drew hundreds of drunken students, they were different than your average "Animal House" bashes, Slater maintains. "We weren't high fiving and seeing who could drink the most beer. We had substance." So, sure, "Cruz" could easily be misconstrued as a beer drinking movie, but still it's more than that. It actually has a very "sweet" message, DeRamus says. It's the story of a group of guys who really loved each other, and then had to say goodbye. "We had created a family," explains Slater. "When you graduate you leave that family behind." Well, most people do anyway. a couple of screenplays: 'Airheads' "This bar had been with us all these years." DeRamus brushes back his dreadlocks and waxes sentimental. "Under the glass on the bar, we had the business cards of each policeman who had ever broken up a party. "We just said we're not going to move out of here knowing somebody else will move in. We tore it apart basically." Despite the fact that "the House" parties Jt Wilkes of 'Cruz his directorial that. We're under a million.' 1 I ft . ; x $ : - Sentinel Friday Oct. 14, 1994 15 The characters: there's Jack (Wilkes' alter ego). He's the sculptor, hung up on an old girlfriend, who doesn't know what to do with his life. Then there's Mickey, (DeRamus) the kid who never gets the girl; Rob (Slater) the former punk rock singer turned economics major with a huge hang-up about meeting his girlfriend's mother; Dennis, the older (28) father figure who has switched majors three or four times and is still in school; and Josh, the college dropout who is modeling his life after celebrated drunken poet Charles Bu-kowski. Not exactly true to life, but it hits "close to the bone," says DeRamus, a theater actor who beat out much higher profile film actors Will Smith and Lawrence Taylor to play himself in "Cruz." "I'm the underdog in the movie, the underdog who finally gets the girl if only life imitated art," he adds, laughing in an hysterically high pitched tune. "Cruz" could have been a good "Animal House" style picture, at least Touchstone Pictures thought so when they bought the rights. But after they got through "turning it into a piece of crap," Wilkes got it back and restored it to it's truer more "meaningful" form. "It's closer to my heart than the other stuff I've done." SCENE III: The House Set scene: The morning after graduation night, 6 or 7 a.m. Echoes of smashed furniture, broken glass. The bar, once almost a member of the "family," lies scattered in bits and pieces across the floor. Actor Ben Affleck unintentionally injures his foot kicking in a toaster. The scene is a replay of the actual graduation night in 1988. After a night of drinking and partying, the roommates decided to make a statement. If they couldn't keep their bar, nobody else could have it either. "We filmed it at 7 a.m. about the same time as the actual occurence took place," explains DeRamus, who took part in both the real life and the staged destruction derbys. 4 It's kind of a meandering slice-of-life thing. It's personal. We could've got money together, done a slasher, T&A thing. Might as well do something that means something.' Director l writer Rich Wilkes Former banana slugs Vince DeRamus, Rich Wilkes and Chris Slater Spotlight 1994

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