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So, Alexander and Allison, welcome. On today’s installment, I am joined by two creatives to talk about their project Lonesome Soldier. Could you introduce yourselves and what roles you had on the project?
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Absolutely. My name is Alexander Randazzo. I produced, wrote, and acted in the film Lonesome Soldier, playing the role of “Jackson.”
ALLISON MCATEE: And I'm Allison McAtee. I was an actress in the film playing the role of “Teresa."
ARTISTIC FUEL: Awesome. So, my first question is for Alex. What inspired you to tell this story and how long have you been working on it?
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: I was at acting school in New York City when I was 18 years old, and I received a text message which consisted of a screenshot of a Facebook post. The post was posted by the real life “Teresa.” Her name is Linda in real life, and she shared that she had an incredible story about her son’s, unfortunately tragic, yet redemptive at the end, experience dealing with PTSD as he was a Tennessee National Guardsman who was deployed overseas to Iraq. And I reached out to Linda and very quickly optioned the rights to the film and then left acting school in New York City. At 19, I moved to LA with a script and a dream. I'm now 26, so that was over seven years ago.
ARTISTIC FUEL: Amazing. I guess in terms of pipeline, after securing the rights and working on the script, at what point did you start getting attachments: cast, crew, that sort of thing? Since this is biographical and based on true stories, it is always going to take time for the creator to do it properly, right? So, could you walk us through that, those trials, and tribulations?
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: So, with this being a seven-year process, there were over 100 iterations, different drafts of the script. I wrote most of them. Things started to get serious when I then co-wrote with an Academy Award nominated writer named Lionel Chetwynd, who was originally attached to direct in 2019. We can essentially break up Lonesome Soldier into three iterations:
We have 1.0, which was in 2019. 2.0 which ended with us three days before going to principal photography shutting down due to COVID. And then we have 3.0 in which we finally filmed our movie. And it took probably a year and a half, two years to get some traction and get connected to Lionel Chatwin. There were some investment issues in that first iteration. We did have quite a few attachments at the time and the scope of the film was a much larger, more studio type film, not a small independent film. Linda and Jackson, the real-life Jackson, selected me to play one of the main characters in the film. Because of this, it ended up blowing up the studio version of the deal. So, that that was 2019. And then in early 2020, we raised additional capital, and we went to New Mexico and we were literally three days from principal photography when COVID froze production. It took us two years to bounce back from that, and we finally went to Socorro, NM in spring of 2022 and finally shot the film.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's great. So glad you and your team persisted through those challenges. So, this next question is for Allison. How long have you been attached to the project?
ALLISON MCATEE: I had a very opposite experience, so actually there was a different woman who was cast and something really tragic happened. Her daughter had some sort of accident.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Right.
ALLISON MCATEE: So, I received the script on a Thursday like hey, read this and then Friday morning I woke up to just an offer. Like, do you want this job? So, I never auditioned. I had known the director for awhile. I had met him as a producer. I guess he thought of me and recommended me or suggested me. So I received the offer on a Friday to start principal photography on Monday and the prior actress was like 15 years older than I was. So I was a little bit like I'm playing the mom of a 25 year old, like how I don't know how. This will work out, I'm just gonna go for it. I had my best friend’s wedding that same weekend too. I had to be on a plane 24 hours. As I'm on the plane, I’m marking the script and my. I just wanted to focus on those first three days.
Luckily, when I landed at the hotel, I had about 30 minutes with the real-life Linda. I, you know, I recorded our conversation. She has an accent; so, I wanted to try to get my cadence as close as I could and just kind of get to the core of who she was and what her motivation was in the story. And I felt like right away, it was obvious to me that this was a strong woman who had been determined to fight for her son.
That was at the essence of everything, and I thought, well, if I can honor that truth and really hit that truth, then you know it. I was nervous actually in the one of our first screenings because Linda was sitting next to me, and I was like “Oh my gosh, if this if she hates it, what do?” She was happy with the performance and how I captured her story.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's awesome. What an incredible story.
ALLISON MCATEE: That was a very opposite experience of Alex he had like, you know, seven years? And yeah, I had like 7 hours.
ARTISTIC FUEL: I was gonna say that's about as 180 as you could possibly be. Yeah, that's awesome though. So, I got lots of questions and I want to be cognizant on time, so you guys can get on a flight for your next event. Alex, could you talk about some of the past events you've had so far with the film and what's the pipeline looking like? How long will you be at theaters and are you doing festivals or are you just doing theatrical run? What's the rollout for distribution? Tell me about your plans to tell the world this incredible story.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Absolutely. We opened in over 120 theaters last weekend across the country, partnering with Regal Cinemas and Premiere Cinemas predominantly, as well as others. But those are the two big ones.
We have had events, we had our official premiere at Fort Moore, formerly known as Fort Benning, GA last Wednesday, and that was a very powerful event with Veterans and Active Duty service men and women. It has been the most humbling and surreal experience of my life. We were just at an event last night here in Orlando. We have a major event tomorrow in Long Beach, California. Then we then have an event, two events Sunday and Monday, one in Houston, TX and another in a smaller town in Texas, where one the cast members is.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That’s incredible. I will post a link in our interview to all the locations, dates, and times of the upcoming screenings.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Thank you. That's awesome. We also just closed a deal to be in 34 theaters on military bases for the month of December overseas and another.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's great. So, in terms of the creative process, obviously you've done lots of iterations on the script and orchestrating all the moving puzzle pieces around as things have changed in the world. You know, with the pandemic and the strikes and things like that. But you said you had shot this film in New Mexico.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: We were shooting at the same time Oppenheimer was being filmed, so we had to jockey for locations. We lost one of our locations, but it all worked out in the end.
ARTISTIC FUEL: OK. So how many days of principal photography did you have?
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: 14.
ARTISTIC FUEL: 14 that's ambitious. Yeah. Yeah, that's OK. That's awesome.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Yup! 14 days. The first cut was 2 hours and 39 minutes.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's impressive.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: The final cut I believe is an hour 47 minutes.
ARTISTIC FUEL: So, Allison, how long have you been in the film industry?
ALLISON MCATEE: For like 20 years. Started my sophomore year high school? I modeled when I was younger as a teen in New York City and then my degree was in theater. I studied theater at the University of Pittsburgh and then also in London at Imperial College. So then I went to New York after college because I kind of knew the city from modeling prior and then ended up making myself making my way to LA but. Yeah, it's been. It's been a minute. I shadowed the director too a little bit.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's awesome. Is your new focus directing, is that correct?
ALLISON MCATEE: My focus is still acting, but I think that obviously in this day and age and creative space, it's best to like produce, write, direct… to kind of find all different ways to express yourself. To see things with a directional lens. So that's what I'm really interested in exploring more and I did. Produced my first feature, Unearth, and I realized, you know, I'm maybe OK at this, but like creative aspect of the producing far more than the kind of technical stuff that and you know getting more money or dealing with all the calls with the investors. That's not really my strong point, but if we can talk story and I can bring the people together, that would. Be nice, yeah.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Yeah, at the end of the day, I find writing scripts about the human experience is the most powerful type of film. Everyone loves Tom Cruise. Look back to his performance in the film Born on the Fourth of July, which in my opinion is the best performance of his career. But it's one of the most authentic performances of what it means to have a human experience in the military and in a traumatic PTSD situation in a horrific situation that we put our men and women, our servicemen and women into and. When making Lonesome Soldier, we really wanted to focus on that. And that that's the same Allison and I share that same passion: Military veteran, mental health. It's the human experience at the end of the day that. Is really all that.
ALLISON MCATEE: I can attest, I think this is also true for Alex, that that's why I chose to be an actor. That's why he chose to write, to connect with people, to share that. Because going back to what he said earlier about some of the vets that have attended these events, you know, I think there aren't a lot of films that capture that reflection of what their experience truly is. I think it is addressing mental health in a way that there is not a stigma around it. Like this is something that we're, as a society, starting to be like, hey, this is a problem, we should talk about this instead of there is a comment that one of the older you know my the guy who plays my father makes and he's a, you know an older vet himself. He's like I told you to push that down and muscle through that and I think that that's truth is that used to be the way that, that veterans, whether they were, you know, men or women, were told that's how you get through it. You're in the service and you just, you know, power through. And I think now we're saying like, no, you're a human and your mental health is important. And this experience was traumatic. And let's not sweep that under the rug because that's going to cause problems later. Let's address it and allow you to have a space, a safe space where you can process it and heal and try to. There with other people that have gone through something. Similarly, you know.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's really important. I'm working on a veteran suicide PTSD feature film as well, and you're hitting on all of the right topics, so it it's important that filmmakers are trying to capture those types of subtle stories that are overlooked and it's important that people persist through it because a seven-year voyage trying to get something off the ground is no easy feat. So, congratulations on not just persisting through it, but also finishing it. And traveling with it and talking about it, because you're going to be on the road for quite a while now, sharing such emotional stories with people.
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Yeah, we had a showing in the villages down in Florida and we had 170 Vietnam vets or wives, widows of Vietnam vets, who most of the widows, their husbands had taken their own lives to PTSD. I was just sitting there listening and there was a 70-minute Q&A. I've never done more than a 15-minute Q&A after a showing. A 70-minute Q&A where these men and women who have lived through the same topics. We're deeply moved and ask such deep questions and share such deep personal experiences about being human and the focus and the mission statement of the company Military Movies is to tell authentic character-driven true stories about our heroes. Our servicemen and women and our veterans. And that authenticity of what it means to be human, like we were saying, especially in something like this, where it was called shell shock during in Vietnam it was. Oh, you must be effed up because of all the stuff that we said they all did and there were some that did. But nothing far from the majority got themselves into trouble in Vietnam, but they were ordered to do things, that were horrific. And now we have young men and women of our generation and a little older and a little younger, who have been sent overseas into the Middle East for the last 20 plus years to come home and find that the fight is still happening. The fight's not over, it's just different. You go from fighting for your country, then return home to physically fight for your life, mentally and emotionally.
ARTISTIC FUEL: Agreed. I’ll end with one last question. How would you measure this film’s success?
ALEXANDER RANDAZZO: Yes, obviously it is, but the film’s goal and the way we value success, regardless of box office numbers, regardless of reviews, regardless of how good the movie is. But the film's goal is to save as many lives as possible. And that is in honor of a very close friend of mine and someone who did not live long enough to see the film.
ARTISTIC FUEL: That's incredible. I appreciate that. Allison, did you have anything else to chime in on?
ALLISON MCATEE: I guess that we've talked about it several times that every time we go to a screening and there's one person who comes up who's crying, who's moved, who's affected. It feels like this is a success, it feels like it will continue to be a success if you know there's just one person at every viewing, one whoever needs to find this, it finds them and helps them through something. I think that's what I look to do in all my work. That’s the core mission of this team for this project.
Below you can find more information about Lonesome Soldier:
30 second Trailer:
Directed by Nino Aldi, “Lonesome Soldier” was co-written by Alexander Randazzo and Oscar-nominated Lionel Chetwynd. The film is a True American Story based on the novel of the same title by Linda Lee. C. Charles Pappas, Mark Wallace and Randazzo produced, with Executive Producers James Dillon, Steve Monroe, Richard Randazzo and an additional network of investors who wanted the story told.
In addition to co-writing the screenplay, Alexander Randazzo stepped into the starring role of Jackson Harlow, a young man with a promising future that is dramatically changed after he joins the National Guard. Rounding out the ensemble cast are John Ashton, Allison McAtee, Steve Monroe, Jesse James, Dion Earl, Flavia Watson, Leah Grosjean and Michael Southworth.
Said Randazzo, “We're very excited about Military Movies and our first feature. I come from a military family and really connected with the story. We believe the military community is underrepresented as far as contemporary entertainment media, and we are determined to bring this project to life on the big screen.”
Military Movies, who is also theatrically distributing the film, have several scripts in development with plans to roll out more military offerings, service-oriented documentaries and general fare that tells authentic character focused stories. Additionally the company plans to partner with several Non-Profit organizations serving U.S. veterans for marketing initiatives and awareness of the film’s message. A percentage of proceeds will be going to veterans in need of mental health support.
Military Movies is a production and distribution platform that produces authentic films representing people who serve and their families. The company believes this is a genre that offers a wide canvas to tell compelling stories and build a brand to illuminate “the why” our nation’s service members raise their right hands and answer the call to serve.