My husband read Brian Doyle’s extraordinary essay, His Last Game, in 2013’s The Best American Essays and said, “Honey, you have to read this.” In just three pages, Doyle manages to tell a story about the teasingly feisty and protectively tender ways that men express deep love, about how splendid life is if you can develop a certain kind of vision – the capacity to see what is sacred and magical in the day to day “little things,” and about how our own memories can live on in those who really love us.
Reading the essay was like traveling to a very familiar but mysterious land. As a mother of two sons (and a daughter), I’ve spent over two decades trying to decode the foreign ways men and boys are intimate with each other. Doyle’s description of an afternoon car ride with his older brother, Kevin, gave me a way to cinematically explore and reveal what I’ve learned.
Brian Doyle couldn’t have been kinder in granting me his best wishes for my adaptation project – in hindsight, an incredibly brave and generous act given the personal nature of his essay. With Brian’s blessing, I gathered my trust-worthy film team from Halfway Somewhere Else: Debbie Danielpour to write the screenplay, Sam Ketay to help me produce, Gus Sacks as cinematographer, Jacob LaMendola to edit, Nicholas Pike to compose its score, and Silver Sound to edit and mix the sound. I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to each for their kindness, hard work, professionalism and great artistry.
I will be forever indebted to Tim Blake Nelson for recommending David Aaron Baker to play the younger brother. After about five minutes of a Skyped audition with David, I knew he was “the one.” When I asked him if he had any suggestions for an actor to play the older brother, David said, “Well, yes, John Bedford Lloyd. We played brothers once on Broadway, and he’s not only a great actor but a wonderful man.” True!
All of film’s gods and goddesses were with me for His Last Game. Not only did David and John give beautifully nuanced performances, but we had three days of gorgeous weather, and a Great Blue Heron that soared into the camera’s view just when we needed it. I was also blessed with a great crew – their patience and focus, diligence and sense of humor made our shooting days fly by. A shout-out goes to my fantastic AD, Joe Fugelo, for keeping us all on track.
Lastly, I will always have a very special place in my heart for His Last Game because it was a passion project for my entire family. My husband, Rick, and our two sons, Jake and David, are in the basketball scene, as are a few of their old friends. They read over multiple drafts of the script to make sure the basketball dialogue felt realistic, and they worked hard to choreograph the play on the court. Our daughter, Sophie, came home from college to drive our lead actors to and from set and run many last minute errands. His Last Game reflects the joyfulness of our working together – family, cast and crew - to portray that sad and beautiful afternoon in Brian and Kevin Doyle’s life.
In memory of Kevin Doyle, 1948 - 2012