Director Victoria Negri and Actress Catherine Curtin Discuss the Highs and Lows of New Film ‘Gold Star’
By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, November 10, 2017
Independent film, Gold Star, grapples with the themes of caregiving, acceptance and self-discovery. The film, released commercially today by first–time director Victoria Negri, is abuzz within the film festival circuit. It’s been awarded the Audience Award at the Blue Whiskey Buffalo International Film Festivals. Negri brings to the screen a poignant and authentic adaptation of her own family life, alongside television and film veterans, Robert Vaughn and Catherine Curtin. Emmy Award winning and Oscar nominated actor, Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno, Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black and The Wolf of Wall Street) head the cast, with Negri not only writing and producing the film, but also starring as the 20-something protagonist, Vicki, struggling to make sense of life’s unavoidable pitfalls. Summoned to her childhood home in Connecticut by her mother Deanne (played by the versatile and talented actress, Catherine Curtin), Vicki assumes the role of primary caretaker for her elderly 87-year-old father (played by Vaughn).
Gold Star took 6 years to make — from development to final release, and Negri is reveling in the critical acclaim it has received so far. The story revolving around Vicki’s father, Carmine, who suffers from a debilitating stroke that leaves him without speech and wheelchair bound, is doubly poignant since it also marks Robert Vaughn’s final film performance, having died last year. After dropping out from music school in New York and cohabitating with her boyfriend in New York, she finds herself caught between two worlds: finding her true calling and taking care of her dying father. Victoria Negri and Catherine Curtin spoke to ZEALnyc about making Gold Star, and why more films like these need to be made.
ZEALnyc: You’ve collaborated as producer, writer and actor on other film projects. What made you decide to direct this project and how hard was it to finance?
VN: It was very personal for me to tell this story. I lost my father at age 24 after being his primary caregiver for a year. During this period in my life, I felt alone. My peers couldn’t relate to what I was going through. I was in my 20s – people have to deal with the reality of caring for their parents much later in life. I wanted to tell a story about a character that is flawed — is figuring things out — and in trying to do so, is defensive and lashes out at people and circumstances surrounding her. Getting money to finance the film was extremely hard. I raised capital from private equity partners, investors, and kickstarter campaigns. I was lucky and grateful for the people that believed in and funded my film.
ZEALnyc: You have quite the stellar supporting cast on ‘Gold Star.’ Did you have final say on casting?
VN: I had help making casting decisions from a great team that collaborated with me. When Robert Vaughn said yes to playing my father, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe he agreed to the project. Him and my dad had so many things in common. My dad was a huge fan of The Magnificent Seven. When casting the role for my mom, it was difficult to find someone suitable that can play her, and for me, to remain objective. The challenge was ultimately finding an actress that could play my mother authentically and have a range of emotions. Cathy came in and auditioned for the role and she was perfect. She’s amazing. She’s everywhere. Working on so many great projects. I would bounce ideas off of her and she’d make suggestions on how our characters would say the lines. It was a pleasure working with her.
ZEALnyc: In this age, women are making more films through different platforms. How do you feel about the progress that’s happening now?
VN: Greta Gerwig’s current film Lady Bird has been well received. It’s shattered so many records in a short amount of time. And that’s exciting. I’m a storyteller and love telling great stories. Gold Star addresses a subject that seems taboo and has shame attached to it. I’m happy that I’m able to share a story that will touch people and make them feel that they can get through something as difficult as a loved one becoming ill and feeling helpless. And convey that it’s okay to not to be okay.
ZEALnyc: What was it like switching gears between director, actor and screenwriter? Are you up for the challenge again and what’s next for Victoria Negri?
VN: It was exhausting bouncing from director, to actor to writer. I was fortunate to work with a talented team that helped me work out elements in the film. I believe after shooting this film, our crew will be friends for life. We shot many of the scenes in my mother’s and grandmother’s home in Connecticut. The crew stayed overnight. My grandmother would leave the crew snacks — she was so cute. I’ve had so much support from my family members. Absolutely! I would jump at the chance to direct again. I love filmmaking. I’m currently working on a feature called “Ultra” about a woman dealing with a traumatic past and how she faces her demons with a hundred mile race in Death Valley across the desert. It’s falls into the horror/thriller genre.
Speaking with Catherine Curtin:
ZEALnyc: Catherine, you take working actress to a whole new level. I think many would consider you Netflix’s lucky charm. You’ve starred in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,’ and Netflix’s second original series, ‘Orange is the New Black,’ which earned you a SAG award. What was appealing to you about this role in ‘Gold Star’?
CC: The material is beautiful. We live in a fast-paced multidimensional world. Doing 12 things at once: tweeting, texting, watching the news, drinking wine. And, what I love about Victoria’s film is when you sit down to watch it — from start to finish — it takes the viewer into a different place, an internal place to sit and process the loss of someone. It allows for the journey to unravel. People deal with the horrors of life in different ways; I portrayed Deanne’s character as this woman possessing an internal and external shield of armor to deal with the rigors of hospitals, a loved one’s illness, and being stretched in all directions. She’s no-nonsense. She works with an arsenal of emotional tools to deal with the situation.
ZEALnyc: How was the experience of working with the late Robert Vaughn?
CC: It was such a treat. I was a kid when I first saw Man from U.N.C.L.E. I was a TV junkie. Robert comes from Old Hollywood. He told me the story about how he landed the job that made his career. He had gone out the night before and hadn’t sat with the script to prepare. Read for the part early the next day. The executives seem pleased. When he arrived at his home, he received the call that he got the part! It was kismet. Man from U.N.C.L.E was huge, huge. It was meant to be and he said he wasn’t stressed and let destiny happen. Listening to his stories about Hollywood and his experiences was great. He’s a yummy, yummy soul – extremely talented. He portrayed the role with such spirit and candor.
ZEALnyc: Your career trajectory has included Broadway, television, and feature films. Do you like doing indie films?
CC: Indie films are my absolute favorite things to do. The money clock is very different. You’re not going to shoot a handful of takes. TV and film budgets are so intense. Every hour of television, depending on the show could be worth thousands, hundreds of thousands and upwards. Shooting in the indie film world is very artsy-fartsy. Sets are smaller. More personal stories are told. The goal is to get to the finish line with passionate performances from each actor. That is so amazing for any artist. Gold Star is the story of a daughter losing her father and is told in a gentle way; that’s not going to be a television show. Television is commercial. Indie films are not – they take on the most courageous projects: although, television is the new frontier now. This film explores growth through acknowledgement.
ZEALnyc: What’s next for Catherine Curtin? And, what would be your ideal role to star in?
CC: A fun day’s work, honestly. I want to be part of a community – a narrative that has talking points about how we treat each other, the demands we make on each other, the experiences people have are super important and are to be valued. I want to be involved in narratives that have some legs, thoughtfully, politically and philosophically; stories that engage a wide audience in empathy and understanding. Right now it’s my time to be in television and film. I want to do the best work that I can. I’m open to many roles — a drama or comedy that can possibly move society forward. Art is super important to all of our lives. I have lovely supporting roles in upcoming films: Breaking Brooklyn and Crazy Famous, plus Gold Star comes out this week, which I’m excited about. I’m grateful and hopefully shooting the next project sooner rather than later.
Cover: Robert Vaughn on Victoria Negri’s shoulder in a still from ‘Gold Star.’