Olympia Dukakis on “Cloudburst,” the film US Distributors feared to release

When Olympia Dukakis plays a potty-mouthed Lesbian in Cloudburst, all hell breaks loose
by Larry Murray

UPDATE: The film will be released by Wolfe Video on DVD and through digital streaming in July. Read the revised and updated story here [link].

This article and interview is about Olympia Dukakis and Thom Fitzgerald’s film Cloudburst, www.cloudburstmovie.com but first let me warn you about the embedded clips. The official trailer above and the interview at the very bottom are pretty safe for any open-minded person to watch, the language is within normal bounds, which is not the case of the two other clips. They give you a real feel for the film, and the fearlessness of Olympia Dukakis to take on a role that film distributors quickly shunned. It is authentic language. If you know some real – not television – lesbians, you know they often are the most open and free speaking people alive. “Strong” as a word does not even begin to cover it.

Olympia Dukakis (l) and Brenda Fricker in Cloudburst.

Olympia Dukakis (l) and Brenda Fricker in Cloudburst.

Cloudburst stars two Oscar-winners, Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker, in a genuinely hilarious and touching lesbian road movie, probably the best since Thelma and Louise. Of course, that film had a breakout role for Brad Pitt, and Cloudburst offers its own stud, the wonderful Ryan Doucette.

Even getting this film made was an ordeal, so why shouldn’t finding a distributor in the USA be just as tough. While it played in a number of cities in Canada this month, there is a lack of financing and flashy, cash-drawing appeal to lure younger viewers, or so say the film moguls. As a result, Cloudburst still has no U.S. release date, according to Canadian site News1130. It did play in Lesbianville, USA at Northampton’s Academy of Music as part of a LGBT film festival there, but it seems that it’s film festivals or the highway for this jaw-dropping film.

According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Dukakis had to be talked into Stella’s hairstyle (short, grey and mannish) clothes (oversized plaid shirts) and dialogue (ribald and expletive-laced). But once she embraced it, she went all the way. During one scene, in which Stella has to knock a naked man off her truck’s windshield, Dukakis improvised a line so colourful that Fitzgerald had to call cut to ask her where that came from. “She said, ‘Oh, I used to say that all the time, growing up in Lowell [Mass.]. Rough town.’”

Nevertheless it has won more awards than you can shake a dildo at (see the long list at the bottom of this page.) And for the same reasons it won all those accolades, its open and honest portrayal, it’s still not acceptable on movie screens that specialize in murder, mayhem and blood. Dirty talking lesbians are too controversial for lovers of zombies, car crashes and explosions.

Getting Started

When I spoke with Olympia Dukakis back in December, 2010 she worried Cloudburst would never be made. “Shooting just got postponed again,” she told me.

‘It’s become a low budget movie now, it wasn’t originally, but the bank pulled out and the drama of it, the drama!” she lamented, frustrated. “It’s already gotten postponed twice, and now I am running into conflicts. I’ve made promises and commitments, but I can’t just keep pushing my schedule. So I may have to drop out, and the part was even written for me for goodness sake. I’m doing it with Brenda Flicker (another Oscar winner), who I admire. We worked together in Borneo, on The Intended (2002), a British Dutch film. We get along great. And I love Thom Fitzgerald, I’ve done two other films with him – 3 Needles (2005) and The Event (2003).”

Fitzgerald should be familiar to Berkshire audiences since he appeared at Mass MoCA on October 25 of that year as part of the Williamstown Film Festival to introduce and talk about his film, The Event, which starred Dukakis.

The Oscar-winning actress — arguably best known for playing the no-nonsense matriarch in Moonstruck — admits she was a bit surprised when she saw the film for the first time.“I hadn’t realized how far out there I’d gone,” she said.

As to the difficulties getting the film into American multiplexes, “It’s probably because the characters are old and lesbian,” says Fitzgerald. “Old women and lesbian feels like you’re not going to get any younger audience and that seems to be what everybody is after. The other part of it is they probably feel there would be a lot of people who would not care to see it, be offended by it, who knows what. This is a strange time with all of that.”

For those who have hopes of seeing this wonderful film, it will undoubtedly reach the digital marketplace as a streaming video from one of the major pay-per-view services. But not being able to see it on the big screen is a tragedy. Cloudburst deserves more respect.

Dukakis in the Berkshires – Mother Courage

Those of us in the Berkshires had the pleasure of seeing Olympia Dukakis take the stage at Shakespeare & Company last summer for The Tempest. This year she will play Mother Courage a role she seems born to play. (Earlier Story Here)

Dukakis laughed when I mentioned that people were starting to label her with the title of “legendary” actress. She thought that a better word might be a “surviving” actress. “You know when you get to my age, it’s nice to be intact. Physically surviving is important.”

Returning again and again to live theatre, Dukakis explains why. “It’s the same thing that the Greeks focused on in ancient times, the question of how are we going to live. What are you going to do. Who are you going to be. What are you going to make important in life. And of course, how shall we live.

“Every generation has to ask those questions, has to confront the problems of living anew, and to find their own way of doing and saying and finding the answers to them.” So in essence, the theater is constantly reinventing itself. “Some plays are fun to read but not enjoyable to watch, while others are puzzling to read, but make sense when acted out.”

Mother Courage and Her Children
July 26 through August 25. Press opening: August 2
By Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Tony Simotes
Featuring Olympia Dukakis, Apollo Dukakis, and John Douglas Thompson

“I won’t let you spoil my war for me. Destroys the weak, does it? Well, what does peace do for’em, huh? War feeds its people better.”

Considered by many to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century, Mother Courage and Her Children is set against the backdrop of the Thirty Years War and follows the fate of Mother Courage, an artful canteen woman with the Swedish Army, intent on keeping her business and family alive amid the destruction of war. Mother Courage and Her Children still resonates today as a profound insight into the moral implications of war.

Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis, Apollo Dukakis, and Artistic Director Tony Simotes reteam after the critically acclaimed, sold out run of The Tempest during Shakespeare & Company’s 35th Season. “I had a terrific time last summer exploring The Tempest with Tony and the amazing cast and crew,” Olympia Dukakis said when Mother Courage and Her Children was announced in the fall. “I consider Shakespeare & Company one of my artistic homes – a place of artistic support and enthusiasm. I jumped at the chance to get in the room with Tony and my brother again.”

OBIE Award winner John Douglas Thompson joins the cast in the role of The Cook. Thompson last appeared at Shakespeare & Company as Louis Armstrong in Satchmo at the Waldorf, a role he continued to play to critical and audience acclaim at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT and the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.shakespeare.org or by calling 413-637-3353. And as a reminder, there is a 40% discount for Berkshire residents.

Cloudburst – Awards to Date

List of Awards
* Atlantic Film Festival – People’s Choice Award for Best Film of the Festival
* Atlantic Film Festival – Michael Weir Atlantic Canada Award for Best Screenplay
* Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival – Audience Choice Award for Best Film
* Edmonton International Film Festival – Best Canadian Independent Film
* Vancouver International Film Festival – Top Ten Most Popular Canadian Film Award
* Image+Nation Montreal GLBT Film Festival – Best Feature Film Award
* Palm Springs International Film Festiaval – Best of the Fest Selection
* ReelOut Kingston – Best Narrative Feature
* Victoria Film Festival – Best Canadian Feature
* Rainbow Reels Waterloo – People’s Choice Best Film
* Atlanta Film Festival – Grand Jury Peach Prize for Best Feature
* QFest St. Louis – Narrative Feature Audience Choice Award
* Outview Greece – Best Film Award
* Best Narrative Feature (Juried)- FilmOut San Diego
* Audience Choice for Best Narrative Feature – FilmOut San Diego
* Best Actress in a Feature (Olympia Dukakis) – FilmOut San Diego
* Best Direction (Thom Fitzgerald) – FilmOut San Diego
* Audience Award for Best Film – Frameline San Francisco
* Audience Award for Best Feature – OutTakes New Zealand
* Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature- Milan MIX Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
* Philadelphia QFest – Audience Award – Best Feature Film
* Audience Award for Best Women’s Feature – North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
* Audience Award for Best Feature – Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
* Audience Award for Best Feature – Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
* Audience Award for Best Overall Feature – Out on Film Atlanta
* Jury Award for Best Film – Out on Film Atlanta
* Jury Award for Best Actress (Olympia Dukakis) – Out on Film Atlanta
* Best Actress (Olympia Dukakis) – Asheville QFest
* Best Supporting Actress (Brenda Fricker) – Asheville QFest
* Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature – Barcelona International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
* Audience Award – MIX Copenhagen
* Audience Award – Perlen Queer Film Festival
* Audience Award – Spokane Film Festival
* Audience Award – Shout Queer Film Festival
* Audience Award Finalist – Gotham Independent Film Awards

2 thoughts on “Olympia Dukakis on “Cloudburst,” the film US Distributors feared to release

    • Its release on DVD has yet to be announced. “Cloudburst” is still doing individual screenings at film festivals etc. When it is released it is more likely to be a small independent LGBT one like Breaking Glass or Wolfe Video than a major distributor like Warner or Universal.

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