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The Hired Heart

19 March 2010 One Comment

Brett Cullen in The Hired HeartBrett Cullen played Bryan on the “The Hired Heart,” a 1997 romantic comedy for the Lifetime Channel. Brett’s character was posing as an escort for a grieving widow who was trying to fool her father-in-law into thinking she had moved on with her life.

What drew him to the project…

Well, the idea of being able to do a romantic comedy, which I haven’t done in a while and I really responded to the story. Another reason was because of the director, Jeremy Kagan, who I did “By the Sword” with. I wanted to work with Jeremy again. One of the reasons I wanted to do it was because I liked the script and it reminded me of the old sort of John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara kind of movies, the 40s style, things like Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn. It didn’t feel as contemporary to me as some of the more contemporary comedies they are doing today. I liked that about it, because I prefer the old comedies than I do the newer stuff. That, to me, was probably one of the more engaging things about the script and why this was a bit more romantic. You’re taking a guy who is pretending to be someone else and she starts to fall in love with him as an escort, and then he has to try to convince her he’s not that and still have her be in love with him. So that was a challenge. I thought it was very clever and witty.

On working with Penelope Ann Miller…

I loved working with Penelope. She’s very good as far as stories are concerned, as far as knowing what works and what doesn’t. She’s also just a whole lot of fun. We’ve remained to be very close friends since then and we see each other regularly. She was very kind to my family and my daughter. My daughter couldn’t say “Penelope,” so we nicknamed her “Pappy” because that’s the only thing she could call her. I did not know Penelope before, but I had seen her, but never socialized with her. Working with her was a gas and we had a really good time together and I think our chemistry had to do with the fact that we both liked each other a lot and just played off of that. There’s times when you do movies with someone you don’t necessarily click with, but you act as if you do. I think we both enjoyed each other and found each other fun to work with.

On working with Barry Corbin and the rest of the cast…

It had been almost 15 years since I worked with Barry Corbin, because we did “The Thorn Birds” together. We used to play poker all the time in our trailer and he used to take my money on a regular basis…so I didn’t play poker with Barry this time around! (laughs) We just really enjoyed being around each other and the last day, actually, when we were boarding the plane…he was going to Texas and I was coming back to LA, we made a pact that we wouldn’t let 15 years go by without working with each other again, because he’s a wonderful actor and really good guy. Graham Greene was just a hoot. He’s the greatest guy in the world. He played Barry’s side kick and he’s a wonderful actor and really a lot of fun to hang out with.

The premise of the story…

The premise of the movie is a woman who is heartbroken over her husband. Her husband has been dead for two years and her father-in-law makes a bet with her because he’s the only family she’s got. His son’s dead and his wife’s dead and he makes a bet with her. Her husband was a bull rider. And the father-in-law wants to shoot the bull that killed her husband. So he makes a bet with her, that he’ll feed the bull for a year if she’ll have a date every day during the town’s centennial. Then she realizes that he tells everyone that, so she’s barraged by all these suitors and that pisses her off because basically he put a price tag on her. So she goes to see a friend of hers who she has helped out before, whose mother had been ill, who happened to run an escort agency in Denver and tries to find her an escort. The girl is my sister and she realizes that Garnet is still very much in love with her dead husband, and Bryan is someone with a certain sensibility, and she says she’s got the guy…and sends me there.

And that’s on my protest, because I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to get involved in anything like this, but my sister guilts me into it because this woman helped our mother out. That’s sort of Bryan’s take on the whole thing. He’s just doing this. He expected to just pretend to be her boyfriend. And in doing so, found himself to be quite attracted to this woman. I think that’s where the conflict comes in…he’s attracted to her and he knows that he’s trying to get her something because he knows she’s in a great deal of pain. Once he realizes that he’s fallen in love with her, then he’s got to set things right and that’s when the movie takes a turn that puts him on his head.

On learning to play piano for the role…

I rented a portable keyboard that I kept in my trailer and got instruction from a composer and learned how to play the first 16 beats of the song so they could actually shoot my hands and then pan up off me. But he had to work with me on where my hands would be during the song so that I didn’t have to necessarily play it but I could at least look like I was on the right parts of the piano when the music was going on. So I had to spend every day in the trailer, when I had a spare moment, trying to learn how to do that. It was difficult, but I’m fairly musical, so it was more fun than anything. You just don’t want to look like a geek up there. You’re playing a piano player, a composer, actually, so it was integral to his character. Music is what yanks his chain. So it’s like he could write a song for her, and that song was actually the theme for the movie.

Some funny moments…

There was a scene where I pull up in front of her house and her neighbors see us‚ and she says, “Kiss me!” And that was like the first time we actually kissed in the movie. So she grabbed me and started kissing me and we really kissed. And we pulled away from each other and her lipstick was all over my face! (laughs) So we had to do close ups and kind of blot her lips and it had to match, but at the same time, they didn’t want lipstick all over both of us.

And then something else that was funny … Lifetime came to interview people and do the “behind the scenes” thing and they asked me to do this thing where I say, “Hi, I’m Brett Cullen. I’m starring in ‘The Hired Heart’ on Lifetime … the Woman’s Channel.” So I said, “This is Brett Cullen and you’re watching Lifetime … the Chick Channel.” And they were like, “That’s not funny.” So I said, “Okay, this is Brett Cullen, the Hired Heart and you’re watching Lifetime … the Babe Channel.” And they were like, “That’s still not funny.” And I just kept doing it over and over…(laughs)

Getting on the bull…

It was the first time I’ve ever been on a bull. It was absolutely terrifying. When I got on it and started to shoot the scene the guys said, “This is the tame bull.” So I took my daughter up and sat on a stool and got my picture taken with him facing us, being a foot away from us. He was just staring at us. So when we went to go shoot the scene where I have to get on the bull and ride him, and I get into the shoot, (and I’m really relaxed and laughing and they’re trying to work me through it) and I’m like, I’m roped in here, I’ve got my hand locked down on the bull and strapped down, so I said, “What would happen if you opened this gate?” And he said, “Well, he’d buck like a son of a bitch.” And I said, “Well I thought this was the tame bull!” And he said, “Well, he is tame when he’s out there and you’re not riding him. He’s the tamest of all of them we have. Most the other bulls you can’t go near, because they’ll run at you and try and gore you or something. This is the one that won’t do that.” Turns out he was in 15 rodeos and only one guy was able to stay on him all year. And I was like,”…well, whatever you do, don’t open the gate!” (laughs) And then they all started teasing me like they were going to do that. So, I was terrified.

But I got on a couple of the bulls to do this, and what’s amazing is their muscles and their breathing…they are such a strong animal and I mean, just sitting on them, you can feel the vibrations because they know that gate’s about to open. They tense up and you can feel it in every fiber of their body. It’s quite frightening. I will never ride a bull.

On his acting and what this movie taught him…

It’s the first time I’ve ever really done a love story, a light comedy, that in my mind, was more reminiscent of the old days. And that to me, was really neat. You can do a broad comedy that is more contemporary, but this movie felt a little more “period” to me for some reason. And I love that about it. I had to adjust somewhat in the stuff that I was doing.

In playing a character, you know who your character is, Bryan, but you’re pretending to be someone else…so you’re really kind of playing two roles. The audience knows who he is, but she thinks he’s someone else. So the audience is seeing him be who he is, but also at the same time he’s pretending to be someone else. That was a challenge as an actor. There are little things that you get a chuckle out of, because his response is really honest in relationship to who he really is, Bryan, and he’s also making comments based on who he’s trying to pretend to be, for her…which makes it doubly humorous.

It was a new experience in that regard and I learn something on every movie I do. I learn something about my acting. Sometimes it’s about patience, sometimes it’s about other things, but you re-learn stuff all the time. I sometimes discover something that I learned the first year in acting school. On the set, when I’m working on a scene, I go, “Oh, I remember that! That’s what I need to focus on.” And that’s why acting is such a wonderful thing. You never really stop learning and you never always “get” everything all at one time. Pieces come back to you and you re-learn things. Sometimes you re-learn them in a different way so that’s it’s a deeper lesson, one that’s more profound than when you were 20 years old in college. So it was a very interesting project for me. It’s one I loved doing. And I really enjoyed working with Penelope and Barry and Graham. I would happily do it again. And I loved working with Jeremy. He’s a great guy and someone who I’m very fond of. I just thought it was a special movie.

One Comment »

  • Connie Mitchell said:

    I dearly loved this movie. I have no idea how many times I have watched it I have lost count.

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