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Two Wilmington Actors Talk Shooting The Glorias, Film In Wilmington, Pandemic Production

Two productions – a horror film and a crime drama series -- are currently shooting in the Cape Fear region.  Another TV pilot is in pre-production, and five projects recently wrapped.

But even before the increased activity, two Wilmington-based actors traveled to Georgia last year to shoot The Glorias, a film about Gloria Steinem starring Oscar-winning Actor Julianne Moore. 

 

If you’re a Walking Dead fan, you might have seen Allie McCulloch.    

Allie McCulloch:  Got decapitated.  It was pretty epic… I got to do some really cool prosthetics and stuff I had never done before - like I had a life cast of my whole head so they could replicate my head. And then I showed up on set and there's me.

Or -- her head, anyway.  She was in Under The Dome, and she’s in the feature film Drought…

AM:  …which was locally made by some incredible up and coming wonderful filmmakers, Hannah Black and Megan Peterson, and made in Wilmington with Wilmington cast and crew. 

She’s also shooting an independent film.

 

AM:  …with my son cast as my son. 

Are we up-to-date?  

AM:  Oh, I’m in the movie, The Night House.

The first film sold at Sundance this year, it stars Rebecca Hall.  

Nick Basta, also an actor based in Wilmington, and who also moved here to raise children, is recognizable from the film Safe Haven, shot in Southport as well as the TV show, Banshee.

 

Nick Basta:  I did my share of Law and Orders back in the day.  I did NCIS New Orleans, did True Detective season three.  I did Queen Sugar in New Orleans, as well.

He teaches in UNCW’s theater department part-time.  Local theater patrons might also recognize him as Willy Wonka.

NB:  My first musical…

Production on The Glorias was pre-Covid – in January of 2019 in Savannah.  It’s based on the book Gloria Steinem wrote a few years ago -- My Life On The Road -- and Nick Basta describes it as a road movie.  

NB:  There are four Glorias.  One's like four years old, one 12, Alicia Vikander plays a 25-year-old, Julianne Moore plays her as an older woman.  So each phase of her life is represented. And then of course they all communicate.

AM:  It's really an exploration of Gloria Steinem's life told in multiple parts from childhood through the teenage years and into the twenties and thirties and beyond.

Allie McCulloch plays one of Gloria Steinem’s close friends, who’s also a feminist-activist and attorney.

AM:  … Brenda Feigen who came up with her at the same time. And so it's about Gloria’s time, but it's also kind of an exploration of like our country as a whole, during these different time periods and what women went through, what they had to deal with, how it all sort of played out.

McCulloch’s research for the role uncovered a reality that she still finds, well…

AM:  It's mind blowing to me what women have had to go through in the last five decades -- what we’ve dealt with…I think the thing that strikes me the most is just the utter unfairness of it all. 

Julie Taymor, who directed The Glorias, is probably best known for her work on the Oscar-nominated film, Frida, about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.  But she is a theatrical pioneer.  In the late 1990s, she designed the ground-breaking costumes for the Broadway musical The Lion King – and she directed it.  

NB:  You know, Julie's a visionary… she's the most prolific theater director in history.

AM:  ...and she's, she is the best director ever. She let us explore, she let us play…

McCulloch says she started out intimidated by the prospect of working with Julianne Moore.

AM:  It’s very scary.

But it turned into a learning experience – and – her words -- heaven on earth.   

AM:  I've never had such a gracious, generous actor to work with in my life... And so there was just a tricky scene and Julianne came up to me in between takes and just had a conversation with me, like human to human, not actor to actor. And we talked about the scene and we talked about the words and she was like, you're doing great. Like, you're great, it's fine.

McCulloch says one of the key lessons for her:  take that generosity and pay it forward.

Nick Basta plays an amalgam, he says, of an editor.  

NB:  It's kind of based on Clay Felker. I found out later he started New YorkMagazine and it was one of Gloria's first supporters in the magazine business.  He essentially gave her some money I believe, or lent her, or found her some financing for Ms. Magazine. 

It’s the first non-villain he’s played in about five years.  

NB:  All these editors are really nasty to Gloria. And of course she was treated mad-men style and the whole Playboy thing. I'm a guy that actually notices her glasses.  

This is important because the glasses become part of her identity, says Basta.  And it was his choice to be sincere rather than sarcastic that landed him the job.

NB:  And so this is when Gloria finds herself when she starts wearing the aviators…She discovers her power, her superhero-ness, pretty much connected to the glasses. So my first line is, ‘Love the glasses.’  

Both Allie McCulloch and Nick Basta are unusual in that they’ve been able to work consistently as Wilmington-based actors.  When the film incentive changed from a tax rebate to a grant, it meant more out-of-town travel for them.  

Then when things started picking up again in Wilmington, the pandemic shut it all down.  

Once again, production is creeping back into Wilmington.

NB:  Busy finally. I can't believe I had two jobs in the last six weeks now, so that's good news.

 

And while The Glorias was shot pre-Covid, working on a set now requires new precautions.

NB:  You've got to get tests every three days. All the crew has to be in masks. The cast cannot eat with anybody at all, has to be at your own trailer. So there's a new set of rules. 

McCulloch says she’s excited about her next acting jobs – already in the pipeline. But this film is especially timely – after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s unexpected death and the presidential election underway now:  

AM:  You know, we have a responsibility to use our voice and to vote and to make sure that if something doesn't feel right in our soul or if it does feel right in our soul, that we pursue that against all odds. And I think that's what Gloria Steinem stands for to me.

The Glorias is out now on Amazon Prime.