Producer Dallas Sonnier says he could have found a quality actor to play the villain in his upcoming thriller “Shut In” from the “Hollywood casting universe.”
He even auditioned a few actors to play the man who stalks the film’s heroine in the upcoming movie.
Sonnier had something else in mind. Or, to be more exact, someone else in mind.
The actor he wanted hadn’t been seen on screen in eight years, and his brash persona rubbed plenty of people the wrong way in La La Land. Plus, he’s a loud and proud Republican unwilling to play by Hollywood’s rules.
None of that mattered. Sonnier just had to add Vincent Gallo to the project.
Gallo, now 60, eventually agreed to co-star in The Daily Wire original, but Sonnier says it took all of his persuasive efforts to land the mercurial star. It was more than worth it, he adds.
“He is terrifying,” the producer says.
“Shut In,” directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”) follows a single mom (Rainey Qualley) protecting her children from an abusive ex (Jake Horowitz) and his drug-riddled friend (Gallo).
Sonnier initially connected to Melanie Toast’s “Shut In” script after learning about it from The Black List, a website connecting unproduced screenplays with industry professionals. Sonnier initially teamed with a traditional Hollywood studio, New Line Cinema, to produce the screenplay. At one point Jason Bateman of “Ozark” fame was in line to helm the project.
Enter a global pandemic, which put the project on pause. Sonnier eventually wrested control of “Shut In” back from the studio. He approached The Daily Wire about it via his Bonfire Legend film studio, and once the website gave him the green light, he was on the film’s Nashville, Tennessee, set just 30 days later.
Snagging the movie’s monster, though, wasn’t as easy.
Sonnier had met Gallo years earlier and still had his contact information. So he cold called the actor, who shot to fame by writing, directing and starring in the 1998 indie film “Buffalo ’66.”
“He had been following not only several of my movies and was very pleased with my work, but he also was well aware of our partnership with The Daily Wire,” Sonnier says of their initial conversation.
Gallo wasn’t sold on acting again after all this time, particularly in a film he wasn’t directing.
“He tried to say no a hundred times,” the producer recalls.
But Sonnier finally got his man, with the approval of Caruso. And once Gallo signed up, his commitment astounded Sonnier.
“He really went all in in a way I don’t always see with some of the greatest actors on the planet,” he says, comparing Gallo’s commitment level to that of Heath Ledger on “The Dark Knight” set.
“He had a very particular wardrobe, set of mannerism and speech patterns,” the producer says, adding something else few stars would do for the role. Gallo had one of his teeth, a “healthy one,” Sonnier notes, pulled to complete the transformation into his part. “He crafted a completely three-dimensional villainous character … when you make the villains human, it makes them that much more terrifying and real.”
At times, Sonnier says it was hard to watch him hitting his marks through the on-set monitor.
Gallo’s challenging reputation is no secret. He clashed with co-star Christina Ricci on the set of “Buffalo ’66,” leaving the young star torn about the experience. She’s proud of the film and praised Gallo’s talents, but she recalls some confrontations on the set that left her jarred.
A quick YouTube search reveals Gallo berating a small group of journalists during a chat about “Buffalo ’66.” Gallo’s last directorial effort, 2010’s “Promises Written in Water,” nabbed a brief festival run but never got a mainstream release, per Gallo’s wishes.
Sonnier found a different Gallo on his movie set.
“I’d love to work with him again. He was an absolute gentleman … he was so dedicated and so kind,” he says.
Gallo isn’t just a singular actor and director. He’s worked as a model, singer, director and more, a true renaissance man who rejects the trappings of fame. He’s also a provocateur, showcasing artwork and social media posts quick to rile the easily offended and, perhaps, those with thicker skins, too.
One example: His website features an escort service option — one of numerous satirical elements on his site — plus original art work excoriating politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a T-shirt with her image on it with the word “ignorant” written across it).
“I think that if he wasn’t a successful satirist no one would be bothered by it,” Sonnier says. “The fact that he gets under people’s skin and he is successful in drumming up controversy is the mark of a great artist in many regards.”
“I’m not particularly bothered by it,” he adds.
What the prolific producer does want, though, is for “Shut In” to be seen by people across the ideological spectrum. His work isn’t overtly political but distributing “Shut In” via The Daily Wire may scare some potential audiences away.
It’s his job, along with Gallo and company, to lure them back.
“The movies that we are making and distributing [through The Daily Wire] are not conservative propaganda movies,” he says.
“The truth is, I want liberals to watch the movie,” he says. “If we do a good enough job, and make the movies transcend politics while still being something a conservative audience adores … then I think we’ve succeeded.”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.