'Transamerica' is riding the publicity coattails of its suddenly famous star.
Duncan Tucker spent "three heartbreaking years having doors slammed in my face" before he found a producer willing to gamble on "Transamerica." As difficult as that was, he realizes now that having to wait so long was the best thing that could have happened to his project.
The actor he had signed for the starring role was Felicity Huffman, a performer well-respected among her peers but best-known by the public as William H. Macy's wife. When she finished the movie, she went to shoot a pilot for a TV series.
The show turned out to be "Desperate Housewives," and faster than you could say "prime-time soap opera," it had become a hit, Huffman had won an Emmy and Tucker's little movie had gone from arthouse obscurity to fodder for the supermarket tabloids.
"The stars were aligned," he acknowledged during a visit to the Twin Cities to promote today's opening of the movie that he wrote and directed, a story about a male-to-female sex-change recipient who discovers that a son exists from a relationship 15 years earlier.
"I couldn't believe some of the things that were happening. Dolly Parton says she wants to record a song for the movie, but she's on tour and we need the song right away. So she detours her tour bus to record it."
The good news keeps coming. Huffman was nominated for a best actress Oscar on Tuesday and already has won a Golden Globe. Parton's song ("Travelin' Thru") also was nominated for an Academy Award as well as a Globe. This is heady stuff for a first-time filmmaker.
"I never went to film school," he said. "I don't know if that's good or bad. But I do know that my strongest trait is as a storyteller. I love stories."
Being a rookie director helped him with the actors, he thinks.
"I wasn't trying to impose anything on them," he said. "I told them to keep it real and always tell the truth. That's what actors like to hear, I found out later. But that's not why I said it. I said it because I believe it."
Not everything about his overnight fame sits well with Tucker. For one thing, he never envisioned that he'd be jockeying for attention with the likes of Peter Jackson's "King Kong." His movie cost $1 million; Jackson's cost more than 200 times that much.
"We barely had enough money to make a trailer," he said. "So here we are competing with a giant ape. This is going to have to turn into the little movie that could."