“Somewhere, anytime, my father is on TV,” wrote director Remy Auberjonois. “It’s just become an eternal fact of the universe; like a law of physics, TV physics.”
So obviously there was room for the talents of René Auberjonois in Remy’s Minnesota-shot movie “Blood Stripe,” starring his Minnesota-born wife, actor and co-writer Kate Nowlin.
The movie is a psychological thriller about a Marine coping with PTSD after her third tour of duty in Afghanistan. It’s been winning awards and garnering very nice reviews.
“The film we are rolling out on iTunes on Nov. 7th with a pre-order link going live any day,” Remy told me Monday. (More info at bloodstripefilm.com.) His opening remarks here were a response to my middle-of-the-night e-mail when I discovered one of the episodes of “Frasier” airing now on the Hallmark channel, in which Remy’s dad made guest appearances as Dr. Tewksbury. It was weird: Remy had just responded to my questions, and there was Dad.
Q: When did “Blood Stripe” become the title of your movie?
A: We had called it “Wilderlee” after a cabin on Lake Vermilion that appears in the movie. But that title felt somewhat too pretty, and less like the movie. My sister Tessa introduced us to the “blood stripe” that Marines wear on their dress uniforms. It’s such an evocative pair of words and felt like it could hold a lot of meaning as a title for those who don’t know what it means. For people who know the reference, there is an immediate curiosity.
Q: Is your wife referred to only as “Our Sergeant” in “Blood Stripe”?
A: Indeed. We felt we wanted her to be an Everywoman and to be identified by her rank, her service being such a central aspect of the character. Also, it’s kind of a reference to other movies. Clint Eastwood, such an icon of movie masculinity, plays several characters that aren’t named: The Stranger in “High Plains Drifter”; The Man With No Name in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”; Preacher in “Pale Rider.” We are trying to feminize an archetype in “Blood Stripe,” and it felt good to let our female character occupy that same space.
Q: Kate wins ALL of your arm wrestling matches? She’s looking powerful about the biceps.
A: It’s that obvious, isn’t it? I like to say that she had an eight pack on set and I am sporting a party ball.
Q: While no wife or animal was harmed in “Blood Stripe,” was there any scene where you were hypervigilant about Kate’s well-being?
A: There was a whole sequence that was to be the end of the film that didn’t make the cut. It required a lot of night shooting in Lake Vermilion … in September. So it was a priority that we keep the actors safe and warm. We had wet suits and a warming house and blankets. Also, there is one moment when she jumped off the dock in full gear and our friend Amber Patton, who is a USMC vet herself and was on set with us, made sure that Kate knew the hazards of jumping into water with a helmet on — you can snap your neck! Our 2nd AD [assistant director] Andrew Beguin is a certified diver and that is the one thing in the film that Kate didn’t do herself.
Q: Your father looks rather scruffy in “Blood Stripe,” miles away from Father Mulcahy on “M*A*S*H,” Clayton Endicott III on “Benson,” or, my favorite, Dr. Tewksbury on “Frasier.” Is there any role you couldn’t get your father to play?
A: It’s funny, we didn’t write him a part at first. He doesn’t feel very Minnesotan somehow. But we realized what a loss it would be if we didn’t utilize his great talents, so we wrote him a part that ended up speaking more than anyone else in the film.
Q: If I can trust Wikipedia, and many times one cannot, your dad and mom (Judith Helen Mahalyi) have been married since 1963. They are not Hollywood people?
A: When I see it written it looks like a looong time ago! They have really grown up together. They aren’t really “Hollywood” in the sense that most people associate with that label, but they are deeply rooted in the community of creative artists that live and work in Hollywood, and they have been for a long time. My dad has been a working actor for his entire adult life, and my mom started as an actor but has been at times a critic, a producer, and primarily a writer. They are both still working at it, which makes me happy for them and proud of them.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject.