Mister Lonely - on-set feature
Kaleem Aftab visits the Scottish set of Mister Lonely, a playful love story about a Michael Jackson impersonator on the trail of a Marilyn Monroe double
When news broke that Harmony Korine had cast Y tu mamá también star Diego Luna as a Michael Jackson impersonator it seemed a typical act of provocation from the Gummo and Julien Donkey Boy director. How many other directors would be brave enough to cast a Mexican in the role of a black American infamous for whitening up? But in a marquee tent on the grounds of Duncraig Castle in Plockton, Luna puts on a display of mimicry that vindicates the director and highlights the talents of this 27-year-old actor. As a Jackson beat is blasted out over the speakers Luna slides onto the set of Mister Lonely and performs the ‘moonwalk’ looking more like Michael Jackson than the pop star himself. For the privileged few in the audience the experience is like being transported back to the 80s.
A few hours later I find myself breaking bread with the actor in a fancy fish restaurant on the platform at a Highlands railway station. As he eats, he credits Korine for giving him his groove back. ‘That man, I don’t think I’ll ever work with someone like him again, he is unique and I do feel blessed to be part of this film,’ he enthuses. ‘He gave me back the excitement of acting. Korine is a man who isn’t trying to please anyone but himself, so whether or not a lot of people see the film you know that the film was made for all the right reasons and with artistic integrity. I was sick of doing films and only having people talk about the box office.’
Luna is an actor who has made some bad choices in recent years. Dirty Dancing 2 and The Terminal did nothing for his reputation, although he was wise enough to jump ship from the Goal! trilogy after director Michael Winterbottom got the red card. Playing Jackson in a quirky love story in which he hankers after a Marilyn Monroe double (Samantha Morton), who’s married to a Charlie Chaplin (Denis Lavant) doppelganger is the type of role that Luna needed to get his CV in order. He admits: ‘Sometimes as an actor you get lost in who you have to please. But I love taking risks and surprising myself with what I do. I love the feeling of something being risky and cool.’
It helps too that the movie has a sentiment that appeals to the actor. ‘Mister Lonely is a great metaphor to say that we should all create a perfect place for ourselves; we should all find our own commune.’ For Luna that place is at the centre of vibrant and offbeat movies.
Mister Lonely, Cineworld, Mon 18, 8.45pm & Tue 19 Feb, 1.30pm.