Jamie Kennedy in “Last Call.”
By Karen Butler
Actor and comedian Jamie Kennedy’s new movie, “Last Call,” proves one can go home again.
Directed by Paolo Pilladi from a script he co-wrote with producer Greg Lingo, the film stars Jeremy Piven as Seamus “Mick” McDougal, a real estate developer who returns to help his father Laurence (Jack McGee,) an Irish immigrant and owner of the working-class, Philadelphia-area pub, The Bucket, after Mick’s mom dies.
As Mick reconnects with his family and childhood friends, including Kennedy’s barfly character Whitey, he wrestles with whether to help build a casino nearby or try to preserve the neighborhood he forgot he loved.
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“It’s very close to my heart. It’s a movie about Philly and the area I grew up in, which is Upper Darby, and the producer is a friend of mine,” Kennedy, 50, told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. “Any time you can come back and shoot a movie about your town and something about those lives, it’s really exciting.”
As the former star of “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” and “Ghost Whisperer” — whose movie credits include “Romeo + Juliet,” “Three Kings,” “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” “Good Deeds” and the “Scream” franchise — Kennedy understands the dynamics between people who leave their hometowns to make new lives for themselves and those who decide to work and raise their families where they have always lived.
“I left the neighborhood,” Kennedy said.
“I’m friendly with some people who have stayed and friendly with people who have left,” he added. “I know how much the neighborhood has changed and I know what it’s like when you do leave and what people think. There’s definitely a thing of sometimes when you leave: ‘Why are you leaving us? Why are you abandoning us? You think you’re so good?’ Then I think there are people who really appreciate it. Philly’s becoming a place where they appreciate the seeds that have been planted about their community outside in the world.”
Although the movie is a comedy, it also looks at serious issues many neighborhoods are facing today.
“It’s about gentrification. It’s about mom and pop businesses and how do we keep that culture? How do we keep our individuality? How do we keep everything from not being Amazon — and I love Amazon — but Amazon’s not going to make my pizza down the street,” Kennedy said. “That’s what Jeremy’s character goes through: Do I want to just make another buck or do I want to reconnect with my friends and find out who I really am?”
Kennedy said one of his old friends was very similar to the character he plays in “Last Call.”
“He was like a bouncer and a tough guy and he was one of the first guys in our neighborhood to have a Bluetooth [wireless device] and it was huge and it was on the side of his head,” Kennedy laughed. “He’s always taking a call. I don’t know how important it is, but he’s always taking that call.”
The cast was encouraged to be creative and improvise lines of dialogue to make the ambience of the locale and the closeness of relationships at the heart of the film as authentic as possible.
Scenes that took place in the pub and in a beach house the guys rent for a holiday were particularly memorable to film.
“The Bucket was cool because it was based on a bar I knew. It was a lot of Bruce Dern stuff,” Kennedy said.
“I loved working with everybody, but Bruce is one of our last Actors Studio actors. He’s from the James Dean era and he’s still out there doing it. He’s down to play and try and he walks on set and he’s like Zeus. So, that was a lot of fun because we improvised a lot and he just jumped right in. He’s not scared to say anything and he is as real as it gets. You can always follow his lead and that’s pretty exciting.”
Many of McGee’s film and TV performances may be intense and gritty, but he is actually a gifted raconteur and a “barrel of laughs” when the cameras stop rolling, Kennedy noted.
“He’s just a rich treasure trove of great stories,” Kennedy said. “He is really fun and loose and that’s what great actors are.”
“Last Call” was the last project Kennedy filmed before the coronavirus pandemic shut down productions for months.
He hopes the movie entertains audiences eager to see people out together, knocking back a few drinks and having a good time without social distancing or wearing face masks.
“This has nothing to do with COVID,” he said of the film. “You don’t realize how good you have it, just the simple pleasures of life, just the ability to go to your local watering hole, grab a beer with no lid and grab the glass from the bartender that he hands you and just sip from that glass.”
For decades, Kennedy has built up a lengthy and colorful resume as an actor, writer, standup comedian, TV presenter and podcast host.
His willingness and ability to seek out and create new opportunities enabled him to stay optimistic and productive during the pandemic, a time when many people were stuck at home, feeling dejected as their lives were put on pause.
“I started taking my body of work and having it digitized,” he said. “You can put everything on the Internet now and people like that. I started working on my YouTube page, fixing up my house, redoing a couple of rooms, working out, looking at my stock portfolio. I did a lot of things I don’t normally do. Cooking a lot. I started really evaluating what I need in my life and what I don’t and I started to realize I don’t really need that much to survive.
“I’m very lucky where I am in my life and I can probably have even less and be OK and that’s one of the things that this pandemic has taught me.
Co-starring Cathy Moriarty, Taryn Manning and Zach McGowan, “Last Call” is now available via pay-per-view platforms.