Ac­tor Sim­mons still feels chill of a Win­nipeg win­ter

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - RAN­DALL KING

AC­TOR J.K. Sim­mons’s dig­its are all in­tact, thank you. The ques­tion of Sim­mons’s en­dan­gered ap­pendages nat­u­rally arises in con­ver­sa­tion with the ac­tor, not from his role in the hor­ror film Dark Skies, in which he plays an aliens-area­mong-us con­spir­acy the­o­rist.

It has to do with his ex­pe­ri­ence in Win­nipeg shoot­ing the icy 2009 rom-com New in Town op­po­site Re­nee Zell­weger and Harry Con­nick Jr. a few years back.

Sim­mons is a busy ac­tor who has of­ten bounced be­tween TV ( Oz, Law & Or­der, The Closer) and movies, of­ten turn­ing up in pres­tige films by the Coen brothers ( Burn Af­ter Read­ing, The Ladykillers) and Ja­son Reit­man ( Juno, Up in the Air).

The ex­pe­ri­ence of mak­ing New in Town still reg­is­ters vividly in the 58-year-old ac­tor’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was 54 de­grees be­low Fahren­heit when we were shoot­ing ex­te­ri­ors one night,” Sim­mons says. “I come from Detroit and Ohio, so I know from snow.

“But that was some­thing else,” he says, laugh­ing at the me­mory of Louisiana-born Harry Con­nick Jr.’s re­ac­tion to that es­pe­cially bit­ter win­ter shoot.

“Harry was in a state of shock,” Sim­mons said with a laugh. “He couldn’t get his brain around it.”

The hor­ror of a Win­nipeg cold snap not­with­stand­ing, Sim­mons says he hasn’t dipped in the hor­ror genre very of­ten.

“I’ve never really be drawn to hor­ror,” he says. “But with Dark Skies, I don’t think of it as sci­ence fic­tion-hor­ror film. To me it’s a fam­ily drama.”

As for the cred­i­bil­ity of Dark Skies’ con­jec­ture of mind-con­trol­ling aliens, let’s just say Sim­mons is a lot less cyn­i­cal than, say, his hard-bit­ten ed­i­tor J. Jonah Jame­son in his Spi­der-Man movies.“I don’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve,” he says. “But I don’t dis­count it ei­ther.”

Win­nipeg writer Bill Fu­gler wasn’t ac­tively seek­ing a credit on the In­ter- net Movie Data­base when he was at work in his Wolse­ley book­store/cof­fee house The Neigh­bour­hood Book­store and Café.

The credit came to him when film­maker Sean Gar­rity walked into the West­min­ster Av­enue es­tab­lish­ment one day.

“He came into the cafe and asked if I would work with him, Fu­gler says. “I thought he wanted to rent the café as a set. But he said, ‘Do you write?’ I said, ‘Yes, how do you know?’ And he wouldn’t tell me.”

From this aus­pi­cious (if mys­te­ri­ous) be­gin­ning, Fu­gler would sub­mit a story to Gar­rity ti­tled Killing Some­one that would be trans­mo­gri­fied into the thriller Blood Pres­sure, which is show­ing at Cine­math­eque.

Fu­gler says he loves the film and ap­pre­ci­ates Gar­rity’s per­se­ver­ance with help­ing him fin­ish the orig­i­nal story.

“It was a story that I started and never fin­ished and it kept coming back to me be­cause I wanted to fin­ish it,” Fu­gler says.

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