“Ernie had said it was an honour to make his last movie with me. I was silenced”
“I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do it as a Western,” says Petridis, who came up with the idea after driving home an actor from another project who had shook Fernandez’s hand. “An old guy rides into town and cleans up an old people’s home.” The lm also stars June Squibb, from About Schmidt, and another star of the Western genre, Barry Corbin.
“Ernest was 96. He was a workhorse,” he adds. “He was very grounded, very little ego, happy to be an actor. He constantly handed back the baton back to the director. He wasn’t a method guy.”
Borgnine and Petridis forged a friendship. “Sometimes he’d drive home with me from the set. We’d talk about old lms, his ex-wives – he was married ve times. We talked grandpa, grandson kind of stuff. Before Ernie died, his son called me to say that Ernie had said it was an honour to make his last movie with me. I was silenced.”
The lm is not getting a cinema release in the UAE, but it’s available to buy from Vimeo On Demand. “Wouldn’t it be a shame if people didn’t see Ernie’s last lm?”
Petridis’ formative years in Dubai means there have been attempts to label him a UAE lmmaker, alongside From A To B’s Ali F Mostafa. He doesn’t baulk at the idea, but is quick to point out that what he creates is more important to him than where he comes from. “Let’s stop looking at every lm in the UAE that they’re working for the tourism board. The fact Abu Dhabi is being shot for Star Wars is great, but it’s a tourist attraction. Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa is a tourism thing. Let’s make a good freakin’ movie.”
Petridis splits his time between the UAE and Los Angeles. He’s been approached to direct his next Hollywood lm, about two kids trying to audit the NSA. He also has meetings with ImageNation in Abu Dhabi.
He would willingly talk lm trivia with you for hours if you let him. Our meeting ends with more references to Rex Page, and a life of regret. “From music videos to this lm, it’s about putting a little bit of your soul into it,” he smiles. “I’m afraid of not making it. Imagine being 96 and still trying to be a success. That’s what I’m most afraid of. I don’t think lms work if there isn’t a little bit of you in them.”