I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brett Bentman, director of the new film 90 Feet From Home featuring WWE Hall Of Famer Shawn Michaels. Bentman, co-founder his own production company, B22 Films, talked about how a dream he had led to seeking out Michaels for the role of the Jimmy Devine character, an abusive, alcoholic stepfather to the central character of the movie.
“We were casting for a long time, and the thing for us as independent film makers is you have to make a movie with the budget you have. You don’t really have a studio behind you that you can go back and say ‘hey, we need an extra $100,000’ for Mel Gibson or a Jeff Bridges. It just wasn’t in the books for this film.
I had a dream that I was at a WrestleMania event with a good friend of mine who works for [trading card company] Panini, who still writes the bios on the backs of trading cards. I had this dream that we’re at this wrestling event and it’s like ‘hey, you want to meet Shawn?’ and I said ‘yes, absolutely’ and I go back there and meet him. I wake up from this dream, and we had been really hard pressed to find our ‘Jimmy’ for the movie and just not coming up with anything that make logical sense on the money side, on the scheduling side. My wife and I had a meeting—she had served as a producer on the film—so I said ‘I have this crazy idea. There’s a wrestler named Shawn Michaels, he’s kinda reformed but he was really popular in the ‘90s and 2000s…’ She gave me this look like she’d never heard of Shawn before. She was like ‘who?!?’ and here comes IMDb and Google and we’re looking at him, and she’s like ‘well, it’s your call.’
I called his agent and said ‘look, we’ve got a very modest budget for our film. Here’s what we need, here’s how long we want Shawn here. We’ll take great care of him’ and we expected to hear ‘no’ because you hear more no’s than yes’s in this world. His agent was like ‘yeah, he’s into it. We’ll have you guys go to the [WWE] Performance Center in Orlando, and if that goes well, we’ll make it happen.’ So, that’s really how it came to be with Shawn.”
Bentman said he grew up as a wrestling fan, so he was familiar with Michaels’ work with WWE. He praised Michaels’ ability to stay in character on set, and said that while Shawn had some concerns about meeting the expectations of the character, he was always professional and carried a quality that’s usually seen in more veteran actors.
“I grew up watching him in the ‘90s. My dad and I always used to watch, and Shawn was one of those guys that when he was on television with the WWE, even up until when he retired, he was always good on the mic. He could cut a promo better than most, so we never had any concerns about him on set. Talking with Shawn and meeting with him, he expressed a little bit about it being challenging for him because although he’s had kind of a tainted past—as most of us have where you’ve evolved as a human being—it really wasn’t to the extent that we’re showing in the film. He didn’t abuse children, he really abused himself more than anybody else, so that was a little bit of a stretch for him but we were always really confident in his ability.
I really have to say when he was on set he was the character, and it was really nice because he hardly broke character even when he wasn’t on the hot set. Even when he was in his trailer or he was having lunch, he was Jimmy, and that’s stuff you really only see in seasoned actors. Shawn came on set and became Jimmy, he stayed Jimmy—which isn’t to say that he didn’t goof around with us and have some light hearted moments in between takes—but he wouldn’t break character when he was playing an angry, abusive alcoholic. That’s who he was for the day. We really had no concerns after meeting with him and then I think he just exceeded our expectations once he got on set. I think anyone that watches the film is going to be very, very impressed with how well he does.”
The film is currently making rounds on the film festival circuit, including an upcoming screening at the San Antonio Film Festival on August 3rd at 8pm. You can follow along for updates on the film’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more festival announcements and a future home release.
Bentman also talks to us about two more of his upcoming films (Cutter Bill with Dustin Rhodes, and Thunderclap! with Rhodes, R-Truth and Kevin Nash), the appeal of acting to wrestlers and much more. Check out our full interview below: