Love Ranch: Interview with director Taylor Hackford

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Taylor Hackford is the director of "Love Ranch," starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci. The film is being released by E1 Entertainment on June 30.

Working with a spouse


“I have wanted to work with my wife, Helen Mirren, for a long time,” explains director Taylor Hackford about looking for a project that might be right for them, having last worked with her on White Nights where they first met in 1985.


“I looked for various projects and suggested some but she’s tough,” he muses.  “She only wants to do things that are great roles, and she’s right.”


A Friend's Screenplay


“It’s always a double-edged sword when your friend gives you something to read, right?” says Hackford about Mark Jacobson’s screenplay.


“I’m interested in personal stories. I’m interested in stories about working-class people, and Mark Jacobson understood that,” explains Hackford about the draw of the material.




“I obviously had Helen Mirren in mind from the very beginning,” he continues, “and when I told her about the story she was intrigued. And she read the script and said, ‘I’m in.’”


“When I read the role of Charlie Bontempo, I thought of one actor and one actor only,” says Hackford,  “Joe Pesci. Charlie is a role Joe's never played before – certainly not the rabid gangster of Goodfellas and Casino.  Bontempo uses his brain, not his brawn –  a very smart, ambitious guy who creates his own American Dream by getting prostitution legalized in Northern Nevada.    To accomplish this impossible task in our puritanical society,  Charlie must have consummate manipulative powers and intelligence,  and to me Joe Pesci possesses those qualities in spades.” 


Hackford says of the chemistry between his two leads, “To put Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci together as a married couple, I knew there would be fireworks. Actually it surpassed my expectations!”


Hackford continues “this film isn’t just a two-hander, it's a three-hander – and the third actor has to stand toe-to-toe with Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren,” says Hackford,  “not an easy task for someone so much younger and less experienced.   Not only is Bruza in his early 30s, but he also has to be believable as a Heavy Weight Boxer and as a famous Argentine.”   


“I got a photo of Sergio,” recalls Hackford, “and I said he looks right.”  With that, a phone meeting was arranged, and thereafter Peris-Mencheta flew to Los Angeles for an audition. 


“Sergio and Helen read in our living room,” recounts Hackford, “and in one moment I knew this is the guy. I also knew because my wife, who is as good an actor as there is in the world, turned to me and said, ‘This guy is the real deal. He’s got something happening.’ And we made the choice right then.”


Closing Words


“There was a lot of style — the whole concept of the hair, the costumes, big mutton chop sideburns,” recalls Hackford of a decade more than 30 years in the past. “I think in this film you get an opportunity to see a vision of America in a different era. The 70s are kind of a lost period. And I hope in this film we’re able to rediscover it.”

“American films have always explored frontiers – both real and emotional”, says Hackford.  “I wanted LOVE RANCH to be out there on the edge — exploring the taboos and hypocrisy of our society.  The three characters that Helen, Joe and Sergio play are all cynical, tough- minded professionals, who seem to be well past passion.   Is it possible to actually find love in an institution that cynically sells sex?   That was the underlying question we pursued in this film.”