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Paul Leyden‘s transition from actor to director was relatively easy. Part of his experiences can be seen in how he made Chick Fight into this year’s best underdog movie to see as it hit VOD this week. This Australian’s good looks landed him in a lot of soaps early in his career and having an education at National Institute of Dramatic Arts no doubt helped prepare him for what’s to come.
“I originally got into acting through writing and rewriting the material that I was appearing in,” says this filmmaker. He also feared being typecast. After many years appearing in soaps, it’s natural to worry.
“So being a bit of a control freak, I decided not to take a step back. The first film I wrote was The Factory (for Dark Castle Entertainment), which sold and had a 30 million dollar budget. I thought, wow, this is great; it was never that easy ever again,” concludes Leyden.
He directed an independent horror film called Come Back to Me afterwards, and perhaps it was the Cleaners (for Sony’s online service Crackle) where he decided this side of the industry is where he wanted to stay.
“I’ve made a consistent living from it for 20-plus years. I’ve done nothing else but be in entertainment. So it’s been a blessing and its lot of hard work. It’s not just a job for me. It’s a passion,” says Leyden.
His latest movie certainly shows. When he first saw the original script, he knew he had a project certain to knock one’s socks off. Getting the right group of performers meant knowing who would be perfect for the role. This director calls his film Bridesmaids meets Fight Club; there’s a subversiveness which intensifies as it flows from beginning to end.
The comedy is different in this movie about an underdog. The talents he assembled threw themselves into their roles to make the laughs genuine. Also, those fights are something special. Anna (Malin Akerman) sees hostility when having to deal with Olivia (Bella Thorne). This movie is also a look at how Gen X/Y’ers see Millennials, or should that be the other way around?
“The actors knew that they had to bring in their A game so they could deliver it within a few takes, In Bridesmaids–a studio film–they can improvise this last joke and spend hours on it. We didn’t have that luxury. I wasn’t against anyone improvising. There were a few improvised lines, but overall, we scripted the laughs.
“Plus, you can’t make a comedy without having a great time,” says Leyden.
The film needs to focus on Anna climbing out of the pit of despair. Without Charleen (Dulcé Sloan) by her side, a police officer with quite the mouth, it’d be tough to say if she’d get anywhere. This comedian was discovered at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and Paul knew who he wanted to play opposite Malin, as that best friend. Their chemistry was instant and Leyden called their rapport lightning in the bottle type stuff.
No new fighter can survive in this Fight Club without some help. Fortunately, she finds it with Jack Murphy (Alec Baldwin) is more than Miyagi from Karate Kid. Some people may want to compare him to shifu from Kung Fu Panda. Even Kevin Nash, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler, appears as the father to Akerman’s character and the surprise he brings adds to the humour. Not to be forgotten is Bear (Fortune Feimster), the referee to nearly everything going on. She’s like that bartender to which you want to pour out your soul to.
Each character in Chick Fight has an important role to play in helping develop Anna’s well-being. This film is not only about empowerment but also feeling good for himself. It’s production was in good hands with Leyden when considering he wrote and directed lots of female driven material in the past. In the same vote, he acknowledges he can’t even place himself in their shoes on hundred percent. With this flick, he wanted to focus on creating a fun, encouraging, film; whether the protagonist is male or female, it doesn’t matter.
“I believe we need outlets to express our frustration, outrage, and dissatisfaction. Men can often get primal. It’s different for women in the real world. Would that work in our reality? I’m not sure.
“But if you learn to never give up, then you can always beat the crap out of the things life tosses at you.” grins Leyden.