Million Dollar Mandy
A lot of grads from Fort Worth Country Day School, one of the most elite private high schools in Texas, have experienced some success in the film industry.
Actors Nicole Cavazos (Witches of the Caribbean) and J. Mack Slaughter (Fat Albert), for instance, are getting some work in low-budget indies and bit parts elsewhere. And several years ago, screenwriter Philip Eisner sold the script of his science-fiction horror film Event Horizon for, well, a ton of cash.
But when it comes to FWCDS alums hitting the Big Time, no one can compare to Chad Feehan. For co-producing All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a slasher about privileged teens at a ranch party, the class of ‘97 grad and two other producing partners recently signed a multi-million-dollar deal with The Weinstein Company. The major Hollywood production company owned and run by legendary movie mogul and overweight chain-smoker Harvey Weinstein coughed up $3.5 million for distribution rights. Almost immediately after premiering to an audience of about 1,300 at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, Mandy Lane started generating serious buzz. Entertainment Weekly reported that the deal is the second-largest to come from this year’s festival. The first is Jennifer Lopez’ vanity project El Cantante. (El Canta-what? is right.)
“It was a surreal experience,” Feehan said. Weinstein “is a very charismatic guy. When you meet him, it’s plain as day why he’s as successful as he is.”
From Quentin Tarantino to Matt Damon to Kevin Smith, Weinstein has helped some of Gen Y cinema’s most influential luminaries get their start, which says a lot for this purchase. Written by Jacob Forman and directed by Jonathan Levine, the movie can be seen as either a scathing examination of adolescent angst or just one helluva sexy and violent reinvention of the slasher. A surefire attention-grabber for art house nuts as well as popcorn fanatics, Mandy Lane should have no problem getting butts in the seats.
The film is a step up from other high school hack films because of the believability of the characters’ behavior. Compared to a PG-13 hit like Scream, where Neve Campbell’s relationship with her boyfriend is tame, the party animals in Mandy Lane reveal a less sanitized version of the adolescent world, from the kids doing Whippits in the ranchhouse to the hormones bouncing off the walls to the character who tromps around only in a pair of cowboy boots and boxer shorts, an ensemble Feehan distinctly remembers as belonging to one of his classmates at FWCDS.
But what’s most interesting is how both the girls and boys in the film obsess over the titular character, played by stunning Austin native Amber Heard (the film version of Friday Night Lights, Drop Dead Sexy). Mandy “wasn’t based on one specific person,” Feehan said. “She was the girl that everybody goes to high school with. The hottest girl in the school but untouchable. Nobody can break through the exterior. Everybody goes to high school with a girl like that.”
Feehan came up with the original story while in school at the American Film Institute in California. “I was lying in bed one night at about 3 a.m.,” he said, “and all those ranch parties from high school starting cruising through my head.” He eventually teamed up with classmates at AFI who also attended prep schools with a FWCDS vibe. Next thing the filmmakers knew, they were shooting scenes on a sweet piece of Texas hill country just southeast of Austin.
Feehan said no release date has been announced but to look for Mandy Lane some time next year. Until then, he’ll be busy working another story in Hollywood, but he won’t elaborate.
He’s so Hollywood, that Feehan.