It’s fun being first. I was the first Buffalo journalist to interview actor William Fichtner, who is from Buffalo, including having graduated from Maryville High School.
My stories about Fichtner ran on WIVB-TV and appeared in a weekly newspaper in Buffalo in 1996. I had interviewed him one-on-one during the movie junket in Manhattan for “Albino Alligator,” a crime drama, and one of Fichtner’s earliest films.
I also had the opportunity to interview the movie’s director, who is actor Kevin Spacey, and the screenwriter Christian Forte, who is the son of famed pop singer Fabian. In addition to Fichtner, the other cast members of “Albino Alligator” that I spoke with in New York were Faye Dunaway, Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise, Viggo Mortensen, and Skeet Ulrich.
For more than a decade, I was the only entertainment reporter from Buffalo to have interviewed the hometown Fichtner, but over the years, as he became more famous, others jumped on the entertainment story bandwagon. His acting includes roles in “Strange Days,” “Heat,” “Contact,” “Armageddon,” “The Perfect Storm,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Elysium,” as well as his current part as Adam on the popular CBS television comedy, “Mom.”
Deservedly, Fichtner merits the attention. He’s a superb actor, one who is able to believably immerse himself completely into his characters. He has now directed and produced his first movie, which he also stars in and co-wrote with Cain DeVore.
It’s called “Cold Brook,” and he filmed it in Buffalo and East Aurora (the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans Music Hall, the Buffalo History Museum, Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College, included), as well as in the countryside around Cortland in the Finger Lakes region.
The exceptionally well-acted film is a drama with supernatural undercurrents. It co-stars Kim Coates, who also produced; Harold Perrineau, Robin Weigert, Brad William Henke, and Mary Lynn Rajskub. A number of Buffalo-area folks have cast and crew credits.
The idea for “Cold Brook” had been germinating for years. Fichtner and close friend Coates, who he initially met on the set of “Black Hawk Down” while shooting the feature in Morocco in 2001, had long talked about the story of two buddies, good-natured coworkers, who experience something together they can’t talk about to others. Another friend of Fichtner’s, writer DeVore, became part of the creative mix.
During a recent morning interview with Fichtner, who is a dedicated follower of the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, he told me that he showed the finished screenplay to Tim Clark, the commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Office, and Rich Wall, its director of operations, both of whom saw its strong potential and “became enthusiastic about the possibility of shooting the movie in the area.”
Fichtner said that the story he’s telling in “Cold Brook” is “about friendship and a supportive community. Not unlike people and events in my own life. I knew right from the beginning that the characters Kim and I would eventually play would represent our own strong friendship.”
The movie’s story centers on two college maintenance men, Ted (Fichtner) and George (Coates) who encounter something unusual on campus. An unexplained figure haunts an exhibit of a 19th-century shipwreck in the college’s museum.
I asked Fichtner if he had an affinity for the paranormal. “I do,” he said, “I don’t accept that we know everything that’s possible in our universe. I don’t have all the answers, and there’s nothing wrong with asking questions.”
In the film, the character of Gil Le Deux will involve Ted and George in a adventure that plays out with caution and without sensation. This is not a movie that screams its intentions. It’s relaxed and subtle and effective.
It deliberately tells a carefully crafted ghost story that exists to solve the important issue of a family’s legacy and to show how a couple of hardworking guys can have their calm lives upended by a mysterious specter. One solid laugh arrives courtesy of the bemusement exhibited by Ted and George’s wives who are intrigued, but not surprised, by the endearing closeness of their husbands to each other.
Throughout the strongly-crafted movie, which offers well-chosen production elements (sets and decoration), every small role is beautifully acted. Edd Lukas’s cinematography crisply captures the rolling hills of a bucolic landscape and Kiran Pallegadda’s editing is exceptional. Michael Deragon’s original music meshes impeccably with the visuals we see on the screen.
With “Cold Brook,” you can tell an actor is in charge as director because there’s an appreciation of language as a communication tool, not merely the familiar expression of a story ultimately delivered with excessive special effects. The effects in this movie are never intrusively over-the-top.
“Cold Brook” is proof that solid character-driven films can be made on a small budget, and with maximum talent.
In addition to its opening premiere weekend at the Aurora Theatre in East Aurora, with three straight sold-out shows in the 646-seat venue, “Cold Brook” is also in limited release in 10 cities in the United States, including Los Angeles and New York and is available on a variety of streaming and cable demand platforms.
As for actor Coates, who has been seen almost everywhere proudly wearing a Buffalo Bills cap, well, he’s so in love with his friend Fichtner’s hometown that he’s ready to buy a house in Buffalo.