This month, Detroit native Gordon Michaels will see his first screenplay, Unbeatable Harold, hit movie screens nationwide. He also plays the title role. He talked with Hour Detroit about his June 12 premiere and his recent Michigan film work with Cuba Gooding Jr. (Gifted Hands) and Hilary Swank (Betty Anne Waters.)
How did the Unbeatable Harold role come about?
I performed it as a one-act play, a 25-page play that I did in New York City back in 1988. I had so much fun playing the character, and I thought maybe there’s a screenplay here. In 1998, I had a screenplay put together and began the quest for raising money and putting a cast together.
The cast is a well-known group of established actors/actresses. Was it difficult to get them all on board?
Dylan McDermott and I have been friends since the mid-80s, [so] that was easy. He’s always been really supportive of the project, and he saw me do the play. He’s always believed in it. I could tailor the role of Jake Salamander for him. We sent the script [to Gladys Knight] and she responded to it and we had a great time. I couldn’t believe it — we actually sing a song in the film. Henry Winkler worked on The Practice [with me]. I took a long shot and sent him the script and he responded to the material. I have been star struck only a couple of times in my life and [Winkler] was one of them (having grown up watching Happy Days). I couldn’t believe the “Fonz” was sitting right in front of me.
The others — Charles Durning, Nicole DeHuff — read the material and came forward. [As for] Lin Shaye, we were really lucky to have her respond to the material.
What can you share about your recent work?
In the Hilary Swank film, I played Lt. Daniels. I had some scenes with Hilary and that was great. [Working here] has been so surreal. Working on the Betty Anne Waters film in the Detroit [police] precinct, I was walking out looking at the Renaissance Center and thinking that this is really happening in Michigan. If someone would have told me I would have been working on films in my hometown, I would have never believed it.
What are some of your favorite metro Detroit haunts?
I like Little Tree in Royal Oak. [And] Slows BBQ — I really love that place; the food is incredible and I really like the atmosphere. I really like Mon Jin Lau; the food is very consistent … and always a fun crowd. Of course, my mom’s Cuban food is the best. It’s always great to come home to her cooking.