Film and TV

Corn Mo Makes His Big-Screen Debut at AFI Dallas. Thanks to...Will & Grace?

So, weirdest thing happened late yesterday. I was starting to write an item about the AFI Dallas International Film Festival entry The Go-Getter -- featuring a cameo appearance from former Denton legend John "Corn Mo" Cunningham -- when the phone rang. On the other end was a woman who identified herself as film producer Lucy Donnelly, who said she was a friend of my old friend Keven McAlester's -- Keven, who used to be music editor at The Met and who directed the Roky Erickson documentary You're Gonna Miss Me. Anyway, Donnelly said she had a movie in the AFI called The Go-Getter, which screens Friday and Saturday at the Angelika and which she'd produced, and did I want to talk about it, like, when she was in town this weekend.

"Actually," I told her, "I do have a question right now. Uh, how did Corn Mo wind up in your movie -- and in a scene with Maura Tierney, no less?"

Her answer, after the jump. But it involves one of the stars of Will & Grace. [jump]

Donnelly's answer was a little long. See if you can follow.

It starts with auditions for the movie, in which Lou Pucci Taylor plays a troubled teen who steals a car for a cross-country trek to find his half-brother. Taylor's character, who travels from Oregon to Nevada to California to Mexico, needs to tell the half-bro their moms is dead. Also starring: Zooey Deschanel, the owner of the stolen ride who talks to Taylor on her cell phone, which she's left in the car. About halfway through the movie, Deschanel shows up -- first as a sort-of apparition, then as her flesh-and-blood self. Trust me. It makes sense.

So this guy, a character actor by the name of Nick Offerman, comes in to read for the role of a hotel valet. He nails it, then auditions for another part called "Nick the Potter." Nails that too. Gets both roles. Then, as Donnelly puts it, Offerman "becomes a friend of the film and says, 'Are there any other parts I can play?'" (Hey, it's indie cinema; the more roles a single actor can play, the less you gotta pay other folks.) The producers begin talking about a scene in Los Angeles, featuring a "band" of Christian performers who aren't really all that Christian; turns out, they're just doing a little community service to avoid jail time. Only problem is, they don't know who oughta be in the band. Then Offerman makes a suggestion.

"Well, Nick is married to Megan Mullally -- you know, Karen from Will & Grace? -- and Megan is a huge fan of Corn Mo's. So Megan says, 'Why don't you use Corn Mo?' Because Nick and Megan are just really big indie music fans -- they were just huge fans of M. Ward, who does the score for the movie. And they love Corn Mo. They suggested him and actually flew him -- because we had no budget -- from New York to Los Angeles to play that part. And that whole song he performs in that scene is just improved.

"Martin Hynes, the movie's writer and director, asked John, 'Can you play something we can license?' He didn't want a famous song, because we couldn't afford it. Turns out the financier was on set the day we shot that scene, and he was worried. He heard the song and said, 'How can we get a license to that song? It's a famous song from the 1970s.' And I said, No, actually, he wrote it, and he's licensing it to us for a dollar."

So there you have it: That's how Corn Mo got into his very first movie and even snuck a song onto the soundtrack. Course, if Donnelly gets her way, it won't be the last film in which Corn Mo appears.

"He was a great friend to the production," she says, "and I give his CDs out all the time when I am in L.A., hoping to get him in more movies."

Shine on, golden warrior. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky