When a filmmaker appears onstage at Vancouver, B.C.’s Rio Theatre and says: “The bullets are rubber, the penis is a prosthetic, and there’s a lot of nudity,” you can expect her upcoming flick to be, er, a tad unconventional. (I was only thinking: How can you trust a guy who wears a fake dick?)
When that filmmaker is Evi Quaid, wife of wacky Hollywood actor Randy Quaid, then you can expect the movie to be extremeo bizarro. Yes, indeed, this year’s April 22 world premiere of Star Whackers, featuring Randy as three ultra-strange characters plus a cast of several mangy-looking donkeys (the four-legged kind), was as woo-woo as they get. This grossly self-indulgent flick seemed akin to a bad student experimental film trying desperately to be clever and edgy, yet coming across as something influenced by alternating doses of downers and LSD.
(For backstory, it helps to know that Evi and Randy are on the lam after fleeing from California to Canada. In the U.S., they left behind a range of crimes from break-and-enter to unpaid hotel and restaurant bills. Randy believes that he’s targeted for death by Hollywood “star whackers” who seek to kill celebrities to boost their market value. He thinks that stars such as Heath Ledger and Chris Penn, among others, were victims of these professional assassins.)
Hence, his wife’s film focuses on a mostly naked Randy, clothed in a full-length fur coat, on the run from Randy the assassin, clad in black with sunglasses and a serious-looking assault rifle, interspersed with Randy as an unknown third character, who spouts off on a hilltop while wearing an animal skull and antlers on his head and a black, open-weave bag stretched across his face. Your usual run-of-the-mill stuff, right? (Randy’s penis prosthetic, by the way, is a forlorn, droopy-looking thing. Can’t guess, and don’t want to, what’s hiding underneath it.)
Randy’s penis prosthetic is a forlorn, droopy-looking thing.
I had expected Evi, who appeared in the Rio’s aisles wearing tight clothes, a wide-brimmed hat and a video camera, to screen a 10- or 15-minute excerpt, then ask for audience feedback. Instead, we were subjected — the theatre was about a third full — to an 88-minute screed of Randy reciting Shakespeare and repeating soliloquoys over and over and over without any identifiable plot or script. After about the eighth consecutive time of him spouting “To be or not to be,” even the curiosity-seekers in the crowd like me were groaning.
We saw frontally nude Randy rolling in dry grass in his long fur coat. We saw him bellowing Shakespeare while holding the same antlered animal skull that later ended up on his head. We saw him eating dried grass on all fours and putting a white donkey in a head lock, presumably to get information out of him. Early in the movie, he grabs a clump of fur-looking hair and holds it to his head and his crotch. The audience roars. Extreme close-ups put his (Randy’s, not the donkey’s) nose hairs and bulging eyes a lot nearer than this viewer would have liked.
In the movie, Randy plays the fiddle while ranchers brand cattle. He stares down a camel in the middle of remote desert scrub. He drives down a dusty desert road as a killer in a white Mercedes jeep and takes pot shots at invisible enemies. (The film’s on-screen opening explained that Randy was obsessed with the spirit of Shakespeare’s character Falstaff. He later said that he performed the part in what was to be a Broadway musical that never happened.)
Based on the opening sequence (a pink-toned underexposed effort with Randy on a Shakespearian rant in full-frontal nudity), Evi apparently didn’t use a boom mike on a windy day. Strutting in a field in his fur coat, Randy sounds like he’s trying to speak over a hurricane.
Throughout the whole film, audience-members laughed, even at parts that the couple might have deemed serious. I actually felt compassion for the Quaids then: who wants their creative effort laughed at? (After four hours, I couldn’t bear to sit through a second 15-minute intermission for the Q&A to hear the couple’s view of their process and product.)
In my view, the scenery and wardrobe were the best part of the movie. The open desert setting looked like it could have been California, Mexico, Arizona or New Mexico. The suits Randy wore in the film were unquestionably expensive and well tailored. I couldn’t help thinking: This movie is how this wealthy couple spends their money? What a waste. (The pair has sought refugee status in Canada and has made Vancouver their adoptive home. Evi is now here legally because her dad was born in Canada, but Randy’s application is still pending. The two donated the night’s proceeds to the Canadian Council of Refugees.)
Admittedly, I think that Randy is a gifted character actor who’s gone seriously askew. The evening opened with a screening of the Canadian movie Real Time, in which Randy plays, coincidentally enough, a hired assassin of a young, compulsive gambler whose unpaid debts are too high. In the role, he appears to channel Michael Caine, and won the 2009 Vancouver Film Critic’s Circle Award for his portrayal.
I confess that it was voyeuristic of me to attend An Evening with the Quaids, after hearing about Randy’s conspiracy theory and reading about the couple in the January 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. That publication calls them “Hollywood’s craziest couple ” and points out “that’s a high bar.” I agree, and yet, at least, Randy and Evi have been married since 1989, which is a helluva lot longer than most Hollywood couples, including Randy’s younger brother Dennis.
This movie is how this wealthy couple spends their money? What a waste.
I also confess to enjoying the lyrics in Randy’s two rockabilly songs Star Whackers (“They’ll sell your vital organs on ebay”) and Mr. DA Man (“a little bureaucrat in a chintzy suit”), which he performed as lead singer with local band The Fugitives. A handful of people in the audience, including the guy in front of me, were videotaping this portion of the show. (Sure enough, you can see and hear Randy singing Star Whackers from that night on YouTube.) About a half-dozen young women in tight black clothes danced in the aisles, then ran 0nstage and gyrated with Randy as he sang.
Yes, even in Vancouver, Randy has his groupies. They were hollering “We love you, Randy” outside the theatre at the front of the line on Broadway before the show. I was surprised at the media presence then. Global, CBC, CNN and Fox were doing on-camera interviews with some of those waiting and Jack FM reps were hoisting around life-size cutouts of several of their DJs. When Randy and Evi arrived, gleeful cheers went up and people clamoured for autographs.
Randy and Evi recently told Vancouver magazine WE that they love Canada and “want to give back in every way possible.” Why not use your money to build a shelter for the homeless in Vancouver, for people who already live here legally?