Yes, Corey Large was playing with a full deck when he said a movie he's long wanted to make here was finally in the cards.
Despite some roadblocks he has faced trying to film in Canada, the Victoria native said it was worth the gamble coming home again for Poker Night, the second in a series of movies with a shifting timeline he has pledged to shoot here.
"I'll always do one or more movie a year in Victoria or Vancouver," said the Los Angeles-based actor and producer who has a featured role and is producing the crime thriller that once had Samuel L. Jackson and Hayden Christensen attached.
Directing from his original screenplay, Greg Francis began a month-long shoot on the Wingman Productions project Saturday at a home at Prospect Lake where writer-director John Stockwell filmed much of Large's last feature, Kid Cannabis.
As with that true-life drama, which stars Kenny Wormald (Footloose) and Jonathan Daniel Brown (Project X) as Idaho teenagers who made a fortune smuggling marijuana from B.C., Poker Night features several familiar faces.
Victoria-raised Beau Mirchoff (Desperate Housewives, Awkward) stars as a rookie detective who, after being held captive by a sadistic murderer, recalls stories told by four veteran cops reflecting on their glory days around a poker table.
"He has to use their stories and put himself in their shoes to get himself out of the fix he's in," explains Large.
The film's ensemble cast includes Titus Welliver (The Town, Gone Baby Gone); Delroy Lindo (Malcolm X, Gone in Sixty Seconds); Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy); Ron Eldard (Super 8, ER) and Halston Sage (Grownups 2).
While a second-unit crew filmed footage in a container yard in Vancouver last Friday, Large was flying back to Victoria from L.A., where he had landed late the night before after a long shooting day that began at 4 a.m. in New Mexico for another film.
He had just wrapped filming his scenes as a U.S. Navy SEALs captain with Mark Wahlberg, Eric Bana and Alexander Ludwig on the set of Lone Survivor, writer-director Peter Berg's action flick that co-stars Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch.
"The more I work with big, famous and successful people, the more I see why they're big, famous and successful," Large said, noting it was a blast working with Berg, a creative taskmaster whose willingness to take chances inspired him.
"I must have changed my clothes 11 times," laughed Large, noting every time he thought he was done Berg wanted more.
"Pete's a lot of fun to work with ... very similar to John Stockwell," Large said, recalling Stockwell's freewheeling style on Kid Cannabis, now in post-production. It's due for release once Stockwell returns from Puerto Rico, where he's shooting In the Blood, a thriller starring Gina Carano (Haywire) as a tourist searching for her husband kidnapped during their honeymoon.
Victoria will play Virginia, Portland, Seattle and Warsaw, Indiana, for Poker Night, to be filmed at locations including downtown, Gorge Park and a local high school. Some stunt work and chase sequences are involved, Large said.
Director of photography is Brandon Cox, whose credits include work on The Dictator, Burning Palms and I Love You Man.
RUFF TRADE: Actor Matt Frewer says getting to play a character named "flummoxed policeman" is a dream come true.
"He must be Belgian. I've never played a Belgian," joked Frewer, best known for Max Headroom but whose recent gigs include roles in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi series Falling Skies and opposite Vera Farmiga in Bates Motel, the prequel to Psycho.
Although he joked in a news release that "the general rule of thumb in film is never work with children, animals, seniors or Pru Emery," Frewer says he's looking forward to reuniting with writer-producer Prudence Emery on Hattie's Heist. Her short comedy caper is tentatively set to be directed by Gail Harvey (The Murdoch Mysteries) in Oak Bay next spring.
"We vowed never to work together again, but since we've got old, we forgot," joked Frewer, who worked with both Emery, in her capacity as a unit publicist, on Hallmark Channel's Battle of the Bulbs, and Maxine Miller, who plays the title character in Emery's short about the adventures of a cash-strapped senior who becomes an unlikely Robin Hood-style bank robber.
Media tycoon Moses Znaimer, retired CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson and Carolyn Sadowska, as the queen, appear in cameos.
Midnight tonight is your last chance to cast your vote and help Emery and her collaborators decide which local pooch will star as Hattie's four-legged sidekick. Sixty-five canine hopefuls that turned out for a recent casting call were narrowed to five finalists, with one dog a week eliminated based on results determined by Likes at Facebook.com/hattiesheist.
Nearly 9,000 visitors have seen the Facebook post so far, with the winner to be announced Wednesday, Emery said.
Round three survivors are Arthur (Pomeranian poodle cross), Tessie (Yorkshire Terrier) and Ollie (pug). Voting is being held in tandem with the film's online crowd-funding campaign at indiegogo.com/ hattiesheist, where Bullsh*t, Blackmail and Begging, Canadian producer and independent film industry pioneer Pat Ferns's new video on the changing world of pitching appears.
The producers have just 10 days left to raise $25,000 online for the Oak Bay-filmed canine caper to go ahead.