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Interview with Director Thiago Dadalt for 'DUKE' (2018)

Interview with Director Thiago Dadalt for 'DUKE' (2018) @ NVFF Interview with Director Thiago Dadalt for 'DUKE' (2018) @ NVFF Thiago Dadalt

Brazilian born Los Angeles, California resident Thiago Dadalt is an award-winning and celebrated writer, director and editor. He got his start in the entertainment business as a teenager by writing and directing plays in a Minas Gerais, Brazil. After moving to Sao Paolo at the age of 17, he got work as an editor for a production company then later as a 1st assistant director to high profile Brazilian advertising directors, of whose clients included Unilever, Mercedes-Benz and Ab-Inbev. Today he works as a full-time indie film producer, writer and director living in Hollywood whose work is gaining international attention. Last year he won multiple film festival awards for his short film CHOCOLATE (2016), starring Piercey Dalton, about a woman struggling with Alzheimer's. His latest film DUKE (2018) features newcomer Robert Solomon alongside Piercey Dalton. It most recently filmed in the short film corner at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. 

In an interview with Thiago about DUKE, here is what he had to say:


How did you find out about Duke's story? 

THIAGO: I was in a festival circuit with "Chocolate" when Dru Miller, my partner in crime and co-writer/executive producer of the movie, texted me a message about Duke, saying he’s nonverbal and just started to type. She sent me the message where Duke introduces himself to the world - the same message is in the movie. Dru asks me if I would like to meet Duke and his mother and I said yes right away. Making or not a movie about it, I knew it would be very special. I fell in love with Duke story, and after our first meeting, I spent over a year visiting Duke and his family, getting to know Duke routine and all about it. That’s how everything came together. 


Was it a difficult to direct an actor without autism to play Duke?

THIAGO: We had about three weeks of rehearsal and I had the help of an amazing acting coach Kirk Baltz. Robert Solomon, who plays Duke, was in character the whole week and during the days we shot. So, as much I knew he wasn't autistic, our communication was with an IPad and signs, which put us all in the mood and helped a lot to be as close to reality as possible. 


You had a hard time casting Duke. How did you eventually find your actor Robert?

THIAGO: Casting is always a long process for me, as I'm very picky to find the best ones. I was very excited that Piercey Dalton accepted to play Duke’s mother, and I knew she would deliver a brilliant performance as always. Having Piercey on board, I could concentrate on finding the actor who would play DUKE. After so many auditions in L.A. with young Union actors, I was very disappointed and didn't find anyone that got my attention. Suddenly I got an audition tape from a guy called Robert Solomon and I saw something there. I asked him to come for a face to face audition but he couldn't because he lives in Atlanta. I asked him to see his IMDB, but he didn't have one. I asked for his reel… Guess what? He never did anything in film before, only theater in school. It was hard to think about someone so far away and without experience, but he kept sending me auditions tapes, showing his interesting in going deep in the project, and in the end, nobody had the sensibility he was showing on tape. It was a hard decision to make, but in the end, he came to L.A. and we made a movie that I’m very proud of it.


Why, in your opinion, is autism such a rising sickness today?

THIAGO: I don't think is only autism rising, we live in a world well connected today. The population is growing, and by the technology, we know everything that is happening in everywhere. I believe the issue was always there but is easier to know more about now. 


Duke, like your film Chocolate, is a social issue. Will you turn either of these films into a feature? 

THIAGO: A feature film script of “Chocolate” is ready to be shoot and I can't wait... I hope by next year to write “Duke” as a feature film too. I've been around the family for so long and have so many amazing and important moments of Duke story to tell that I would love to show to the world. 


Do either of you have any anecdotes from filming you'd like to share?

THIAGO: I would like to share that the real Duke knew about the movie and he agreed of everything we were doing, and that was very important to me. When he first watched, he was very happy about it and typed "It's great". That's my Academy award already. 


How did audiences react to the film?

THIAGO: Hard to tell, because I'm not inside their minds lol but from the interaction during the Q&A’s, we had people stopping us in the streets to talk about the movie, so I believe people are liking and the most important thing the message is passing along. 


Can you tell us about your next project?

THIAGO: Right now I'm working on a feature film about Nancy Paulikas, 55, diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer's disease. She wanders off in 2016, after a visit to a busy museum in Los Angeles and has not yet been found. "Where's Nancy?" is endorsed by Alzheimer's Los Angeles and I hope the documentary sheds light on these very important issues and is a catalyst for change.

For more informations 

Interview with Director Thiago Dadalt for 'DUKE' (2018) @ NVFF Thiago Dadalt


Interview by Vanessa McMahon



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