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Ritter's 'Man of the Year' comes to screen

Late actor was paid just $100 to star in low-budget film
/ Source: The Associated Press

One of John Ritter’s last movie roles was a dinner with friends.

Ritter, who died in September, spent 12 hours with friends Straw Weisman and Andy Goldberg two years ago to make the improvised dramatic-comedy “Man of the Year.”

After playing the festival circuit, the film is now playing in one theater in Los Angeles and may play a few other limited engagements in coming months, Weisman told The Associated Press recently.

The movie — shot on July 27, 2001, with 25 actors, 70 crew members, 20 digital cameras and no script — stars Ritter as a wealthy honoree at a dinner party that leads to the unraveling of his life.

Goldberg, who heads the improv comedy group Off the Wall, enlisted the help of Ritter, who did it for $100.

“Since it was shot in one night, it wasn’t a big commitment for him,” said Goldberg, a producer and co-director of the film. “I told him all about it and he became very excited — and so he became the ‘Man of the Year.”’

Weisman, a postproduction supervisor in the film industry, said the idea came to him after a visit to the Cannes Film Festival.

“I was frustrated with how long it took to get deals done,” he said. “I decided that I was going to get as many digital cameras as I could marshal and I was going to enlist all of my friends, relatives, associates, friends of friends and pool those resources to shoot a movie in one night.”

The film, which cost about $25,000 to shoot, also features TV personality Leeza Gibbons, Amy Hill (“The Cat in the Hat”) and Jade Carter (“JAG”).

Although the actors were given an outline of the story, they were asked to improvise their own dialogue.

“Every actor was told, ‘You’re the star of your story line and if you do a great job, then you’re all over the movie,” Weisman said. “And if you don’t do a great job, you’re not in the movie.”

So how did the cast and crew behave during the frenetic one-night shoot? All business or a lot of joking around?

“Somewhere in the middle,” Weisman said.