All About Excuse Me for Living Movie
Just because you are young, intelligent, good-looking, and rich, doesn’t mean life is easy. That’s where we discover Dan Topler at the beginning of “Excuse Me for Living,” about to end a life that has grown meaningless and empty. Fortunately for Dan, he is stopped from his leap off the Brooklyn Bridge by a police officer, leading to a stint at a posh rehab clinic that kicks off journey of redemption which takes a number of hilarious and poignant turns.
“The story is despite his talent and his brilliance, Daniel can be pulled down by a drug habit that he just can’t handle,” explains writer and director Ric Klass. “It takes the combination of therapy, working with senior men that he comes to respect, plus an unexpected romance to pull his life back together again.” It is indeed a very unusual confluence of events that helps Dan find his way.
His parents are fighting and hiring lawyers; his so-called best friends are eager to bust Dan out of rehab again so they can witness his unprecedented party skills; and his new doctor thinks that the best way for Dan to deal with his issues is to attend a support group for senior citizens. Needless to say, Dan is skeptical at first: he’s been to rehab before, and seems to think that he’s beyond saving. But slowly, the new people in Dan’s life bring out his inner strength, though not without a few bumps along the way.
“Excuse Me for Living” began as a novel by Klass, who likes to explore his characters in the longer, more intimate form before distilling the essence of his story down to a workable screenplay. “Working with Ric has been great,” enthuses Tom Pelphrey, who plays Dan. “This is his child. He clearly has the picture in his head, knows what he wants. We’re working with someone who has lived with these characters and this world for years now.” “It’s wonderful working with Ric because when you’re on a film, there are always so many people wearing different hats,” explains actor Wayne Knight, who plays Dan’s philandering father.
“With Ric, you know you are talking to all the hats at once.” Indeed, while the story of Dan’s stint in rehab forms the spine of the movie, it is just as much an ensemble piece, populated with vivid and memorable characters who all seem to learn and grow from Dan’s experience. Keeping those storylines balanced required Klass to maintain focus on the themes and incidents that bind these disparate characters together: finding love in unexpected places, believing in the better part of one’s self, listening to one’s elders, and learning from one’s mistakes.
Knowing that he had a film populated with so many unique characters, each of whom is crucial to the story, and only a modest indie budget to work with, Klass instinctively knew that casting each role precisely would be key to the film’s success. His first hire was casting director Donna McKenna, who also serves as co-producer, to help him find the ideal combination of talent and experience to bring the characters to life.
McKenna knew that great actors would be drawn to the script’s witty dialogue and heartfelt story. “It was fun for me, it was like a puzzle having to put all of the pieces together,” she says regarding filling the film’s forty-plus speaking parts. Klass’ initial thought was that he would be able to cast one or two well-known faces and fill out the rest of the cast with talented unknowns, but the quality of the script found him with a cast that even he never dreamed of. “I’ve been far luckier than I had hoped,” he says.
Related Link: View the Full Production Notes for Excuse Me for Living