Ray Liotta Filmed 'The Identical' Because of His Own Adoption Experience
Says newcomer Blake Rayne: "Ray was the one that scared me because we’ve all seen 'Goodfellas!' "
What would've happened if Elvis Presley's twin brother had survived? That’s essentially the hypothesis of The Identical, the fictional period drama that follows a preacher's son with a deep love and talent for music, but has no idea that a world-famous, Elvis-like musician is actually his twin.
While not explicitly based on the King of Rock, producers cast first-time actor, Elvis impersonator and former web designer Blake Rayne to play both Ryan Wade and superstar Drexel Hemsley.
"It’s not just my first feature film; it’s my first time acting — it kind of fell into my lap," Rayne told The Hollywood Reporter at the film's world premiere, held at New York City's SVA Theatre on Wednesday night. Rayne was rehearsing with his band in a studio in Nashville, and executive producer Yochanan Marcellino was looking to rent out space for the film, when he met Rayne. When Rayne found out Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta would be playing his parents, the pressure intensified. "Ray was the one that scared me because we’ve all seen Goodfellas!" Rayne laughed. "I watched him like a hawk on set. He sets the bar really high."
Liotta wanted to make Rayne comfortable for his first film experience. "I remember my first acting role and how people were with me," he said, noting that he flew to Nashville two weeks before shooting began to spend time with Rayne, attending football games and concerts together. The family dynamic on the set was genuine: Marcellino's son, Dustin Marcellino, directed the film, and his father, Jerry, and son Jordan produced it through the family’s production company City of Peace Films. (The Identical marks the studio’s first full-length feature.)
For Liotta, the story of long-lost family members finding each other is intensely personal, since he himself is adopted. "I found my birth mother and found out I have, not an identical twin, but a half brother, five half sisters and a full sister that I didn’t know about until 15 years ago."
Seth Green also felt a connection to the plot. "I’m picky about what I do on camera," said the serial voice actor, who plays Ryan's friend and drummer. "I grew up in a place where no one else wanted to perform or sing and dance, and I can really relate to the idea of having everyone around you insist what your life path should be." While Green rocked out on the guitar during his Buffy days, he had to learn to play drums for The Identical, and was intent on actually playing the songs correctly onscreen. "The worst day I ever had was when they said, 'Okay, we’re going to do all eight songs in a row like a montage,' and there were three songs I had never played, and I literally almost had a heart attack," he recalled. "My drum coach, Criss Cheatham, and I went in the parking lot and practiced over lunch with drumsticks and a couple of plates."
Shooting in Nashville was a highlight for the cast, as supporting actor Waylon Payne performed at the Grand Ole Opry during production. "I was actually in the car with him when he got the call," said Joe Pantoliano, who plays Ryan’s car mechanic boss. "He got so excited, he actually pulled off to the side of the road, got into a parking lot and started doing a dance."
And that dancing continued into the night at the not-yet-open White Street Restaurant, where guests were greeted with a signature cocktail: The Garland, a riff on a gimlet made with vodka, lime juice, cucumber and fennel syrup, topped with a dried fennel garnish. After passing by the columned bar area, partygoers mingled in the back room, which was decked out with golden crystal chandeliers, velvet emerald curtains and exposed brick walls, showcasing fine art above black tufted booths.
Attendees included Paul Sorvino, Marisa Tomei, Troy Garity, Zachary Booth, Nigel Barker, Michele Hicks, Nichole Galicia, Stephen Baldwin, Greg Kelly, Alex Lundqvist, Ashley Haas, Daniel Benedict, Amy Sacco, Liv and Mim Nervo, Vita Sidorkina, Whitney Fairchild, Kelly Bensimon, George Wayne, Will Cotton, Rocky Marciano Jr. and Peter Marciano.
The Identical hits theaters Sept. 5.