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In his Oscar-nominated documentary “Streetwise,” director Martin Bell took a compelling, sometimes heart-wrenching look at the youthful runaways and street kids who haunt downtown Seattle. Bell has returned to Seattle for his first feature film, “American Heart,” currently shooting there with Jeff Bridges and, as Bridges’ son, Edward Furlong of “Terminator 2.”
“American Heart” deals with a recently released convict (Bridges) who struggles to reciprocate the intense love his son (Furlong) feels for him. These emotions are intensified when two women enter their lives.
Although Bridges’ and Furlong’s characters live in a rundown apartment, many of the characters that surround it exist in desperate homelessness. “I think ‘American Heart’ came about because of the world that we discovered there,” says Bell, who happens to be British. “It isn’t anything like ‘Streetwise’ except that it is set in a similar kind of environment and that the people we’re dealing with are living on the edge, with marginal lives. They’re very interesting characters.”
“I’ve been involved with it for about three years; developing it, honing the script,” says Bridges of “American Heart,” which is also the first film he’s produced. “It’s been kind of a long haul, but here we are finally getting this thing off the ground.”
“It’s a great film to go to from the other movie,” says Furlong, whom we all remember as young John Connor in that “other” movie. “There are a lot of emotional scenes and it’s going to make everybody cry their little hearts out. And it’s going to make people’s hearts break and make people sorry for me and . . . all that.”
The $6-million film, due out next spring via Avenue Pictures, will utilize some local Seattle talent . . . a derelict here, a waitress there. But Bell emphasizes that there is a totally different dynamic in a feature drama versus a documentary.
“With a documentary it’s always difficult to get on the inside,” Bell explains. “With a drama you can get into stuff that there’s no way you can get into with a documentary film because you’re just too close to the people. You can’t get through.”
The director agrees that having a screenplay certainly helps.
“Yes. And great actors.”