EXCLUSIVE: Cuba Gooding Jr. started production today on Louisiana Caviar, an independently financed New Orleans-set thriller that marks the directing debut of the Oscar-winning Jerry Maguire star. Gooding Jr. stars with Richard Dreyfuss and Famke Janssen, from a script by Eitan Gorlin that Gooding Jr. rewrote. Paul Haggis is aboard as exec producer, and Anjul Nigam is producing under his Brittany House Pictures banner with Steve Straka of Quixotic Road, and Hilary Shor. Pic’s a co-production with Taiwan-based Wudi Pictures, whose chief Maxx Tsai is exec producer.
The film is a tale of sin involving good people who, out of desperation, resort to doing bad things that inevitably leave them with life-changing consequences. Gooding Jr, who just played OJ Simpson in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story and followed with an American Horror Story arc, here plays a boxer in the twilight of his career.
Gooding Jr. explained how he came to be behind the camera. “They’ve let me direct, and write this script and I got final cut and locked in Richard Dreyfuss and Famke Janssen and we’ve been able to surround them with all these great young people and I’m blown away with how quickly this has come together,” said Gooding, who said he was a little more jazzed than usual, taking the call after executing a drone shot. He originally signed on to the project just as actor when another director was doing it, but things changed when the filmmaker dropped out. Gooding Jr had by then sent around a couple of scripts he’d written, and was approached by Nigam to take a shot at a rewrite and to possibly direct himself.
“They said Nigam was a childhood friend, and it turned that we’d met when we both did guest spots on Growing Pains,” Gooding Jr said. “He said we don’t have much money, but what if you directed it? I took the script, broke it down, pitched a page one rewrite. The financiers read it and here we are. I’m sure the idea was that having an Academy Award winner make a directing debut was the sell, but this thing really came together. I can’t give it all away, but there are five elements to our story lines. There is the boxer I’m playing; there’s a young white blonde girl with an arc reminiscent of Lisa Bonet in Angel Heart; Famke Janssen plays this lesbian photographer who gets caught up in this world and manipulated by a man who has been tasked to perform this immoral deed with the young girl. These elements motivate the eroticism and morality in this tale of sin. I just came away from American Horror Story, but I can tell you Richard Dreyfuss’ story line is just horrifying. It takes place on an alligator farm/slaughterhouse and the things he does to keep things the way he needs them to be, I believe it will be truly disturbing to watch.”
Gooding Jr said his confidence was buoyed by Haggis, the Oscar-winning Crash director who’s a neighbor in downtown New York. “When Paul heard I was doing this movie and had three weeks of prep to pull it together, he said, get your ass to the lobby of the Mercer Hotel, where he gave me a four-hour tutorial,” Gooding Jr. said. “We broke it down and he told me everything I need to know, including that I needed to be flexible but ultimately that I capture my vision. I don’t think you could shoot this anywhere but New Orleans.”
Gooding Jr and Janssen are repped by ICM Partners; Dreyfuss is with APA, and Haggis CAA.