“Every relationship I’ve ever had in my life has been very tumultuous and problematic,” he allows, “but never abusive.”
The Pride will play a weeklong engagement at Upstate Films beginning November 7, with a special post-screening discussion with Hurley—the screenwriter, director, and star—that evening at 7pm.
Known to locals as the owner-proprietor of the Black Swan, a popular Tivoli pub, Hurley, 40, worked on screenplays when he wasn’t drawing pints. From concept to screenplay, The Pride took him a little more than a year. By his own reckoning, he’s a fast writer, “but I’m one of those people who has to write a lot of shite before I get anything good.” In fact, The Pride is the sibling of no fewer than 18 unproduced screenplays. The most promising near-miss had involved Stanley Tucci, whose production company optioned a piece titled Jesus, Blood, and Vodka, which Hurley had completed almost a decade ago. But, ultimately, Tucci could not find studio support for the gritty Bronx tale.
The Pride examines a theme that also looms in Hurley’s previous works: troubled relationships, between man and woman, as well as man and his Maker. The story is rife with humble but indelible characters and was crafted with a nod toward Hurley’s favorite directors: Brits Ken Loach and Mike Leigh and Dutchess County neighbor John Sayles.
In The Pride, Hurley plays Mickey, an Irish national adrift in America who has run afoul of his family, his religion, and life itself. Just sprung from prison, he comes home to seek forgiveness from Sarah, the wife he battered during his last blackout. The dialogue crackles, but so do the awkward silences. Most affecting is Mickey’s own rough-hewn mug, suggesting a dog that has been whipped for most of its life. This was Hurley’s first acting gig.
The Pride is a true low-budget indie film, shot on video and paid for with just over $60,000 in maxed-out credit cards, Hurley estimates. The costs were minimized by sheer resourcefulness: Hurley hammered together sets in his own basement, found props at the Salvation Army thrift shop, shot the movie in pieces over three months, and cobbled much of the cast from Black Swan regulars. Nancy McNultey, whose performance as Sarah is both profane and heartbreaking, was found through a Manhattan audition. Shooting the film, the first-time director said, was akin to immersion in an “emotional mosh pit.” But that’s not a complaint.
The positive response to The Pride has encouraged Hurley to liberate other works from his drawers, including a piece about a man who emerges from a coma after six years and another about a sex addict.
“I wish I could write science fiction or something,” he says, with ripe self-mockery. “I think life would be less painful and a lot easier.”
The Pride will be shown at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck from November 7 through November 9. A post-screening discussion with Hurley will be held on November 7 at 7pm. (845) 876-2515; www.upstatefilms.org.