Actor John Rhys-Davies has hunted the Holy Grail with Indiana Jones and faced down the armies of Sauron, but his latest quest is much simpler.
In his newest project, the Welsh actor lends a divine hand to help a Western New York man find love.
Rhys-Davies, who was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo this past week, plays Cupid, the Greek god of love, in Prick'd, a low-budget dark comedy about finding love at all costs.
Producer Larry J. Tish described the project as a "cross between 'Pulp Fiction' and 'It’s A Wonderful Life," and described Rhys-Davies' character as a "disgruntled cupid."
"As he goes about for thousands of years, human just tire him. He tried to make things work, but we always screw it up," Tish said.
In the film, Rhys-Davies character is charged with helping David, portrayed by Shane Nepveu (Boardwalk Empire, Red Oakes), win over Denise, played by local actress Christine Turturro. Rhys-Davies is by far the biggest name attached to the project. The 75-year-old is best-known for his roles as the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings films and as Sallah in two Indiana Jones films.
Rounding out the principal cast is Claybourne Elder, a Broadway actor who portrays a man named Henry, and Briana Marin (The Leftovers), who portrays David's cousin.
"He was in love and went out of love, and has not been able to shake this one woman out of his life," Tish said. "So Cupid comes to help at all costs."
All costs, Tish added, includes kidnapping a man and an incident that destroys a storefront window.
The story is based off a script written years earlier by Tish's cousin, Neal Howard, and Ira Fritz, who like Howard wrote for the TV shows King of Queens, Coach and Love Boat: The Next Wave. The screenplay is by Fritz, Howard and Anthony Piatek, while Howard and Diane Cossa, a TV actress, will direct.
They originally planned to film in Chicago, but Tish suggested Buffalo may be even more suitable and affordable, which is important given the film has a budget of about $400,000.
“I thought we could do it in Buffalo on a really low budget," Tish said. “Everything turned out just wonderfully."
Tish, a Brooklyn native, was introduced to Buffalo through his "social justice theatre company" Dialogues on Diversity, which has performed at Canisius College and other local universities. After three years of living in Cambridge, Mass., Tish found the Buffalonians' "New Yorker" attitude to be a breath of fresh air.
"I find the Buffalo people to be just like all the other New Yorkers I know: kind, outgoing and they give you the straight talk," he said. "It's just the kind of stuff I’m used to growing up in New York City."
"The food ain't bad, either," he added.
Working with a team of film scouts, Tish and the film crew identified over a half a dozen locations to fit the needs of the script: the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, their Polish Cadet's hall in north Buffalo, Attilio's Salon & Spa and St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, both in Kenmore; Sweetness 7 Cafe and Gypsy Parlor bar, both on the West Side of Buffalo.
Tish said that last week, film crews shot scenes outside the Bear's Den Showroom and in a 22nd floor suite at the casino.
Filming resumed Dec. 2 after the Thanksgiving break and is scheduled to continue until Friday. Other indoor scenes will be shot at a Buffalo apartment and at ND Studios, a north Buffalo film production company.
Prick'd, a production of Love Hurtz, LLC, is scheduled for release sometime next fall. Tish said they haven't yet determined whether the movie will be shown in theaters or be released on a streaming platform.
Tim Clark, commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Office, said the proliferation of streaming services — Apple and Disney both launched platforms last month — has been a boon to the local film industry. Over the final three months of this year and first three months of 2020, the region will host or have hosted up to eight film projects, according to Clark.
“They’re shooting more movies now than ever before," Clark said. "Luckily, because we have such an attractive environment for filming, we have more opportunities."