Keach, Seymour, star in ‘The Assistants’

The film focuses on the players behind the scenes, the ones who make it all happen-Hollywood assistants.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

When filmmaker Steve Morris began making his way through the maze of trying to get his work produced, he realized that he ended up conferring with Hollywood assistants more than he ended up talking to their powerful bosses. This was the genesis of his film “The Assistants,” which opened last week, and stars locals Stacy Keach and Jane Seymour (who are also in-laws).

“The fact is, in the world of indie films, nothing happens without the devotion of a lot of people, from actors to grips to personal assistants,” Morris, a UC Berkeley graduate with a master’s degree in filmmaking from USC, told The Malibu Times. “When you are not working with the studios, you can’t buy your way out of a problem. You have to think your way out and that only happens with people committed to the project.”

Morris’ comedy, which he wrote, produced, directed and edited, is a tale of plucky young wannabes who manage to turn their dreams into reality.

“My film isn’t about painting Hollywood big wigs as bad guys. It’s more about a great ensemble of friends trying to make their way amongst megalomaniacal bosses,” Morris said. “And, as the film goes along and the assistants compromise their beliefs, the gap between their priorities and their bosses’ narrows.”

Morris has produced documentaries and short films, but “The Assistants” is his first fictional feature. When he asked how he got established names like Keach, Seymour and Joe Mantegna to sign on, he said it was simple.

“I asked them,” he said, chuckling. “Fortunately, they all liked the script and it became a game of, ‘Are you going to do it?’ ‘Well, I’ll do it if you’ll do it.’ They were such unbelievable pros that everything clicked after that.”

Seymour said she laughed out loud reading the script.

“My character is a trophy wife whose older, successful, producer husband has died, so she is no longer mainstream and lives vicariously through her assistant’s part of the plot to produce a script that doesn’t really exist,” Seymour said. “My character ends up being conned into putting a lot of money into it. The funny thing is that her assistant ends up controlling her by controlling her social calendar.”

Seymour, a major player in Hollywood for almost 40 years, said her sympathies lie more with personal assistants (“No one ever aspires to be an assistant!”) and expressed respectful gratitude for her own.

“I’ve had many assistants over the years,” she said. “My current assistant of 11 years is way over-qualified. But then I have a production company, my artwork (Seymour had more than a dozen one-woman exhibits of her paintings last year), a charitable foundation and my number one priority-my kids. It’s a tough job.”

Seymour just finished production on a sequel to her well-received Hallmark television film, “Dear Prudence,” in which she stars with her husband and daughter Katie Flynn. She said she and her assistant are now working to help her 15-year-old son Johnny Keach prepare for upcoming band concerts.

“We’re roadies now,” Seymour said, laughing.

Keach agreed with his sister-in-law that the script for “The Assistants” was a real crowd pleaser.

“We had just a great time on this,” Keach said from New York, where he is rehearsing for the new play, “Other Desert Cities,” which opens next month at the Lincoln Center.

“A lot of people come to Hollywood and a few get lucky,” Keach said. “In the film, my character gets lucky and thinks the world will then rush to him. But it doesn’t. He ends up a trash collector. But that’s part of the redemption of the story. This movie has a lot of heart.”

Morris hopes that heart and a great deal of ticket sales will carry him through his film’s debut.

“Awards and riches are all great,” he said. “But the main reason you do a film is to tell a story. And this one’s not just for assistants, but for anyone who wonders what his dream is worth.”

“The Assistants” is showing at the Laemmle Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, until Dec 9. Real Hollywood assistants and film students can get free tickets by visiting the Web site

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