When Clark Gregg isn't running around gushing over Captain America, buddying up with Tony Stark, or taking on Loki as Agent Coulson, he's not only acting in other movies, but writing and directing them, too. It's easy to forget that before Gregg was snatched up by Marvel, he was working as a self-described "screenwriter who acted in movies sometimes." He wrote 2000's Michelle Pfeiffer-starrer, What Lies Beneath, and then went on to pen and direct 2008's Choke. However, Gregg hasn't written or directed since.
While sitting down to chat at the Tribeca Film Festival, Gregg lamented, "I didn't really want a break." Considering Iron Man dropped in 2008 then Iron Man 2 in 2010 followed by Thor in 2011 and then The Avengers just last year in addition to the Marvel One-Shot series, clearly a certain studio was busy clogging up Gregg's schedule, but he also admitted, "It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to write next."
But once he pinpointed the ideal subject matter, he was hooked. "I had done a couple jobs where I was around child actors and I was a little obsessed with their agents – some of them." He added, "The fact that they were kind of banking everything on finding some 10-year-old thoroughbred that they were gonna ride to the big time, it seems like a ripe idea for a comedy." And so Trust Me came to be.
Gregg stars in the film as Howard Holloway. Years after failing as a young actor, Howard makes the seemingly natural transition to the realm of Hollywood agents. Trouble is, no matter how hard he works, Howard just can't find the right talent to skyrocket him to the big leagues. However, that's when Saxon Sharbino's Lydia steps in. She's a hotheaded 14-year-old wannabe actress with an alcoholic for a father, but she's undeniably talented so Howard commits to doing whatever it takes to cultivate Lydia's future to insure a promising career for himself.
Having just come off Joss Whedon's 11-day shoot in his own home for Much Ado About nothing, Gregg was moved to evade the hurdles of getting the film he originally envisioned into production and simply pooling whatever connections and resources he could to finally jump into Trust Me. He elaborated, "I stopped waiting for enough money to do the bigger version of this I hoped to and did a kind of small version in 20 days inspired by what Joss was able to pull off."
Then came the decision of whether or not to up his workload even more by starring in the film, too. Despite dreaming about getting his script into the ultimate actor’s hands, Gregg admitted, "I also somewhere instinctively knew that the chaotic process of trying to shoot this piece in 20 days and to be in every scene would lend itself to the chaotic desperation of Howard Holloway."
Gregg also pointed out, "I knew once I cast myself I was gonna have to surround myself with people who would kinda make the financiers relax." He continued, "I was lucky enough to get people who I knew and were friends who I worked with," including Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, and Molly Shannon. The only problem then was, "I didn't have my Lydia."
In his search for the ideal leading lady, real life mirrored the Trust Me script in a way. "I found a young actress after weeks of terror because I wasn't finding anyone who really could kind of make it feel real and still get the terms that this character goes through." However, then in came Sharbino and on top of being the Lydia he'd always been looking for, Gregg also pointed out that he was impressed with her level of confidence. He even went on to tell Sharbino, "You know you’re an actor. Somewhere deep down, you just know you're an actor."
Check out Gregg and Sharbino trying to pinpoint the source of her talent, hear about the one drawback Gregg experienced as the film’s writer, and more in the video interview below. And, if you’re in the New York City area, catch Trust Me in full on Monday the 22nd at 3pm, Wednesday the 24th at 8:30pm, or Sunday the 28th at 8:30pm.
Follow Perri on Twitter @PNemiroff.