In the drama-with-laughs Swan Song (out Aug. 6), a long-retired hairdresser named Pat Pitsenbarger walks across the town of Sandusky, Ohio, to attend to the corpse of a former client (Dynasty star Linda Evans), regaining his mojo along the way. Writer-director Todd Stephens grew up in Sandusky and says that the character is "based on this hairdresser from my home town who was very out and proud long before that was acceptable. He helped give me the courage to be me."
Pitsenbarger is played by Udo Kier (the original Suspiria, My Own Private Idaho), a genuine big screen legend, albeit one with relatively few lead roles to his name. "He really liked being able to develop a character and give it an arc, and not just to have to make that impact in five minutes," says Stephens. "I think the film finally shows what Udo can truly do."
The cast of Swan Song also includes Jennifer Coolidge, who plays an old rival of Kier's character.
Chris Stephens Udo Kier in Swan Song
"She was my first choice for the role," says Stephens. "Being a small film, it was hard to get to her, because we're not able to be offering lots of money. People are doing it for scale basically. But we finally got through to her at the very last minute and she read the script and loved it. It was really wonderful working with her because you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth. She's a genius improv-er and half the things she said in the movie I didn't write. She was wonderful, absolutely wonderful."
Finally, Stephens cast Michael Urie in a small but, to the director, highly significant role.
"I had seen him do Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway and he's been an idol of mine for years," says the filmmaker. "It's not a huge part but it's an important part. That's kind of the 'me' character in a way."
Swan Song is released in theaters Aug. 6 and On Demand Aug. 13.
To coincide with Pride month, Magnolia has just released the trailer for Swan Song, which you can exclusively watch above.