Free to "B" | EW.com

Movies

Free to "B"

"Love and Death on Long Island" director Richard Kwietniowski

When “Love and Death on Long Island” director Richard Kwietniowski filmed the “waiter-gets-squirted-with-ketchup” scene in the frat-boy film-within-a-film “Hotpants College 2,” he was careful not to be condescending with this homage-à-“Hardbodies.” “I didn’t want to make fun of those types of movies,” says first-time feature director Kwietniowski, 40. “I wanted to do something that was vaguely authentic, which I thought was a greater challenge than making the scenes appear to be absolutely ludicrous.”

In “Love and Death,” a stuffy, widowed British author (John Hurt) becomes mesmerized by a teen heartthrob (Jason Priestley) who stars in cheesy B-movies. In planning the film-within-a-film scenes that beguile Hurt, Kwietniowski did his research, watching every “Porky’s” movie, among others. When he finished, he had an honorary Ph.D. in jigglefests. “I thought if I couldn’t get the money together for “Love and Death,” I could always write a book on the teen movie,” says the British director. “Thankfully, now I don’t have to.”

Though Kwietniowski adopted the flashier directing style of these teen movies for Priestley’s filmettes, he reigned himself in for the main film’s more staid scenes. “I used the B-movies to purge myself of techniques that I personally dislike,” says Kwietniowski, “such as zooms, handheld cameras for no apparent reason, and those angled shots you see in music videos.”

When casting the fake movies, Kwietniowski led auditioners to think that “Hotpants Collete 2” was the main production by giving out only script excerpts from those scenes. Most actors who were picked were relieved to find out they were actually supporting a more serious film, although Kwietniowski noticed that “one or two of them were a little bit disappointed.”

The director’s preparation paid off – “Love and Death” has received critical acclaim. (EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum called it “highly original” and gave it an A.) Better yet, the whole movie has been praised, not just the B-movie scenes. “If ‘Love and Death’ hadn’t taken off,” says the relieved director, “I was worried that next I’d have to make ‘Hotpants College 3.’”