Honeysuckle’s Dorri Olds met with cast members of the movie, “Touched with Fire.” Those in attendance at Manhattan’s Ritz-Carlton were stars Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, writer-director Paul Dalio, and veteran actor Bruce Altman.
Holmes plays Carla, a bipolar poet who checks herself into a psychiatric hospital during a freakout. There she meets Marco (Kirby) who calls himself Luna—“my poet’s name.” The two are drawn to each other by a shared belief they’re from another planet.
That part got to me. Ever since childhood, I believed I didn’t belong here and the feeling intensified during my teen years of drinking and drugging. I believed Jimi Hendrix was going to swoop down from his planet and rescue me. I suppose it was like any invisible friend—God, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny—I had no doubt it was true.
By the time I’d heard of Hendrix he’d been dead for years. He’d singled me out. He knew I was his reflection, another troubled genius. There were times I heard Jimi saying, “I’ll be there soon. Just hold on.”
As I immersed myself in altered states with acid, speed and cocaine, I was sure that staying on the edge of madness made me a better artist. I drew, painted, wrote and studied Van Gogh paintings.
In the movie I was transfixed when “Luna” feverishly painted Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” The motif of that painting was a brilliant touch by Dalio who was also in charge of the musical score. His screenplay was based on the book, “Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament” by psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison.
Jamison and Dalio are both bipolar.
Lahti is amazing as Carla’s mother. With slight facial movements she is able to convey the terror of parenting a child who might kill herself. Lahti said she needed no research to play this role.
“I was immediately drawn to this story,” said Lahti. My sister struggled with bipolar disease for over twenty-five years, and then she took her life. They just didn’t find the right cocktail of medication for her. Her life was a rollercoaster and by the end, she’d had enough. I feel like if she was alive today, she would find something, whether it was a combination of medication and meditation or just a different cocktail.”
Lahti also praised Dalio, “I was so inspired by his ability to live such a healthy life.”
When I asked Kirby if he had known about bipolar illness before this film. He said, “I first familiarized myself with it twelve years ago when I did a play called, “Jump Cut” here in New York City at the Women’s Project. The character I played was bipolar.”
Holmes said, “I was really excited when I read this script and happy to be as involved as I was able to be. I’m so proud of this movie and proud of what everybody has done, and especially Paul. From the beginning, the work was creating real characters. This isn’t somebody’s idea of it. This is really what it’s like. We had this wonderful opportunity where Paul was giving us his real-life experiences. It was very helpful in allowing us to portray [the illness] as authentically as we could.”
Dalio said, “When I first got sick I was desperately clinging to the sane person I used to be but who I knew I could no longer be. Eventually I shut the door on my former self and embraced my bipolar, with all its beauty that comes with the agony. The love story between these two bipolar characters took shape as a metaphor for my love and hate relationship with bipolar.”
“Touched with Fire” opened in theaters nationwide on February 19, 2016. Rated R. 104 min.
Watch the trailer:
If you or anyone you know is bipolar visit Glenn Close’s nonprofit Bring Change to Mind, whose mission is to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. And, to act as a portal to a broad coalition of organizations that provide service, screening, information, support and treatment of mental illness.
Article by Dorri Olds.