"Play The Game" is a senior sex comedy starring Andy Griffith, and when it came to finding an audience for the movie, The Villages was the perfect hot spot. READ MORE
By Anthony Violanti
THE VILLAGES - "Play The Game" is a senior sex comedy starring Andy Griffith, and when it came to finding an audience for the movie, The Villages was the perfect hot spot.
“The Villages is the ideal place for this movie,” said Marc Fienberg, 38, who directed and wrote the PG-13 film, which opened Friday at the Rialto Theater. “We did a lot of research where to play this film, and The Villages was at the top of the list.”
“Residents in The Villages will relate to this story,” added Marty Zeidman, of Slow Hand Releasing, the distributor of the film. “The movie shines an honest light on seniors as they go through the same excitement, anxieties and challenges as their twentysomething-year-old grandchildren when it comes to dating, romance and falling in love.”
In an era when Hollywood is ruled by young demographics, Fienberg believes there is a huge audience of people older than 60 waiting to see movies.
“Hollywood is driven by the youth market, and they say older people don’t go to the movies,” he said. “The reason is that Hollywood doesn’t make movies that appeal to seniors. They will come out in droves if you make a movie they can relate to.”
The film is being screened throughout Florida, aiming to appeal to the seniors who live here.
People in places like The Villages understand that passion and romance don’t end at 50, and with an icon like Andy Griffith in the starring role, they also will see a beloved star.
But they may be surprised when the man best known as Opie’s daddy, Mayberry’s sheriff and Matlock on television plays a vivid sex scene.
Now 82, Griffith plays Grandpa Joe, a widower trying to renew relationships with women. The first one turns out to be Edna, played by Liz Sheridan, known for her role as Jerry Seinfeld’s mom in “Seinfeld.” Before long, Grandpa Joe and Edna head to the bedroom after she spikes his drink with some Viagra.
“I hope everybody doesn’t go ‘Ugh’ after they see it,” Sheridan said with a laugh. “We had fun doing that scene, and Andy’s wife was on the set that day, so everything is OK.”
“We closed the set for that scene,” Fienberg said. “We wanted the actors to be relaxed. With actors that good, you don’t have to do a lot of directing. You just stand back and watch the magic. I think it was tastefully done, and it’s funny and wonderful to watch on screen.”
Sheridan, 79, also enjoyed the experience.
“I don’t get many offers to play a seductress,” she said in a telephone interview. “I hope it opens the door for me to play other roles.”
She added that Griffith was “great to work with. He’s a wonderful actor, who really gives back to other actors. He’s a perfectionist but not a pain to work with.”
Sheridan wants the film to break some stereotypes for older Americans.
“God, I hope so. When you reach a certain age, people think you should just sit on a porch and wait to die.”
Especially in Hollywood.
“The young executives running this industry don’t want to deal with older actors,” said the woman who once shared her life with the late acting legend James Dean. She wrote a book about their time together and said it will become a movie. “[Executives] only know me as Seinfeld’s mother. I did a lot more than that. I had a huge life.”
In addition to Griffith and Sheridan, the cast includes Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) and a couple of young actors: Paul Campbell, who plays Griffith’s grandson, and Maria Sokoloff, who plays Julie, the younger man’s romantic interest.
“Play The Game” is a comedy about more than sex. It deals with life, death, mourning and the whole human experience, including relations between men and women.
For Fienberg, this is art imitating life. A few years ago, his late grandfather, Joe Ward, had told him of the problems of meeting women and romancing them.
“I kissed a girl last week,” Ward once told his grandson. That’s when the idea for the movie was born for Fienberg.
“I think this film brings out into the open what younger people don’t want to think about: that their parents and grandparents still have sex,” Fienberg said. “Not only do they still have sex, they still enjoy it.”
That is hardly a revelation. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that more than 50 percent of senior citizens are sexually active.
“A lot of people think of seniors as sitting around watching TV and falling asleep on the couch,” Fienberg said. “It’s just not true. Older people still have a passion for life and love.”
Griffith was the key to making the film work. He’s best known for the “Andy Griffith Show” which depicted small town life in Mayberry during the early 1960s.
“He loved the script and did whatever we asked,” Fienberg said. “You’re not going to see Andy Taylor in this movie, because he’s not in Mayberry anymore.”
Fienberg was intimidated when he first walked on the set with Griffith.
“ ‘Intimidated’ is not strong enough of a word. I grew up watching his show, and ‘Matlock’ was my grandfather’s favorite show,” he said. “My grandfather’s idol was Andy Griffith.”
Contact Anthony Violanti at 867-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.