On The Line is a sweet, innocuous romantic comedy that is distinguished by the presence of two very high-profile members of the "boy band" N'Sync—Lance Bass and Joey Fatone. Bass and Fatone play Kevin and Rod, respectively, two college friends who play in a bar band in Chicago. The movie's main plot revolves around a romance that begins on the elevated train between Kevin and Abbey ( Emmanuelle Chiriqui ) . On The Line is the first film from Lance Bass's production company.
Gregg Shapiro: Have you ever been "all about the rock" like your character Kevin's band in the movie?
LB: Oh, definitely. I was an '80s child. I was into Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. I still am. I'm a huge karaoke freak ( laughs ) . That's why I loved doing this movie. I only got to do one rock song in the movie, but it was like doing karaoke.
GS: Speaking of musical legends, what was it like working with Al Green?
LB: Amazing. He's so legendary. Growing up in Mississippi ... it was amazing to work with such a legend. He's magical. The first day he came to the set, it was the end of our shooting week. Everyone was a little tired. We had late nights and early mornings. People were ready to get the week over with. He came onto the set and livened everything up. Everyone was in the best mood. Until he left, everyone was just so happy. There's something about him that lights up a room.
GS: What was it like being a romantic lead?
LB: It was crazy. I don't know why I did a lead for my first film. It was really stupid on my part. Before I signed on, I didn't realize how big a part it was. I just thought, "Oh yeah, I'll be in this because he's a cool guy." It was a safe first lead. Because it is a romantic comedy, it's not too much of a stretch. I enjoyed it. I really loved it and thought it turned out great.
GS: You also worked with Jerry Stiller and Dave Foley in On The Line, both of whom are comic legends.
GS: What was that like?
LB: They're amazing. They're two totally different types of comedians. I got to work with Dave Foley a lot. I grew up watching ( Foley's sketch comedy show ) Kids In The Hall, and that type of stuff. I thought I'd be cracking up the whole time. But, when you get into character, it really does work. I'd met Jerry Stiller before. I was so excited to work with him. You always know him as this "king of comedy" guy, and the first scene that we did was a very serious part in the movie. I'd never seen that side of him. He is an incredible actor. He made me tear up in the scene. He really inspired me.
GS: How did you like filming part of On The Line in Chicago?
LB: I love Chicago. I really do. It's one of my favorite cities. Several of my friends live here. I grew up in Mississippi, so it's not too far. We used to drive up here and hang out. To me, it's a clean New York. The people here are incredible. I think they've very nice. You've got the water. It's just beautiful.
GS: Speaking of Chicago, the Cubs are also an integral part of the movie. Are you a baseball fan?
LB: I'm a huge baseball fan. I like the Cubs, now that I got to know the team, and they're in the movie, with Sammy Sosa. But, my team is the Yankees. That's from being in New York for so long.
GS: Paper airplanes also figure prominently in your movie On The Line. How are you at making paper airplanes?
LB: Terrible. They gave us a book to learn how to make them and I still can't make a paper airplane. ( Co-star ) Emmanuelle ( Chriqui ) became really good at it. I never got to make one in the movie. It's cool. It's one of those quirky things that you love to see in films.
GS: The movie has kind of a trick ending. Can you say something about that, and the cameo appearances by some of your band-mates?
LB: They wanted to do something fun for this movie. They didn't want to be in the movie, but they wanted to show that they were supporting it. We came up with this great idea to do an SNL sketch, a MadTV thing. Originally, I wanted them to make fun of the credits, make fun of Joey ( Fatone ) and my acting, that type of stuff, because we love to make fun of ourselves. We came up with the nice characters of the hairdresser and the stylist ( laughs ) for the movie. We wanted to do a behind-the-scenes ( look ) and talk about how Joey and I are really not the nice guys that everybody thinks ( we are ) . It's all in fun.
GS: I have to ask if you are concerned about offending your gay fans with that sequence?
LB: No, not at all. We have a huge gay market. We're very open-minded. Half of our employees are gay ( laughs ) . It's not something that we run from. We like making fun of everything,
GS: The band in the movie was primarily a cover band. Do you know if there are any N'Sync cover bands?
LB: I've seen a lot of N'Sync cover bands. They're pretty good, too. The funny ones are the rock N'Sync cover bands, when they really rock your stuff out. There's a band in Cancun that always plays at Senor Frog's. It's funny to hear them play when they add a little reggae to the songs. It's an honor when someone covers your songs.
The Gene Siskel film Cebter presents the first Chicago run of Gaea Girls, a sensation at gay film fests, and an eye-opening documentary about Japanese women's wrestling. Runs Nov. 2-8, 164 N. State, ( 312 ) 846-2800.
The Man Who Wasn't There ( USA Films ) : There is, as it turns out, more than one "man who wasn't there" in the Coen Brothers' most film-noir movie to date. Both the late '40s/early '50s time period and the artful black-and-white cinematography might have something to do with it. Ed ( Billy Bob Thornton in a controlled and nuanced performance ) is a barber who doesn't talk much—he just cuts hair in Santa Rosa, Calif. Dolores ( Frances McDormand ) , his unfaithful wife, is having an affair with Big Dave ( James Gandolfini ) . When Creighton Tolliver ( the animated Jon Polito ) , a "pansy" venture capitalist, comes to town, looking for investors in a dry cleaning business, Ed decides the quickest way to get the money is to blackmail Big Dave, who is married to department store heiress Ann ( Katherine Borowitz ) . The plot takes a few twists and turns before it becomes a murder mystery. With the introduction of fast-talking big-city lawyer Fred Reedenschneider ( Tony Shalhoub ) , the movie becomes the Coen brothers' version of a courtroom drama. However, there are enough humorous moments in the film, which also includes such subject matter as embezzlement, entrepeneurship, racism, alcoholism, mentoring and flying saucers, to qualify it as one of the Coen Brothers' blackest comedies to date. On a scale of 1 to 10: 8.