Nobody really knows Fisher Stevens the director. We tend to think of him primarily as the actor who boldly went brownface for the Short Circuit movies and more recently appeared in a few episodes of Lost. (But if you’re really hip, you best remember him for My Science Project.) He also won an Oscar for producing the documentary The Cove three years ago. But he has been directing here and there since the mid-’90s. He helmed a little-known rom-com in 2002 called Just a Kiss and collaborated with Dan Klores on the also under-seen 2007 doc Crazy Love. This Friday, his biggest directorial effort to date, Stand Up Guys, opens theatrically in a modest number of locations considering it stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.
In anticipation of that new feature, I’d like to go back 18 years and look at Stevens’s directorial debut. It’s a short titled Call of the Wylie, and it’s a live-action comedy about the Warner Bros. cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. In his personal life, he goes by his middle name, Ezra, and acts like quite the highbrow thespian in spite of the slapstick role he’s best known for. Starring as the Coyote is Patrick Breen, who also scripted the short (as well as Stevens’s Just a Kiss and another short, Phineas). Call of the Wylie depicts the character being fired by Jack Warner and then meeting a woman named Melody (as in Merrie Melody) played by Amy Irving. Over drinks and smokes, Ezra tells her about his life and career, as well as his training and hanging around with the Strasberg crew.
And yes, that is Billy Zane playing Marlon Brando. Probably the best casting ever.
Other Hollywood legends portrayed briefly include James Dean, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe (can we say “portrayed” if she’s played by a cardboard cutout of herself?) and Dennis Hopper, Stevens’s old My Science Project costar. Of course, Wile E. Coyote is the most iconic of all, and it’s neat to see his private life and post-fame troubles in this 15-minute parody. It’s like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? meets Sunset Blvd. meets an overlong SNL sketch. And you can watch the whole thing online now, courtesy of Stevens’s own Vimeo page. Unfortunately, the embed capability is shut off, so you’ll have to actually hop over to the Vimeo site to watch it. Go, enjoy, and then come back and tell us what you think.
Call of the Wylie from Fisher Stevens on Vimeo.