Feature: Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best

Photo courtesy of the company

Actors Ryan O’Nan and Michael Weston have extensive film and television credits, but these days they’re best known as the Brooklyn Brothers. That’s the name of the unusual band they play in the quirky new indie film comedy Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best, which has just opened in New York City. They recently sat down with me to chat about the project, which the enterprising O’Nan also wrote and directed.

“It’s an ode to that time of my life when I was a musician says O’Nan about the film, which depicts the often contentious relationship between band mates Alex (O’Nan), a singer/songwriter still depressed over a recent break-up, and Jim (Weston), an eccentric musician who specializes in playing Fisher Price-style children’s instruments.

Naturally, some musical experience was required. That wasn’t a problem for O’Nan, who spent several years performing in a punk band before becoming an actor. But when he met Weston at an audition for a film role neither of them got, he had no idea that his future co-star could play.

 “I had resigned myself to the idea that I was going to hire the best actor and have somebody off camera play the instruments,” recalls O’Nan. “But after I had given him the part, I asked very politely, do you happen to be able to play any music at all? And he was, like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been playing piano my whole life.’ We were at a restaurant, but I jumped up and hugged him in front of everybody. I held him for a long, long, time.”

 “He didn’t spring on me the fact that I’d be playing baby toys in front of people until way later,” adds Weston. “I did attend the Fisher Price Conservatory. I’m licensed now.”

It turns out that those instruments are not as easy to play as they look.

 “It’s really fucking hard, man, I’m not going to lie to you,” says Weston. “My fingers are way too big for those keys.”

 “They’re not meant to be played for large groups of people, I’ll tell you that,” chimes in O’Nan.

The film--marking O’Nan’s directorial/screenwriting debut--was shot for under a million dollars.

 “Most of that went to my salary,” jokes Weston. “Very little of it ended up on screen.”

 “It’s a very interesting time in film right now,” O’Nan points out. “I recently acted in three big-budget movies in a row and they were all done with the exact same camera I used on my second movie, Chu and Blossom, which I just finished shooting. Anybody can make a movie now, so there’s a huge proliferation of films that’s just going to make for more competition.”   

Brooklyn Brothers features a stellar supporting cast, including Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald and Oscar winner Melissa Leo. Getting them required O’Nan to call in a few favors.

 “Hell, yeah,” he says. “You wouldn’t believe what I had to do to get this cast.”

The two men are not letting the experience go to waste. To promote the film, they’ve been playing live dates around the country, and the soundtrack has just been released on Rhino Records.

 “It’s even coming out on vinyl, which has been one of my lifelong dreams,” enthuses O’Nan.