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Richard KahanBy BERNIE BELLAN
We were contacted recently by a publicist for a new film titled “Lucky”, that’s about to open in Winnipeg.  I had recently read a story about that movie; it was the last film made with the great Harry Dean Stanton in the starring role.

That name may not ring an immediate bell but, if you see the film you’re bound to recognize his face. Stanton had so many memorable parts over the years, but almost always as a supporting actor. This movie fully demonstrates his considerable acting virtuosity for the entire length of the film, since he’s in practically every scene. By the way, from what I was able to read online so far, “Lucky” has been receiving terrific reviews.
But, we do receive many requests from publicists – about books, movies, TV shows, just about anything that might benefit from some publicity – even in a small ethnic paper. This time though, when I got a call from someone named Tamar Gibbert (who, I deduced immediately, is also a Member of the Tribe), when she told me that there’s a film about to open in Winnipeg that was produced by someone who grew up here and whose name was Richard Kahan, I was immediately intrigued.
I asked Tamar to send me some biographical data on Richard – and, if possible, a link to a screener of the film. (That’s one of the perks of being in the newspaper business; I am often able to view films before they’re available to the general public.)
In the meantime, I began a search of our own archives to see whether we ever had any mentions of Richard Kahan. Lo and behold, we had two stories about him. The first, written by Myron Love in 2000, told about the then 20-year-old Richard having been cast in a new TV series called “Edgemont”, which was being filmed in Vancouver.
The story also mentioned that Richard was the son of Martin and Linda Kahan, had attended Centennial School’s Hebrew Bilingual program, and had graduated from Garden City Collegiate.  He had received training at both the Manitoba Theatre for Young People and Prairie Theatre Exchange School. Before he was 18, Richard had already performed at PTE and the Fringe Festival, had done a TV commercial for Manitoba Public Insurance, and had been in two movies shot here.
Myron’s article went on to note that Richard had been planning to go to Toronto, where he had been accepted into York University’s acting program, but before going there he went to Vancouver to audition for an acting school in that city. As things turned out, Richard did end up moving to Vancouver – and his acting career began to take off.
Six years later, we had another story about Richard who, by that time, had appeared in a wide range of movies and TV shows.  That story told about Richard’s most recent starring role – in a science fiction TV series called “The 4400” (which was on for five years).
When I Googled his name I discovered that  Richard Kahan has enjoyed a very busy career indeed. Not only has he been regularly employed as an actor in both TV and movies, he has also done some screenwriting for such series as “Outlander” (my wife’s favourite series.)

I spoke with Richard on October 22nd to try and catch up with where his career had taken him since we last wrote about him in this paper. He reported that he had moved to Los Angeles from Vancouver eight and a half years ago and that his career had transitioned from working primarily as an actor to the writing and producing side of TV and film production.
It was Richard’s having worked with a well-known screenwriter and producer by the name of Ira Steven Behr during the filming of the aforementioned “The 4400” that proved to be pivotal in his decision to move into different areas of film and TV production, he said.
 “I always had a passion for screenwriting,” Richard explained, “something I always did on the side but didn’t give my full attention while I was working as an actor. And I had an interest in the business side of things as well.” But Ira Behr “took me under his wing” when he moved to LA and has proved to be of invaluable assistance in moving into the production side of things, Richard added.
“Many of the people I’ve met along the way, people whose careers I really admire, have followed a similar career path,” he noted – moving from performing to working behind the scenes as writers, directors, and producers.
In fact, having worked as a writer’s assistant, Richard was tasked with the responsibility of being the lead writer on an episode in Season Two of “Outlander”, in 2016 – titled “Untimely Resurrection”.
As for working as a producer on “Lucky”, Richard noted that a producer’s job “is to do whatever needs to be done”. In his case, he explained, he was heavily involved in casting, something with which he had become quite familiar over the years when he was an actor.
Richard told me that he has several other projects underway. He recently wrapped production on “The Elevator”, a series for which he served as both a writer and producer. As well, he is producing a feature film titled “Sidecar”, is adapting a book titled “Thirty Days with My Father”, and has been hired to write and produce “Lifeline”, another feature film.
Richard’s last onscreen appearance in either TV or movies was on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2013. And, while he says “never say never”, he’s focusing solely on the writing and producing side going forward.

Okay, that’s enough about Richard Kahan. What about the movie, “Lucky”? It’s one of those small budget films that is a study in character instead of being filled with pyrotechnics, which it seems most movies that make it to theatres are nowadays. In fact, the best screenplays these days usually seem to be written for the small screen, so it’s always a surprise when a feature movie comes out that’s intended to be seen by a more mature audience.
The movie tells the story of a quirky old man, played by the brilliant Harry Dean Stanton, who goes by the name “Lucky”. There have been other recent films starring actors who are in their dotage, such as Clint Eastwood and Bruce Dern, who both are great at playing wizened and bitter old men, and Harry Dean Stanton’s performance is equally marvelous. (In fact, Stanton died just recently at the age of 91. “Lucky” was his last on-screen performance.)
Although he seems to lead a fairly boring life, marked by following the same routine every day, Lucky turns out to be quite the philosopher, engaging in some deep discussions about life and existence with a cast of characters that includes some very well-known names. It’s great fun identifying faces that we haven’t seen appear in front of a camera for quite some time, including David Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerrrit – and my favourite, James Darren. (I wonder how many people will remember James Darren. I had a hard time placing him because he looked so young in this movie, but I just knew I had seen him in a long-ago TV series. Then it hit me: “Time Tunnel” – one of my favourite shows from the 60s! On top of that, he was a heartthrob singer whose picture adorned many teenaged girls’ walls in the 1960s.)   
As Lucky moves along from one favourite haunt to another and engages with a series of wonderfully drawn characters, we come to respect his penetrating insights. At one point, when a bothersome lawyer is trying to engage him in conversation, Lucky says to him: “The one thing worse than an awkward silence is small talk.” (I might not have got that quite right, but you get the point.)
There is also one fabulous scene where Lucky has been invited to a Mexican fiesta by the owner of the grocery where he buys his milk and cigarettes. (He seems to live only on milk, coffee, and cigarettes. When his doctor tells him he really ought to quit smoking, they have an amusing exchange about giving advice to a 90-year-old.) Suddenly, in the middle of the fiesta Lucky stands up and starts to sing beautifully in Spanish. It comes as such a surprise – and Harry Dean Stanton turns out to have a very nice voice – for a 90-year-old, that it’s bound to touch the heart of anyone watching him.
“Lucky” is a wonderful film. Sure, it’s a bit slow in its pacing  – but deliberately so. It delves into some universal themes, especially the meaning of death. When I‚Äątalked with Richard Kahan about what I thought would most resonate with audiences, he said to me, with a nod to the usual audience of this paper,  “this is a film that has really spoken to people across various religions. It’s not a religious film in terms of pushing one specific message,” he suggested, “but the belief, the connection, the search for spirituality, and life’s big answers - I think that’s been resonating with audiences, and it’s another reason we’re so proud of the film.”
According to Richard also, this film was written specifically with Harry Dean Stanton in mind. It’s hard to think of a more perfect way for an actor to end his career with a film that is so personal -  so thought provoking, yet also so entertaining - a true masterpiece.
As a final note, Richard Kahan emailed me after I had finished the first draft of this article to say that Harry Dean Stanton has just been nominated for best actor at the 2017 Gotham Awards, which are the first film major awards leading up to the Academy Awards
“Lucky” is scheduled to open at the Towne Cinema 8 on Friday, October 27. Check listings for showtimes.

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