Film Producer Remembers Cory Monteith As A 'Gracious' And 'Special Young Man'
“I can’t believe that a year ago we were on the phone together talking about the script and it would have been today last year that he was on a plane to Halifax to start shooting,” Whalen told Celebuzz.
The film, which was shot in Monteith's native Canada in the summer of 2012, was a departure for the 31-year-old actor, who played high school football star-turned-glee-club member Finn Hudson on the Fox hit series Glee since 2009.
The indie, helmed by Whalen’s wife, writer/director Gia Milani, focuses on four lives intersecting in a big box department store, with Monteith playing store manager James Asher.
“He told us he felt very lucky that this role fell into his lap. It’s a dramatic, darker character and he wanted to play his own age,” said Whalen. “He felt very fortunate.
“He was so happy.”
Monteith, who was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room on Saturday, candidly revealed his life-long struggles with drug and alcohol addictions in a 2011 Parade article, even admitting to appreciating second chances: “I’m lucky on so many counts -- I’m lucky to be alive," he told the mag.
And it was that same honesty he used on set that inspired others.
“He openly discussed some of his history,” remembered Whalen. “We have a couple characters in the film who are dealing with post traumatic stress and because of the things that he had gone through he could relate to the characters.
“He didn’t hold anything back.”
Coroners are still determining the cause of death, but it comes too soon -- only a couple months after Monteith completed a rehab program in April.
And even though the month-long shoot was quick, Monteith left his indelible mark on his colleagues.
“He was such a special young man,” said Whalen. “He was so nice to everyone on set from the crew to the cast mates.
“I remember we had some day actors that we used in some of scenes and Cory would even take them home at the end of the day.
“He was so gracious. There would be 20 to 30 people just waiting for him at the end of the day and he took photos and signed autographs.
“He was a consummate professional. I was totally impressed with his work ethic. When he was shooting with us, he’d then fly to New York or L.A. for Glee and then he’d fly back to Canada, walk on set and deliver his lines -- and he got them all right.
“And he really bonded with everyone he worked with. A lot of the actors were inspired by him and many went on to keep working and that had a lot to do with Cory. He changed their lives.”
Whalen says Monteith was even able to see one of his last performances on screen just a month ago in Los Angeles: “His reaction was very good. He truly appreciated the opportunity to play such a complex character.”
And they plan to pay their respects to Monteith in the film, which is currently being considered for festivals and expected for theatrical release at the end of the year.
“We do want to do something to pay some kind of tribute to Cory,” Whalen added, “and recognize him because he was such a big part of this film.”