If you can’t take it with you when you go, then where does it end up?
Daniel Brown thought a lot about this before making his upcoming film “Your Lucky Day,” which tells the ironic story of a man who wins the lottery but dies shortly after finding out his numbers hit. First created as short in 2010 starring Rider Strong, the story takes place one Christmas Eve at a corner store called Sip ‘n’ Go, where a white-haired boomer-aged wealthy man wearing a tie stops to scan his lotto tickets. After making brief and somewhat bigoted small talk with the store’s owner Amir (Mousa Hussien Kraish), the machine plays a little jingle, “Winner!! Winner!!” appears on the tiny screen. “What’s the total up to?” the man asks Amir. “$156 million.”
More from Variety
Sterling, a low-level drug dealer played by the late “Euphoria” star Angus Cloud, is standing in the corner of the store when he realizes the jackpot is just feet away from him. He covers his face, holds the winner up at gunpoint, demands the ticket and starts a shoot-off with a police officer, killing the winning man and starting a hostage situation for Amir and a pregnant couple (Elliot Knight and Jessica Garza) who must decide how to move forward without jeopardizing the jackpot or their lives.
When asked what drove him to take the “Die Hard” route of setting a hostage film during Christmas time, Brown pointed to a classic holiday tale “The Gift of the Magi.” In “Your Lucky Day,” Brown uses Knight and Garza to represent this same kind of relationship.
But the real initial inspiration for the film was actually a literal image of irony. “The original kernel of the idea came from a Far Side comic, a single panel where two coroners are looking at a dead body,” and in the pocket of the dead man is a winning lottery ticket. “And they’re like, ‘Oh, lucky stiff.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a fun idea of, like, someone who died had won the lottery.’”
As someone who works in advertising, Brown understands the powerful allure of the lottery. As awful are the odds of winning, people are betting on an experience more powerful than any other purchase offers. “I feel like lottery advertising is maybe the most truthful because it is really life-changing. Like having a coke isn’t really going to change your life. You know, you don’t open a beer and everyone hangs out with you suddenly. But I think if you had a couple million dollars, your life will drastically change, to say the least.”
At the start of the film, a brief note flashes across the screen: “Based on the American Dream.”
“Since like the Gold Rush in America, you could sort of say that the American Dream kind of switched over from being able to live the life you want to sort of like instant wealth, and the idea that instant wealth is going to bring you all this happiness and joy,” Brown says. He wanted the film to mock the paradox of the American Dream, the kind of curtain pull that reveals the dream to be nothing more than an almost unattainable farce where the rich get richer.
So how, amongst all of this complicated irony forging, did Brown decide on Cloud to be his leading man?
“I had written the script again and shared it with my wife. While I was out of town on a shoot, she had watched all of ‘Euphoria,’ and she said, ‘You know, who should be in your movie? It should be this guy, Angus Cloud.’ But she called him Fezco,” Brown says. Cloud’s roles as Fezco and Sterling are similar: both are drug dealers with a soft side, speak with a similar cadence and contained energy that is impossible to hate.
After sending out casting calls, Brown was thrilled to see Cloud’s name appear amongst the responses, what he called “an insane notion that there was even interest based on the script.” They received numerous audition tapes and considered alternatives, but felt that Cloud was the only one right for the role.
“Other people were acting, for lack of a better word. Where it felt like when Angus said it, it was something that he could actually say. It didn’t feel like an affectation,” Brown says. “I think in the script, Sterling was a bit of a motormouth. Angus wasn’t exactly that, but he could bring this other level that was way better.”
So Cloud and Brown talked more about it over Zoom, prior to the Season 2 release of “Euphoria.”
“It was a little bit of a leap for both of us. I had never directed a feature and he never had a movie that was really just his,” Brown says. From the jump, Cloud delighted everyone on set.
“He was just there to be with other people and be present. His sense of humor and style just kind of came out more and more as we went along. It’s rare to meet somebody like that,” Brown says. Off set, Cloud would spend time smoking with the craft service workers out back, making their own little videos, cracking jokes and shooting the breeze. Since the film takes place after dark on Christmas Eve, most shoots ran late into the night, sometimes in the rain and sometimes in the freezing cold. But Brown says this never deterred Cloud’s positivity nor his talent.
“We always talk about acting as listening. And I think Angus did that better than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. People would say their lines, and then he sort of would take that in and react to it. As if he had just heard it himself,” Brown says.
The film had already wrapped and ADR was completed when Brown got the news that Cloud had died on July 31, just a couple weeks after Cloud’s 25th birthday. The last text Brown had sent him was that the film would be premiering at Fantastic Fest.
“I remember listening to an interview where Angus was talking about fame and having a hard time. And I just thought he was such a sweetheart that it would be OK, that it would work out because he was just so genuinely kind,” Brown says. It’s hard for Brown to talk about without choking up.
“Maybe because I am a dad, I think about directing a little bit as being a dad to your cast. You’re there to take care of them,” he explains. “So I was imagining the future. I thought we would watch the movie together and I could say to Angus, ‘Hey, look how great you are.’ I was hoping it would get him more parts. I was hoping I would see him in other things.”
“You know, you don’t make a small movie for no one to see it. So I just have all this wealth of responsibility for people to see it for him. I just hoped he would have loved it. And I hoped he would be proud of himself.”
After his death, Brown decided to dedicate the film to Cloud, which closes with a simple two words: “For Angus.”
“It’s not really even mine anymore,” Brown says. “It’s really for him.”
“Your Lucky Day” will have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on Saturday. Well Go USA will release the film in theaters on Nov. 10 and on VOD on Nov 14.
Best of Variety