Tribeca's "Trust Me" shows dark comic side of Hollywood business

NEW YORK, April 23 Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:21pm EDT

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - The dark comedy "Trust Me," playing at the Tribeca Film Festival, paints an uncomfortable picture of backstabbing and subterfuge in the film industry that drew from all - and none - of creator Clark Gregg's personal experiences.

As the film's screenwriter, lead actor and director, Gregg said he had started out writing a big ensemble movie with several story lines, one of which became "Trust Me," about the travails of agent Howard Holloway.

The film tells the story of the hapless Holloway, a failed actor, as he represents a teen-aged actress trying to launch a Hollywood career. Joining Gregg in the cast are Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Allison Janney and Amanda Peet.

As to the story's real-life roots, the 51-year-old Gregg, with decades of roles to his credit including agent Phil Coulson in the "Iron Man" action movie series, said he has seen "all of it and none of it."

"There was almost nothing that was literally based on anything that happened to me," he told Reuters this week. "At the same time, I felt I was kind of everybody in the movie, like in your dreams."

Speaking of "being everybody," Gregg tackled both directing and starring in "Trust Me," in spite of himself.

"I didn't want to direct myself in my script," he said. "But I had such a clear vision of what I wanted the piece to be and what I wanted the tone to be like.

"I even had a meeting with a director, and I never brought it up," he said. "I had the script in my bag, and I couldn't hand it to him."

But the chaos of being the film's screenwriter, director and lead ended up reflecting the chaos of the lead character's life, he said.

Gregg describes his movie, which is having its world premiere at New York's Tribeca Film Festival this month, as the tale of the "not incidental savagery" involved when many people are battling for a goal, such as stardom, that is attainable only to a very few.

"People will subvert everything that they grew up believing in at times to do it, so it's a kind of a metaphor about the distortive effect of our obsession with success," he said.

As to his own success, Gregg, who wrapped up his role as a regular on the television series "The New Adventures of Old Christine" three years ago, said he is working on a pilot featuring his Coulson character.

Also, he added, he is writing a period gangster movie, and heading back to "the usual attempts to get work as an actor that make me very much like all the beaten-up people in the film." (Editing by Chris Michaud and Philip Barbara)