“I wanted to write a love letter to all those great character actors who’ve touched our lives, if just for a moment.” That’s writer director Ben Chavda whose new short film, Titano!, can be seen above. Starring the late, great Irwin Keyes, the film was inspired by a love of Universal Monsters.
“Everybody at school was growing up with Jason and Freddy, but I wasn’t allowed to watch those movies,” Chavda said. “At some point I discovered that I could pretty much get away with watching anything as long as it was black-and-white. So I grew up getting scared by older films on AMC like the Universal Monster films or Them! or The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
That love of classic films brought him to Titano!, which ended up starring Keyes, whom you may know for The Warriors, The Jeffersons, The Flintstones and House of 1000 Corpses.
“You write this script and it’s all working in your head, but suddenly you have to make this character a reality,” Chavda said. “Titano was a silent character, you had to see him and immediately empathize with him, feel his every sigh, every look, react to a completely physical performance. Not only that, but at the end of the movie you had to buy that this sweet big guy could also be scary. I was at a loss until my amazing producer John Swartz came to me with Irwin’s headshot. He was perfect! Irwin was a complete professional, despite shooting in a stuffy apartment in the middle of summer.”
Unfortunately, as you can see from the film’s dedication, Keyes passed away after filming on Titano! completed. It was a big loss.
“He hadn’t gotten world-famous, he hadn’t won an Oscar, he hadn’t made millions of dollars. But he was an actor who you could build a silent movie off of. Even though he spoke no words, you knew what his character was thinking – and more importantly feeling – at every moment in the film,” Chavda said. “You were with him at every step, feeling for him, rooting for him. To me, that’s a movie star. We were all saddened by his passing, and that he never got to see the film’s release. And yet it’s so wonderful to be seeing reactions from people who are remembering all his wonderful character work, and who are so touched by his performance in this film. I like to think that Irwin would smile at the cosmic coincidence of it all.”