D’Arbanville shines, cast against type in locally filmed independent feature Chris White, Emily Reach White’s “Unbecoming” set for red carpet premiere at Tryon Theatre

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, March 24, 2016


Patti D'Arbanville stars in Chris White's “Unbecoming”

Patti D’Arbanville stars in Chris White’s “Unbecoming”

Four years ago, Patti D’Arbanville left the city of her birth, New York, and headed south.

“I had a house in one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she reasoned. “Why not? I just started to make a life in Western North Carolina, in beautiful Tryon.”

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Tryon residents know D’Arbanville from her handcrafted jewelry, but she is also known for a modeling and acting career that started when she was discovered by Andy Warhol, and continues to this day. D’Arbanville currently stars in “Unbecoming,” the latest independent feature from South Carolina-based filmmakers Chris White and Emily Reach White, and will make an appearance at its world premiere Sunday, April 3, 7 p.m. at the Tryon Theatre.

“Unbecoming” follows five different story lines: a retired U.S. senator with a dark secret, an in-school suspension teacher and his captive audience of one, two lost souls’ unlikely meeting at a roadside diner, the stomach-churning memory of True Love lost, and a father’s last will and testament passed on via workshop mix tape.

D’Arbanville’s latest turn in front of the camera began two years ago at a private preview screening of “Cinema Purgatorio,” the Whites’ last film. “I was terrified,” admitted D’Arbanville. “A small group of people in a private home…what was I going to say if the film wasn’t any good?

As soon as the film began, D’Arbanville said that her anxiety disappeared. “It was good! I got excited.”

From there, it was only a matter of time before “Unbecoming” writer-director Chris White came calling.

“I remember thinking at the screening that this Patti woman really knows her stuff,” laughed Chris. “I had no idea that she was the Patti D’Arbanville. And when I heard, I was so glad. Em and I had been looking for experienced, name actors to work with, and here was one of the biggest and she seemed genuinely interested in our work.”

When the Whites launched “Unbecoming,” it was meant to be an experimental placeholder project or ‘practice’ as Emily likes to call it. “Our next project will be a giant leap forward: a bigger budget, wider exposure, and more ambitious script,” she explains. “’Unbecoming’ gave us a chance to work with the most experienced cast and crew we’d ever been around and for Chris to put his skill as a director to the test.”

D’Arbanville said Chris White passed with flying colors.

“The director sets the tone and Chris is just a peach,” said D’Arbanville. “He’s calm and funny and he’s an actor so he knows how to talk to talk to actors. He knows what they need and he’s not a pushover. He’s gentle in a strong way.”

The respect, said Chris White, is mutual. “I wanted Patti to have fun with the part I wrote for her, so I deliberately wrote against type,” he explained. “The thing is, she not only nailed it, she showed me a side I think has been overlooked. Patti’s got comedy in her bones. Truly, she’s one of the funniest screen actors I’ve ever worked with. And her comic work is so precise, thoughtful—the funniest actors are always the smartest.”

White said D’Arbanville reminds him of both Stephen Tobolowsky and Beth Grant—two actors he wrote for in the upcoming “Six Love Stories,” which filmed in Los Angeles last summer just before “Unbecoming.”

“Patti D’Arbanville is right up there with the finest screen comedians of her generation: Bernadette Peters, Carol Kane, Annie Potts…and of course, my muse, Bill Murray,” said White. “Wouldn’t you love to see those two on screen together as husband and wife? I would!”

Unbecoming screens for the first time anywhere Sunday, April 3, 7 p.m. at Tryon Theatre. Tickets are available at the door, but are going fast. The Whites advise buying online, where a limited number of special VIP tickets are available, which include a red carpet pre-screening party at Huckleberry’s and a private, post-screening gathering at McGourty’s. For more information and tickets, visit: www.UnbecomingTryon.bpt.me.

– Submitted by Lisa Iannucci