Gilio discusses his film as part of the Indy Film Showcase on Thursday, July 25. The movie was inspired by a brief scene he had written in an earlier screenplay. He says that script didn't get very far, but "readers adored this minor character's one scene -- a confrontation in a Kwik Shop -- and I decided to [make her] my main character."
The film begins with that scene. But, Gilio says, "I didn't know where it was going to go from there." The teen-age Didi, convincingly portrayed by Lara Phillips, seems to be playing hooky or to have dropped out of school altogether when she meets Mike, a handsome Hollywood hopeful (played by Gilio), outside a convenience store. She has seen him shoplift a toothbrush and blackmails him for a cigarette, then a ride, then a life-changing contribution to her biography.
Like young hedonists in a Truffaut picture, they hit the highway. "Though we shot in and around Chicago, I didn't want anyone to know where we were," Gilio says. "I wanted it to be anywhere and everywhere. If it had been 'Chicago' or 'A small town in Texas,' it would have been easier to define the characters [and] dismiss them."
By the end of the film, Mike is long gone, Didi is pregnant and a violent character introduced earlier, Emil (Rich Komenich), has become her guardian angel. Gilio welcomes comparisons to everything from Double Indemnity to B movies in which Ida Lupino never got her guy. But he says one interpretation of his own character -- that he is psychotic -- shocked him.
"That never occurred to me," he says. "But I wanted the audience to believe in my character just as Didi does. I wanted him to enlist fans so they'll want to go where he goes. Someone said, 'Why would you want to play him? Everyone hates you at the end.' But I think the film delivers. It doesn't apologize for his behavior, which is an interesting thing to portray."
Gilio remembers that one of his first films as an actor, the lamentable made-for-TV To Sir With Love 2, was "a bit of slumming it" for its legendary star, Sidney Poitier, and director Peter Bogdanovich. Still, he says, "it gave me confidence and emboldened me to come here to Los Angeles."