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Las Vegas-made movie ‘Viena and the Fantomes’ released after 6-year delay

Updated June 25, 2020 - 8:57 pm

While shooting their new movie, Dakota Fanning, Zoe Kravitz and Evan Rachel Wood holed up for a month in the Downtown Grand.

Scenes were filmed at Mount Charleston, Floyd Lamb Park, the Boulder City airport and all over downtown Las Vegas, including a campground set built in the parking lot of what used to be the Western Hotel.

If none of this sounds familiar, it probably did at one point. “Viena and the Fantomes,” that “new” movie that’s available Tuesday digitally and on home video, was filmed all the way back in the spring of 2014.

“There’s a million things that went on. … It’s kind of, like, no real big negative story of why it took so long,” Las Vegas-based producer Chris Ramirez says. “Kind of a lot of good little stories and a lot of us finding our way.”

Most movies that film in Las Vegas do so specifically for the atmosphere — the Strip, Fremont Street, the high-end amenities — that’s all but impossible to duplicate elsewhere. For “Viena and the Fantomes,” the entirety of which was shot in and around Las Vegas, the crew — which Ramirez estimates was 95 percent local — went to great lengths to hide the city’s recognizable features.

“I wanted to prove … that we could make a good, high-caliber movie that doesn’t have to have anything to do with Las Vegas.”

Traveling sideshow

The film, set in the mid-1980s, follows the traveling sideshow of the hangers-on and the vaguely employed that surround the Fantomes, a struggling post-punk band of misfits, as seen through the eyes of a groupie named Viena (Fanning). It’s a tale of cassette tapes and dumpy RVs, power trips and the sort of dark eye makeup that leaves the wearer resembling a strung-out raccoon. Think a surreal “Almost Famous,” only grimier and free of any singalongs.

“Viena and the Fantomes” marked the English-language feature debut of writer-director Gerardo Naranjo, whose acclaimed “Miss Bala” was remade last year as an action movie starring Gina Rodriguez. It also was the first feature from Ramirez’s Lola Pictures, whose second offering, the 2016 made-in-Vegas drama “Frank & Lola,” debuted at Sundance.

As for the delay, Ramirez chalks it up to him and his investors, including Tony Hsieh and former Zappos executive Fred Mossler, having the patience to work on the perfect edit. Universal came on board in 2018, and the release date bounced around the studio’s schedule.

Over the years, Ramirez says he’s stumbled across a Spanish-language podcast that set out to investigate the movie’s disappearance. He’s spent time apologizing to the actors’ fan bases on social media. He’s even become pen pals of sorts with a young fan who had railed against the delay on Instagram.

‘Owed it to the cast’

If anything, though, the six years that passed only heightened the interest in many of the actors. Since filming stopped, Kravitz went on to star in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Big Little Lies” and Hulu’s “High Fidelity,” and she’s playing Catwoman in the upcoming Batman reboot. Wood became the face of HBO’s “Westworld” thanks to her Emmy-nominated role as robot host Dolores Abernathy. Jon Bernthal, who plays the shady money man behind The Fantomes, boosted his profile after starring as Frank “The Punisher” Castle on Netflix. And Caleb Landry Jones, who portrays the guttural leader of the band, had a career year in 2017, with breakout roles in the best picture nominees “Get Out” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

“I think because the cast was so amazing is why we took our time in making sure we put together the best version we could,” Ramirez says. “We just felt like we owed it to the cast.”

In fact, he admits that, had the actors not been as strong as they were, the movie probably would have been shelved years ago.

“It was a crazy little journey,” Ramirez recalls. “We always knew we were working hard on it, and we cared about it. We just hoped that, eventually, someone would put it out.”

Someone finally did.

It just took far longer than anyone ever dreamed.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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