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On set with Armand Assante

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Armand Assante wanted to do another scene.

One that the Emmy Award-winning actor improvised Friday as the sun set over the beautiful, sprawling grounds of Sue Brielmann’s Shady Oaks Farm.

It’s where a previous scene took place that afternoon in its large stable of gorgeous horses.

Assante was in Manatee County to play a rich, powerful former athlete battling multiple sclerosis in the drama/thriller “Blind Pass.”

It’s the second independent, feature-length film by Sarasota-based Midnight Pass Productions and writer/producer/director Steve Tatone.

The scene Assante pitched Thursday night to the filmmaker found him giving a speech about coping with the disease, the idea being that in the film it could be shared online to help uplift others suffering from MS.

The actor, who has also been nominated for four Golden Globes, gave a gripping performance. After the second take, Tatone and the rest of the crew knew he had nailed it. Filming for the day was finished.

Assante then sat down to talk to the Herald about what prompted him to bring even more to the movie then what had been asked of him.

“What inspired me was watching so many people who actually do speak about these conditions that are just horrific,” said Assante, who leaned forward and lifted a fist for emphasis.

“It clicked in my head, he would be the type of guy, this is a guy who was in the military and did public service his whole life, so he would feel compelled to speak about his condition.”

Assante then leaned back, looked over at Tatone and started to laugh. It was if he were somehow embarrassed about expertly winging it.

“It was improvised,” the famous actor said while chuckling.

Assante, who worked in Manatee for two days last week, plays the father of the film’s star, 19-year-old Bradenton resident Danielle White. He agreed to do “Blind Pass” after being intrigued by Tatone’s script.

“I was really chilled by it and I don’t say that lightly,” Assante said. “I read a lot of material. I turn down a lot of material. What I liked about this is that, that girl (White’s character), turned out to be who she was. That gave me the chills.”

Principal photography for “Blind Pass” took place in Sarasota and Manatee counties. It started earlier this month and ends today, with additional shooting taking place next month in Italy and Ireland. All but two members of the crew were locals, according to Tatone.

“I think this could be an incredible film area,” Assante said of Manatee County.

Chris McKenna co-stars as White’s character’s psychologist, with the pair spending about 80 percent of the movie together. McKenna is best known for his appearances on the CW series “90210.”

Veteran Hollywood character actor Ed Lauter has been in numerous films, ranging from Alfred Hitchcock’s final feature “Family Plot” in 1976 to “The Artist,” which last week garnered a leading six Golden Globe nominations. Lauter met with the Herald over dinner at Gio Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar on Cortez Road in Bradenton earlier this month before portraying a pastor in a funeral scene shot in Sarasota.

Mike McGlone (“The Brothers McMullen,” “She’s the One”), Tampa-based Mary Rachel Dudley (“Dear John,” “Free Ride”) and up-and-coming child star Sydney Rouviere, a South Florida native whose appearances include “The Glades” TV series, are also appearing in “Blind Pass.”

In addition to starring, White also serves as the film’s co-producer.

“Phenomenal maturity, that kid, I couldn’t believe it,” Assante said. “Her analytical mind of what she’s trying to accomplish, that’s what blew me away. Most actresses stay in character and you can’t get them out of character. This girl goes in character, steps outside and thinks like a producer. For the age of 19, that’s extraordinary.”

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com.

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