Tightrope: Directing Your Investor's Acting Debut

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Michael Huffington, politician, philanthropist, businessman, and over all Big Deal is also a fantastic actor. In his debut role in my comedy Father vs Son, which just won the Film Critic's Society Award for Best Premiere at the Houston International Film Festival, Mr. Huffington exudes a powerful presence and stoic charm never before seen on film. Ever. You don't need 3D glasses--the man's talent leaps off the screen.

Am I saying this because he is also the producer and financier of my movie? Yes and no. When I was writing the film Father vs Son with Paul Wolff, (who also stars as the father in mid-life crisis--how Paul got his part is another story) we came up with the character of Mr. Harrington. If the heroes of Father vs Son can convince Mr. Harrington to purchase a mysterious, yet beloved item, it will be life-changing. They desperately need Mr. Harrington to swoop in and purchase the item, and the entire movie builds to this enigmatic figure's arrival.

Since writers must relate to their characters in some way (even if they are aliens from another galaxy) I thought of the one person who held that much stature and ominous power in my life: Michael Huffington. Michael produced my student film a while back and we were always looking to work together again. Mr. Huffington, like his character, is very selective. He only chooses projects that move him emotionally and spiritually, which was why I was nervous about bringing him a whacky screwball comedy about a father and son who fall in love with the same exotic dancer and then battle it out for her affections during Christmas. Luckily, Mr. Harrington -- I'm sorry, Mr. Huffington -- agreed to fund the film.

I had seen Mr. Huffington speak in public and on television. He is not shy in a crowd or in front of a camera; I knew he could nail the part with confidence and power. When I told him I wanted him to play Mr. Harrington, he didn't balk for a second -- he attacked the role with meticulous study, and though it was a comedy, he took it very seriously, as if it were the most important business deal of his entire life. Michael rehearsed endlessly and practiced grueling exercises in order to arch his left eyebrow four inches up his forehead for the perfect scowl. The result is a hilarious performance that always gets a huge laugh. Unlike the intimidating character he plays, the real Mr. Huffington is a blast to work with: patient, compassionate, and takes direction very well.

I sat down with my friend Mike to interview him about his performance in the film and just how long it took him to grow the coolest mustache in the world.