Dale Dickey and Wes Studi Carry A Love Song In Their Hearts
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, according to Alfred Lord Tennyson. In A Love Song, the critically acclaimed film that premiered at Sundance 2022 and recently played at the Berlin Film Festival, Hollywood mainstays Dale Dickey and Wes Studi speak just as eloquently about the nature of love and loneliness, often without saying a word.
“Max Walker-Silverman wrote me a beautiful love letter about why he thought I was the actress to play this role,” Dickey says. Walker-Silverman, an NYU graduate and acclaimed short film director, was getting ready to tackle writing and directing his first feature and he had only one choice for his leading lady. Dickey, a character actress known for her stellar work in varying projects as My Name Is Earl and Winter’s Bone, was overwhelmed by the filmmaker’s heartfelt words. “And then when I read the script, which was so simply beautiful … It was like, ‘how could you say no to this?’”
In A Love Song, Dickey plays Faye, a solitary widow who is staying in a trailer at a campsite in rural Colorado. Faye spends her days fishing and her nights gazing up at the stars, awaiting the arrival of an old high school flame, Lito, whom she hasn’t seen in decades and who has been alone ever since the passing of his wife.
“I hadn’t done this type of role before,” Studi says, “where I get to play a guitar, sing songs and kiss this beautiful woman as well. So, how could I resist?”
“It was a challenge for me,” Studi says of playing Lito. In December of 2020, the 74-year-old icon was named one of the “25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (so Far)” by The New York Times and received an Academy Honorary Award in 2019. A native of the Cherokee Nation, Studi has lent his one-of-a-kind presence to such films as Dances with Wolves and Avatar, and he is perhaps best recognized for his stirring portrayal of Magua in The Last of the Mohicans. “I hadn’t done this type of role before,” Studi says, “where I get to play a guitar, sing songs and kiss this beautiful woman as well. So, how could I resist?” Studi and Dickey shared a farmhouse during the production of A Love Song, where they got a chance to get to know each other as people, becoming fast friends. While this made the chemistry between them come naturally, the actors made a conscious choice not to spend too much time rehearsing for fear of making their on-screen interaction feel too mechanical.
“We’d been separated for 40 years,” Dickey says of Faye and Lito, “and we wanted to keep it natural, organic and spontaneous.” The actors spoke in depth with Walker-Silverman about the history between these characters, though much of those details are left off-screen. “We did each build our own backstory, but it wasn’t necessary for each of us to know all of the details,” Dickey says. “It just needed to be in my mind and my heart as I told the story, I guess.” Some of the exposition initially included in the dialogue was ultimately cut from the film, as Walker-Silverman grew to feel that the best approach was to let these two giants tell the story through their faces and body language.
One of the most joyful moments in A Love Song is when the title becomes most literal, as Faye and Lito perform an impromptu duet of “Be Kind To Me” by Michael Hurley. “Max just handed Dale the guitar, and I turned on my little amplifier, and we took off,” Studi says. ”That’s all there was to it. But it only works because Dale can sing so well.”
“… when I read the script, which was so simply beautiful … It was like, ‘how could you say no to this?’”
Dickey and Studi both feel that A Love Song has a powerful message to share about carrying a song of love in your heart. “Whatever happens, the possibility of love is joyous on its own,” Dickey says, nothing that especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, loss is universal, and she believes that even the tiniest of connections are to be treasured. “Take advantage of those, and take advantage of the time we’ve got,” Dickey says, “because it’s a beautiful time.”
Dickey can also be seen this month as a series regular on Prime Video’s A League of Their Own, and anyone wishing for more of Studi need only look to Reservation Dogs on Hulu. While they are unforgettable on their own, the pairing of these celebrated artists in A Love Song marks a career highlight for both—and an unparalleled treat for audiences.
Read more film interviews by Patrick Gibbs:
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