FILM- Adopted son? Oscar winner in third Festival

Ray McKinnon plays a pair of twin brothers in Randy and the Mob, which he also wrote and directed.

Ray McKinnon and his movies are such frequent visitors to Charlottesville that the filmmaker may soon have to start paying property taxes like the rest of us. The writer/director/actor is a bona fide Virginia Film Festival vet: both of his previous films have played at the annual celebration of cinema, including his directorial debut, a 2001 short called The Accountant.

McKinnon says that ever since that first screening he's been impressed by Charlottesville's collective intelligence, which, he says "stretches back to Jefferson and continues today." 

As it turned out, Charlottesvillians were ahead of the curve in jumping on The Accountant's bandwagon. Months later, McKinnon won the Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action.

Now McKinnon pulls off the Film Fest hat trick as he returns to screen his latest, a feature-length romp called Randy and the Mob. In it, oafish would-be entrepreneur Randy Pearson (McKinnon) finds himself confronted by loan sharks and an unraveling personal life involving his homosexual twin brother (also played by McKinnon). But Pearson's small-town tunnel-vision is vastly expanded by a bizarre gangster savant, portrayed by longtime collaborator Walton Goggins.

"For somebody with as entrenched a world view as Randy," McKinnon explains, "you need somebody so far out that it blows his mind that he can widen his horizons a little bit." 

Goggins and McKinnon made a movie together as teenagers, then reunited playing fellow crack dealers on an episode of In the Heat of the Night.

"That was a bonding experience," McKinnon jokes. 

His history as an actor also allowed him to snag a southern icon for a cameo in his newest film. McKinnon co-starred with Burt Reynolds in a 2002 episode of the The X-Files, so the 50-year-old Georgian created a part in Randy specifically for the Bandit himself.

Growing up in Georgia, McKinnon says, Reynolds "was a folk hero to us because he was the Southern guy who was also the smartest guy in the movie. You never saw that. And I approached [his character] from that angle."

Once Reynolds got a look at The Accountant, he gladly signed on.

As for playing a pair of twin brothers, McKinnon says he overcame the obvious logistical problems by rehearsing heavily, and intensively memorizing his lines. 

"When it's time for the first assistant director to call ‘action,'" he says, "if you've done that amount of work, you hope you'll just fall right into the character and trust it and go.

"I also had my wife, Lisa, and Walt watching my back, and if I really sucked in a take, they'd tell me in a polite way. So that's always nice," he laughs. 

Of course, if McKinnon's history at the Film Festival is any indicator, such politesse from the festival audience should be quite unnecessary.

Ray McKinnon will screen Randy and the Mob along with wife and co-star Lisa Blount at the Paramount Theater Saturday, November 3, at 10pm.