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Most of you remember Dacre Montgomery for two really big performances. Either you know him as the modern version of Jason the Red Ranger from Lionsgate’s big Power Rangers movie from several years back, or you know him as bad boy lifeguard/part time monster Billy Hargrove from the last two seasons of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Which is why, when the traditionally dramatic Australian actor found himself cast in writer/director Natalie Krinsky’s The Broken Hearts Gallery, he faced one of his greatest challenges ever: comedic improv.
In fact, this particular bar raising experience, which came from his work with Blockers and Miracle Workers star, and fellow Australian, Geraldine Viswanathan, provided Dacre Montgomery with his favorite moment of improv from the whole movie. Which, strangely enough, comes from the moment where the Broken Hearts Gallery gets its name from in the film, as Montgomery’s aspiring hotelier Nick runs into Viswanathan’s Lucy at the hotel he’s trying to get off the ground. As Montgomery recalled:
It was just such an incredible opportunity to kind of go, ‘Oh my God. I can’t improvise in an American accent’. I think the first time I noticed it, sort of vividly in my memory, is up on the balcony. You know, that first time that we had that kind of chat, up by that piece of wall. And just, we started going new places with the scene, and Geraldine [Viswanathan] was just able to pick up and go flying with it. And I think that was the first moment where I was like, ‘I need to just study and learn’. From her, from Natalie [Krinsky], from all the others like Arturo [Castro], who brought so many amazing options to every scene that I had with him. So I think that was a crucial turning point for me.
Unsurprisingly, Dacre Montgomery’s improv chops got a massive workout from early on in The Broken Hearts Gallery’s process. With the moment he described above, which all hinges on Geraldine Viswanathan’s Lucy pinning her ex-boyfriend’s tie to a blank slab of wall and labeling her entry into the gallery, Montgomery was shown that there was a lot of possibility to open up that particular moment’s comedic possibilities. Which is all the more exciting to hear about when you consider that in citing the film’s writer/director Natalie Krinsky as another improv inspiration, Dacre Montgomery’s big learning experience was all the more impressive.
As the person who wrote The Broken Hearts Gallery over a decade prior to the film’s eventual release, Natalie Krinsky would naturally be protective of her film. Doubly so, since she was given the opportunity to direct her own script by the folks at the film’s production company, No Trace Camping. But over the course of developing and rewriting the film, Krinsky noticed that while she was definitely in the position of killing her darlings at every step of the way, her goal of creating “one fabulous darling” was best achieved through a constant critical mind.
That sort of process not only opens up a writer/director to change a film that’s sat in her heart as long as The Broken Hearts Gallery has, but it also opens a talent like Natalie Krinsky to foster the collaboration with improv talents like Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery that takes a film like this to the next level. You can see some of that work on display in the film’s trailer, which features segments from that balcony scene that Montgomery cites as his unscripted awakening:
The end result of The Broken Hearts Gallery teaming its leads of complimentary skill sets leads to a chemistry that’s as impressive as it is believable throughout the course of this very modern love story. With Geraldine Viswanathan’s casting as Lucy helping add fuel to the comedic side of the equation, Dacre Montgomery’s smoldering, but kindhearted energy helps anchor her sparkling energy, which makes the film’s jump in tones more effective. It’s not a total break from his more dramatic side, for sure, but Montgomery’s big chance to play a romantic comedy lead takes in him directions you might not have thought of when recalling that time he terrorized a bunch of kids in Indiana.
For a truly hungry actor, any new experience is an opportunity to sharpen their skills. Listening to Dacre Montgomery talk about how co-starring in The Broken Hearts Gallery opened him up to the world of improv only proves that he’s one of those voracious performers who loves to learn, and enjoys sharing his recollection of the process. It’s one of the reasons that romantic comedy fans, old and new, should check out The Broken Hearts Gallery, besides, of course, Mr. Montgomery's further mastery of a pretty seamless American accent. If theaters are open in your area, and you feel safe enough to venture back to the movies, the gallery is open today.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage on this debuting rom-com with a big, neon, improvisational heart; and check out our 2020 release schedule below to see what else is on the horizon in your theatrical future.