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Butt’s ‘No Clue’ pays humorous homage to murder mysteries

July 2, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

Brent Butt and Amy Smart in the film "No Clue."
Reminder Publications submitted photo

You may not know his name, but if you give his new movie a chance you may find out what Canadians have known for years: Brent Butt is a very funny guy.

The comedian and writer’s first feature film “No Clue” was recently released on DVD (the film was recently reviewed positively in Reminder Publications) and in a interview from his home in Vancouver, Butt said the film is about a “regular Joe in over his head – there’s no hiding it.”

Butt played Leo, a salesman who owns an advertising specialties company who is mistaken by a beautiful young woman, Kyra (Amy Smart), as a private detective. Leo is instantly smitten and can’t bear to tell the woman the truth.

When writing the film, which is both a legitimate mystery and a comedy, Butt said, “I kept a question in mind: how far can you swim when you’re thrown into the middle of the ocean? That’s what happens to Leo in ‘No Clue.’ He doesn’t have the option of bailing out.”

After establishing himself as a stand-up comic, Butt created and starred in the most successful Canadian sitcom to date, “Corner Gas.” The show reflected the lives of small town eccentrics living in the plains of Saskatchewan.

Making the jump to a feature film, and a mystery at that, required a different way of storytelling.

“It’s tricky,” Butt said. “You have to make sure it [the story] holds water.”

Butt described himself as “big fan of the genre” and spoke of Ellery Queen, the author of the long-running detective series of the same name. He said Queen  – the pseudonym for the team of two cousins who wrote the stories – always wrote about “fair play.”

Butt explained, “You couldn’t spring something on an audience as a resolution.”

He made sure the clues to solving the mysteries were there before the audience as well as his characters.

He said he “took my time with it” and wrote the script over a span of several years. Butt commented he has a friend who is fascinated by con artists and their grifts and would show him the script in progress to make sure the story worked.

Butt said he worked in the same way when writing episodes of “Corner Gas” by writing ideas on sticky notes and putting them on the wall. He said the script for the film “was a different kind of animal.”

He called himself “essentially a playwright” writing stories with people talking and he had to make sure the film’s script wasn’t “flat” and had action.

The film does have some action and in one scene Butt performed a stunt of jumping off a yacht into cold water.

“I didn’t think I was going to be the guy doing it,” he said with a laugh. When asked if there was more than one take, he replied, “There was only going to be one take.”

He added that director Carl Bessai saved the shot for the end of the shooting schedule “in case I didn’t survive.”

He said he was proud and excited to do it, but even with a wet suit under his clothes the water was still “pretty frosty.”

Butt noted that Bessai “nailed” the film noir qualities of the story.

“It’s a homage to dark gritty murder mysteries,” he added.

When this writer congratulated Butt for having the restraint not to have a love scene between Leo and Kyra, he laughed and said, “I like to think she resisted!”

He said that he wanted the film to be realistic and that while the audience could accept Leo being attracted and manipulated by her, a romantic relationship would be “stretching the boundaries.”

Butt is currently preparing a feature film version of “Corner Gas.” The entire cast is returning as well as several of the writers.

“The feedback on the script has been very, very positive,” he said, which he added has taken more than two years to write.

Butt said that he does feel some pressure, though, on a feature film version as the show was the first Canadian comedy show that was reached the top of the ratings.

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