By Amy Kaufman
2:54 PM EDT, July 15, 2013
As the shock of Cory Monteith’s sudden death began to settle in Monday, tributes to the “Glee” star started trickling in from all corners of Hollywood.
Many who encountered the 31-year-old offered their thoughts on Monteith, who they described as the kind of actor who actually seemed engaged at typically boring media events; a man madly in love with his girlfriend, co-star Lea Michele; and a person struggling with addiction but open about it.
One of those people, filmmaker Gia Milani, had her own favorable experience with the actor. In a television interview years ago, Milani found Monteith so endearing that she began to consider casting him in her independent film.
“He was so down to earth, open, honest and vulnerable,” Milani wrote in an e-mail Sunday, recalling watching the actor on the Canadian program “George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.”
So she reached out to Monteith, and soon he had landed a part in her drama “All the Wrong Reasons,” filmed last summer. In the movie, which does not yet have a release date, Monteith plays James, the ambitious manager of a big box department store who is struggling to help his wife (Karine Vanasse) deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He juggled his “Glee” responsibilities in Los Angeles while shooting Milani’s movie in Canada, frequently flying from coast-to-coast. Despite the travel, he never showed his fatigue, the director said.
“The cast and crew adored him,” she said. “Sometimes he would sneak out and hide behind the crew vans and surprise his fans who had discovered where we were shooting and would gather, hoping for a glimpse.”
On set, Monteith tried to maintain a lighthearted attitude, often pranking those around him. On the last day of shooting, he revealed to Milani that he had secretly hidden his black Ray-Ban sunglasses in the background of every scene he was in.
He said he “would point them out to me when we got to do commentary on the DVD. I thought that was a riot,” the filmmaker said.
After wrapping “All the Wrong Reasons” in August, Monteith would travel to Philadelphia a month later to tackle darker fare in “McCanick,” in which he plays a drug-addled criminal. But he showed a more dramatic side on Milani’s film as well, she said, pushing himself past the easygoing Finn Hudson so many recognized him for on “Glee.”
“I was impressed with Cory’s ability to embody my flawed character, and I am fiercely proud of Cory’s performance,” Milani said, adding that she and the actor watched the finished film a few weeks ago in Los Angeles. “I am grateful I got to see him then. It doesn’t feel real that he’s gone.”
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