Star went undercover at John Gray High

CayFilm organizers, government officials, festival panelists and some of the cast and crew of 'Haven' gather at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Friday evening for the official gala opening of the international film festival. - PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON

Hollywood star Victor Rasuk spent a month undercover at John Gray High School years ago to prepare for his role as a lovable teenage rogue in the movie “Haven,” the actor told fans during a packed gala at the opening of the CayFilm festival.

Victor Rasuk
Victor Rasuk

Hundreds of movie fans attended Friday’s red carpet event at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, which launched a long weekend of movies, workshops and celebrity appearances.

Mr. Rasuk, who has starred in blockbusters including “Godzilla” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” participated on a panel of movie stars, including Zoe Saldana and Anthony Mackie, from the film “Haven,” written and directed by Caymanian Frank E. Flowers and shot in Grand Cayman in 2003.

He said he fell in love with the story of “Haven” after being shown the script, and he wanted to get to know the dynamics of the island and work on his Caymanian accent.

“I told Frankie, I’m coming down, two months before the movie, we’re going to make it happen.

“I lived with one of his best friends and I also enrolled in the high school [John Gray] for one month,” said Mr. Rasuk, who was 19 when the movie was shot.

“I had this whole elaborate story – ‘My family moved here from wherever, I am new in the neighborhood,’ – so I could get away with my natural accent while I was learning the Caymanian accent.”

Some of the cast of ‘Haven,’ from left, Victor Rasuk, Zoe Saldana and Anthony Mackie, join director Frank E. Flowers for a Q&A panel at the opening night of CayFilm on Friday.
Some of the cast of ‘Haven,’ from left, Victor Rasuk, Zoe Saldana and Anthony Mackie, join director Frank E. Flowers for a Q&A panel at the opening night of CayFilm on Friday.

Mr. Rasuk, who played Fritz in “Haven,” was joined by fellow stars Mr. Mackie and Ms. Saldana, as well as director Mr. Flowers for a reunion to mark the 10th anniversary of the movie’s U.S. release.

The question-and-answer session and screening of the director’s cut of the movie Friday night at The Ritz-Carlton launched the second CayFilm festival.

Mr. Rasuk’s preparation for the role was so successful that he had his fellow stars fooled.

“We thought he was Caymanian,” said Ms. Saldana, who played Andrea in the movie.

Mr. Mackie, who played Hammer, acknowledged that his own preparation was not so successful.

“I met this dude working on the movie named Dean and he was like, ‘Let me show you around.’ He would take me to this jerk chicken turtle soup place and we would sit and drink Red Stripe and play dominoes and talk with these dudes. Then I found out Dean was from Jamaica.”

A packed house at the event got new insights into how the film was made and the background of the actors, who have gone on to Hollywood stardom.

Mr. Flowers, who had gained prominence for his short movie “Swallow,” said he was driven to write his own feature-length script after being offered a roller-skating movie to direct.

“It wasn’t good,” he remembered.

“So I sat in a room and drank a bunch of Red Bull and wrote the script [for “Haven”]. I wanted to write something that was part of my life and a story that never been told.”

He said he was nervous on day one of shooting, but took inspiration from an icon of Caymanian culture.

“I remember in the first scene we shot Aunt Julia [Hydes] drumming. She was 95 years old in the sun, doing her thing, risking heat stroke. I thought, I really can’t mess this up.”