It has been a very long time since I have giggled my way through a movie! ...This was one of them again.
The movie Dill Scallion is a comedy mockumentary about the school bus driver/country singer Dill Scallion (Billy Burke) who is discovered at a local country song contest in Texas and gets to travel all the way to Nashville, Tennessee, to record a jingle for a commercial. Several other things happen there coincidentally and Dill Scallion and his new band The Dillionaires become an overnight sensation in the country music scene.
Now, y'all know how much I love Billy Burke's voice. And while there is no new Burke music in sight yet, I am doing everything I can to survive with what I have. Whenever I need a "fix", I watch one of his movies.
A few weeks ago I didn't know anything about this movie apart from one image I had seen on IMDb. It sports Billy Burke in cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, sideburns and a Stetson... and I instantly refused to watch that movie! Don't ask me why, something about him as a cowboy just repelled me.
I said that the ONLY thing that might convince me to watch that movie - at all - would be if Dill sings. Then Billy told me that Dill actually DOES sing (...d'oh...) so I finally gave in and ordered the DVD from the US.
To begin with: three important things about Billy Burke in this movie.
Yes, the man sings! A lot!
He talks with a Texas accent... it's a little over-the-top, on purpose, but it's charming. And this accent is probably the thing that made me giggle the most. (He can sound so wonderfully "sincere"... as those country boys often do.)
Looooong sideburns! And Jimmy Dean (or maybe Elvis) hair. Takes just a little getting used to but then it looks f'ing good on him, even - or especially - when it's all messed up. Combined with the hat and boots... handsome!
(For all you Chuck Swan fans out there: No 'stache or other facial hair, though... sorry!)
According to the making-of (and I'm still not sure if that is true or just belongs to the movie's idea) the movie had a low budget and they couldn't afford to set up huge concerts and stuff. So they basically just recruited some actors who could sing, put them on a tour bus and filmed them while they "faked" their way into the country music scene and into some gigs and festivals.
The documentary style and the necessity to convince people that Dill Scallion and the Dillionaires were just a normal country music band, gives the whole thing a very nice personal touch and a hands-on feeling, almost "Blair Witch"-esque (but without the snot and the scares).
I guess the filmmakers were happy, because Billy Burke is all but perfect for this role. He's not only got the voice, got the accent down and looks good with that hair, but he also has that wonderful down-to-earth feel to him that makes Dill so likeable in the beginning (and the end).
But most importantly Billy is just crazy enough (sorry, B!) to walk out onto real-life stages, play/sing those songs AND halfway make a fool of himself doing the Scallion Shuffle (Dill's signature "dance") in front of thousands of people... live and for real!
He's even cool enough to stick to that role when faced with country music legend Willie Nelson... he stayed in character and actually let the man sign a t-shirt to Dill Scallion.
I don't know if Billy Burke is plain fearless, or if that IS actually fear showing in his eyes when his girlfriend in the movie gives him a last kiss before he walks (limps... with a broken foot... watch the movie, it's too much to explain!) out onto the stage at the legendary Country Music WE Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
In any case, fearless or not: KUDOS, man!
(By the way: if you doubt the authenticity of those gigs, compare the footage from WE Fest in the movie - the stage's background decoration, Willie Nelson signing autographs, the handprints - to this video from the '97 Country Music WE Fest...)
The rest of the cast are equally cool: David Koechner plays Bubba Pearl, Dill's likeable sidekick (for lack of a better word), who keeps up the moral and the good spirit in the band but is constantly bickering with Dill's girlfriend Kristie Sue, played by Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham.
Famous guest appearances include Willie Nelson as himself, LeAnn Rimes as herself and Jason Priestley as country music producer and contest judge Jo Joe Hicks.
And the biggest part of the movie is of course country music. The country songs performed by Dill were written by Sheryl Crow and all songs "take country music’s cheating wife/dead dog/battered pickup truck aesthetics to hilarious extremes" as Film Threat so nicely put it.
Now let's get back to me raving about Billy Burke a little...
My favorite scenes:
- Early on in the movie Dill sings some lines from a new song he's been thinking up while he's fixing the roof of the trailer he's living in. There is no music, just Billy in blue work pants and a white t-shirt, singing... pure and simple.
And then, sitting on the roof of that trailer, he says probably the most important line in the movie (letting Dill say that probably oozes with sarcasm... but the literal meaning fits Billy so nicely):
"I have a gift, a God-given gift. It's my responsibility to put that out there, give it to the people. No matter what the sacrifice."
Dill Scallion/Billy Burke
- The next one is Dill and the others recording their song "You Shared You" in the studio. Mostly the camera is on Billy and you see him really working there, singing those lines. I just LOVE to hear and see that man sing! Can't help it.
- Their gig at the '97 Country Music WE Fest is definitely among my favorite scenes... For several reasons! Billy having the guts to perform there at all is just one of them.
My absolute favorite:
- Dill and his Dillionaires on a tour bus (Billy doesn't seem to be all that much in character, only the sideburns and the accent remain. The hair is his rather usual mess, he's only wearing a white t-shirt and chewing some gum) sit together and play a song called the "Tube Top Boogie".
One of the guys playing keyboard, two others playing guitar and Billy lays down a rhythm on some bongo drums and sings. (Some nice close-ups of Billy singing here...)
Also this scene looks so little like acting. You might just as well be sitting there with them while they were rehearsing for a scene or just jamming after a day's work.
And one last scene:
On their way back home/down toward the end of the movie, Dill sits outside the tour bus at a truck stop in that unspeakable green rhinestone suit with his guitar and sings the song "Washed Up". His hair's all messed up (looks like Billy's natural curls are coming through there in the end...) and then that smirk when the reporters who have stuck with him through the good and bad times suddenly start to sing with him.
So, "Dill Scallion" might well have become one of my new favorite movies... which isn't really that surprising given the amount of "singing Billy" it contains. And I guess this one will get me through the long, hard and musically lonely (*sigh* ;)) period of waiting for the next Billy Burke CD... Still, hurry up, B, please!
And last but not least... I'd like to add a little more to your impression of Dill Scallion/Billy Burke with those incredible sideburns and that crazy hair. For the accent and to hear him sing you'll just have to buy the DVD. Or - and that wasn't available when I ordered my DVD - Amazon offers the movie as "instant video".
And to put a nice end to this line of pictures and this post... Billy Burke alias Dill Scallion in his underwear:
"I still think that the big guy upstairs put me on this earth to enrich people's lives with my music."
Dill Scallion/Billy Burke
... Indeed, he did!