Before the high school shooting tragedy at Columbine entered the lexicon of American horrors, playwright William Mastronsimone's sons were sent home from school because someone had written the hideous threat, "I'm going to kill everybody in the class" on a blackboard. Mr. Mastronsimone responded in the best way he knew how, by using his art form - the play - to communicate to students, teachers and parents the very real and personal pain of violence in our society. This was the birth of "Bang Bang You’re Dead" - a profound piece of theatre that in less than two years has become the most produced American play ever.

Randy Harrison and castmates in "Bang Bang You're Dead"

Made for Television

In 2001, Vancouver-based Legacy Filmworks produced the television movie based on the play. Randy Harrison plays Sean, a bad high school student and potential shooter in the film. Earlier this year, when questioned about his role by Michael Musto of the Village Voice, Randy expressed his excitement at playing against-type, and not potraying a victim. "But that's how people like to see me best. I'm accident-prone," he said. At that very moment, Randy all too perfectly knocked over some contraption by the cash register where he was standing. "A victimizer?" Michael asked. "A victimizer!" Randy said triumphantly.

Randy Harrison in "Bang Bang You're Dead"


Trevor Adams (Ben Foster) is an atypical student at a typical American high school. Bright and articulate, he is nevertheless perceived as an outsider by his classmates and "at risk" of violence by school authorities for having made a bomb threat against the football team.

Val Duncan (Tom Cavanagh), the school's charismatic young drama teacher, recognizes Trevor's potential for creativity as well as violence. He offers him the lead role in a controversial new play, "Bang Bang You're Dead," the story of a teenager who loses his way in life and resorts to murder. Reluctant to expose himself to more mockery, Trevor is about to decline until Jenny (Jane McGregor), an attractive new girl in school, agrees to play the female lead.

In a school factionalized by cliques, Trevor is befriended by a subversive group called the Trogs, who challenge the popular jocks' sense of self-entitlement and supremacy. The conflict between the Trogs, who are led by Sean (Randy Harrison), and the jocks quickly escalates as pranks turn to dangerous provocations.

The TV movie aired on Showtime in October 2002.

Executive Producer: William Mastrosimone
Executive Producer: Norman Stephens
Producer: Paul Hellerman
Producer: Deboragh Gabler
Director: Guy Ferland
Production Designer: Jill Scott
Art Director: Liz Goldwyn
Cast: Thomas Cavanagh, Ben Foster, Randy Harrison, Janel Moloney, Jane McGregor, Gillian Barber, Kristian Ayre, Brent Glenen, David Paetkau, Eric Johnson, Eric Keenleyside, Glynis Davies.

"Bang Bang You're Dead" was screened at the 28th annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) on June 7, 15 and 16, 2002, and was the 2nd place runner-up in the best-picture category at the Golden Space Needle Awards, voted on by festival audiences. SIFF logo

BBYD also won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 7th Annual Nantucket Film Festival, held in Massachussetts. The film was screened on Saturday, June 22. Winners receive a plaque honoring their achievement, prestigious press and industry exposure, and Kodak Film Stock.

The following excerpts are from a review courtesy of Jenny Jo of the AmericanQAF fan group on Yahoo.com:

"I saw BBYD at the Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday (the last day of the festival), and it was amazing. Very well scripted, as well as acted. Randy Harrison wasn't in it as much as I was expecting, but he was in it quite a bit. And his performance was brilliant, along with the rest of the acting. Also, Randy's character, Sean, in some ways isn't all that different from Justin [on Queer As Folk]. There are some obvious dissimilarities, but you'll have to see what I mean when you check out this film.

This movie was thought provoking, intense, and really helped me to understand the mentality of the kids who are so tormented at school that they feel the need to resort to violence.

If you have a local film festival near you where Bang Bang You're Dead is playing, I strongly suggest you go. Or, if not, it's going to premiere on Showtime, October 13th. Also, according to the director (who was there, along with actor Ben Foster), they're going to try to find a distributor, for a wide release."

"Bang Bang You're Dead" is meant to open up a dialogue on the problem of school violence. The story is centered on Josh, a teenager who has caused the death of his classmates and teacher. Josh is awaiting prosecution in a jail cell. he is awakened by five of his victims: Michael, a member of the baseball team; Katie, Josh's popular girlfriend; Matt, and Jessie, innocent bystanders; and Emily, Josh's long time friend and neighbor.

The deceased victims serve as wailing voices in Josh's head. They continually torment Josh with their constant questioning of "why me". Although Josh tries to ignore them, they persist in their quest to find out "why"? Through the use of flashback, Josh relives the events leading up to the fateful day.

Josh has the typical teenage problems, but he interprets them differently, and lashes out at the people he holds responsible for his problems. By the end of the play, Josh cannot give the victims an answer to their pleas of "why". The bast he can do is to compare his actions to wining a video game. He states, "I didn't know it would be forever...when I killed you, I killed all my possibilities....is this the rest of my life?"

Mr. Mastrosimone recognizes that the play isn't the answer to school violence, but it can serve to "open a discussion, an insight, a revelation that may lead to the answer. We know that potential killers fire a warning shot. Sometimes the warning shots are a cry for help. We all need to listen harder and better." Bang Bang You're Dead is meant to serve as the vehicle for that discussion.

Randy is on the left, wearing the baseball cap

An excerpt from the article "Acting On Impulse" by Rich Shea, dated Saturday, May 19, 2001, from Surrey, British Columbia:

It's Day 12 of a 20-day shoot for Bang Bang You're Dead, the movie, and Randy Harrison, the actor who plays Sean, a potential high school shooter, is preparing to be dunked in a toilet. The brand-new porcelain bowl, purchased specifically for this scene (and for the sake of Harrison’s hygiene), has been installed in one of the restrooms at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, a 1,600-student facility located 15 miles east of Vancouver.

Showtime is considering airing the film in fall 2001, but the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent war will ultimately move the date to fall 2002. Bang Bang, meanwhile, is being shot in Canada because Vancouver is considered a low-rent version of Hollywood. The American dollar is strong, film crews are cheap, and the infrastructure - equipment and studios - is dependable. Greater Vancouver, a region blessed with lakes, beaches, snowcapped mountains, and, most important for this project, American-looking suburban schools, also offers plenty of locations. And this time of year, with temperatures in the 60s and the gardens of local parks in bloom, it’s quite pretty.

But pretty doesn't help Harrison, who’s hanging upside down, his head just inches from the open toilet.

"OK, ready guys?" the director, Guy Ferland, asks. "And . . . action!"

Down goes Harrison, who's held tightly by three actors playing jocks who’ve just cornered him in the bathroom. As they cackle and flush the toilet, using his head as a plunger, Harrison emits muffled cries. Finally, after about 30 seconds, the "swirly" session is over. "OK, cut!" Ferland yells from the hallway, where he’s been watching the scene - along with the film’s executive producers, Mastrosimone and Norman Stephens - on a video monitor. "Fantastic, guys!" Harrison exits the bathroom, a towel over his shoulder, an egg-sized lump on his forehead; it seems he banged his noggin on the lip of the bowl. So ice is applied, then makeup, and - voilà! - he's ready for another close-up.

Read more about Randy Harrison in the play A Letter From Ethel Kennedy at the MCC Theatre in New York.

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