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‘Mania and panic’: Actor drawn to role of sleep-deprived character in ‘Rapid Eye Movement’

François Arnaud in a scene from “Rapid Eye Movement.” (Courtesy of Rapid Eye Productions LLC)

Challenges. François Arnaud enjoys stepping out and taking them head-on.

That’s why the actor jumped on the film project “Rapid Eye Movement.”

“It was presented to me, and (director) Peter (Bishai) had initially told me that we were able to build a set in Times Square,” Arnaud says. “No one gets to do that.”

Another aspect of the film that drew Arnaud to the project is playing a character who is sleep-deprived.

“The stages of mania and panic,” he says. “I really wanted to get inside that frame of mind.”

“Rapid Eye Movement” follows New York radio DJ Rick Weider, played by Arnaud, who takes pride in championing unknown musicians.

But Weider’s insistence on playing by his own rules rankles his new corporate bosses, who will fire him if his ratings don’t improve. His only hope to save his job is to pull off a publicity stunt to quickly boost the ratings.

His solution: While broadcasting from a glass booth in Times Square, he will attempt to break the 11-day world record for staying awake, raising money for charity in the process.

The stakes rise considerably when a deranged caller threatens to kill him unless he succeeds. With his life now on the line, he begins unraveling physically, emotionally and mentally, forced to confront his own demons while trying to outplay his seemingly powerful and unbeatable enemy.

The film was released on Aug. 9 in limited theaters and is available through digital retailers.

“The actual experience was once in a lifetime,” he says. “We had this glass booth in Times Square, and we can’t stop traffic. We had to interact with the people that were walking by. The camera team was pretty discreet while filming, and anyone who entered the perimeter of filming had to sign a release. It was fascinating to see all of the unscripted reactions to what we were doing.”

François Arnaud

Although Arnaud’s character is trying to stay awake for 11 days, the actor has never been awake anywhere near that long.

“I’d say I have been awake for, like, 30 hours,” he says. “Not much longer than that. I considered trying to go without sleep for the movie. We were shooting out of order, so that wouldn’t have worked, because I would have always looked tired.”

Over the course of his career, Arnaud has definitely taken chances with productions.

He spent time in New Mexico filming “Midnight, Texas,” a supernatural series, and he says he has a bond with New Mexico.

“I was there almost for a total of a year,” he says. “I really miss everything about it. I’m sure a project will come along again in the area, and I’ll be back where I’m comfortable.”


SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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