'He nailed it in one take,' filmmaker Martin Guigui says of the current presidential hopeful's cameo appearance.

By Oliver Gettell
February 03, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Martin Guigui

A decade and a half after then-Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders appeared in a local indie movie, his cameo has finally gotten people talking.

Sanders’ portrayal of a rambling rabbi in the 1999 mockumentary My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception recently surfaced online and went viral, and EW caught up with writer-director Martin Guigui about what it was like working with the current senator and presidential candidate.

In the film, which is based on Guigui’s own experiences with an ex-girlfriend, Sanders plays Rabbi Manny Shevitz, whose wedding toast somehow meanders into a rant about the state of professional baseball.

“I remember when the Dodgers played the Yankees, and you bought a ticket — that ticket was good for 10 years,” Manny says to a befuddled audience. “Now you go to the stadium and you look out on the field: You see the Red Sox, the Orioles, the Cleveland Indians, but you don’t see the Yankees versus the Red Sox.”

“We had a blast,” Guigui says of directing Sanders. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I think he did one take — he nailed it in one take. He stuck to the script, and he knew what he wanted to do.”

Guigui grew up in Burlington, Vermont, when Sanders was mayor there, and they were acquainted through Guigui’s father, the conductor of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

“There was not a very large Jewish population in Vermont, so we did sort of congregate together,” Guigui says with a laugh. By the time Guigui started working on X-Girlfriend, his first film, Sanders had become a congressman.

“Who was I going to cast, living in Vermont?” Guigui says. “I cast people I knew, and when I was writing the rabbi role, I thought of Bernie. I thought it would be fun for him to play this part. I put other locals in the movie — Jon Fishman, the drummer from Phish, played himself. It was a really cool experience.”

Guigui does appreciate people taking notice of the film, albeit a bit behind schedule. It never screened beyond a limited run in New England, though Guigui has been planning to re-release a director’s cut, even before the Sanders clip blew up.

“I will say this,” he adds. “In the last 16 years, whenever Bernie would address Congress or make a speech, up until now I was the only guy who would watch and be waiting for him to break into his rabbi speech from the movie. Now I’m happy that can be shared with the world.”

Watch Sanders in My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception above.