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Bill Pullman joins fruit fanatics in ‘Fruit Hunters’

Docu screens in Berlin's Culinary Cinema section Monday

Bill Pullman had just learned he needed to fly to New York to appear on Broadway in “The Other Place,” but first, there were limes to juice.

His lime trees were ready to harvest, so the thesp spent 45 minutes attending to the fruit before jumping into trip preparations.

Pullman has been acting since college, but the veteran of films including “Lost Highway” and “Independence Day” has been growing fruit even longer, ever since he planted apple trees as a teenager.

Pullman is just one of the fruit-obsessed folks featured in the doc “The Fruit Hunters,” making its European premiere today in Berlin’s Culinary Cinema sidebar. The doc was acquired for North American distribution by Cinedigm.

Canadian helmer Yung Chang (“Up the Yangtze”) was inspired to tell the juicy story of these obsessives by the non-fiction tome “The Fruit Hunters.” “I felt it would be an interesting challenge to try to synthesize the ideas in the book into a movie, and find out if these places really existed,” said Chang.

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The doc looks at the growers who cultivate little-known species from Hawaii to Florida, as well as explorers who penetrate the deepest Borneo jungle to find trophy fruits that are unlikely to be for sale at even the most epicurean-skewing farmers’ market.

The opening title sequence is particularly eye-catching, with otherworldly fruits such as ice cream beans and nipple fruit spinning on fishing line. “Those moments are inspired by pure frenzied release into the world of fruit,” said Chang.

Made on a budget of approximately $1.8 million with funds from Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and Canadian Broadcasting, “Fruit Hunters” had its U.S. premiere at the Palm Springs Film Festival in January and after Berlin will screen at the Paris Film Festival.

While eccentric nursery owners and other fruit fanatics prove to be colorful subjects, Pullman and his Hollywood Orchard are at the center of the film. The actor, who currently appears in NBC comedy “1600 Penn,” lives in Los Angeles’ Beachwood Canyon, just below the Hollywood sign, where his close-knit neighbors trade fruit from their gardens, hold community potlucks and even mount a trombone concert, hoping to raise money to buy a plot of communal land.

“They keep it grounded, they knit that community together,” said Montreal-based Chang. “It’s kind of a throwback.”

The actor enjoys relaxing with his fruit trees after a hectic day on the set. “Just knowing there’s going to be a break, and I’ll get into the orchard — it’s a natural instinct to get the white noise out of your head, and spend some sustained hours away from everything,” said Pullman.

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