Both photos taken moments after I spoke my first couple of lines in a Movie after a slight 29 year Hiatus…this is a continuation of my previous blog called:
Last night I won the ‘Extra Background Atmosphere Player Award’. It’s like the Lottery …but instead of millions you get a Small Part in a Big Movie. It is a thrilling moment to speak out loud on a Hollywood Set and be praised instead of shushed. And you get Applause, an ‘Upgrade Principal Actor Contract’, and yes you get 10 times more money than usual and Residual Checks for the rest of your life (that start out big and peter out to pennies). ‘Plus 10%’ whether or not you have a Theatrical Agent. I don’t (ka-ching). And most everyone is really truly happy for you except the ones who aren’t…jealous much.
This was my 5th and last day on this Film. Over a 100 of the same Extras (Large Call) on-and-off for weeks so most of us know each other well. Lots of wonderful Pros and a favorite Casting Agent we all adore. Wardrobe had us all line-up and the Head Gal said to me “You have great taste. I bought a tie for you to wear in the last ‘Wrap Party’ scene tonight. Make sure someone gets you the ‘Rooster Tie’. They’ll know, it has the Flat End.” After she walked away I turn to my buddies still awaiting approval and say “Excuse me but I have to go Make-Up because I have great taste.”
The day flys by and I keep getting picked by the friendly 2nd AD Team to do various bits as a Fake ‘Trendy Gay Costumer’ (and since I knew all the Real Wardrobe Costumers they kept giving me tips on ‘What to do On-Camera’ to look legit). Note to Lint Remover Users….roll down not up. And for goodness sake when dealing with Prom Dresses on Professional Dancers, Fluff their Bows in the back don’t straighten them or I will walk you off this Sound Stage. I will.
12 hours and three costume changes later we are led back to the Stage for the Big Last Scene. We’re shooting a giant Wrap Party on this Fake ‘Not GLEE but Gosh Darn Close’ Spoof TV Show within a Movie Show and have been told that Real Food will be used and we can actually eat it (but only when filming). The Major Director of the Biggest Comedy Franchise in History (take that for a hint) is beloved on set (Wikipedia lists him under ‘such a Mensch’). He wants to see people really eating. Yippee! I grab my pal Steve in Wardrobe and ask politely for my ‘Rooster Tie’ please. It goes great with my new short sleeve collared yellow & this season’s purple plaid shirt that my Boyfriend’s wonderful Mother got for my birthday. Everyone complements me and I hear murmurs from the Extras behind me spreading the word that the Award Winning Wardrobe Head bought this just for me. I’m placed in the back of the crowd with a beautiful friend playing a Fake Make-Up Girl. She tells me she wants to do more acting less extra work.
While my buddy the Lead Star Stand-In is being lit, the Director makes an announcement. “I want the Guy with the Tie and That Girl” (cue music). He says to bring them up close so the Star walks by ’em. There is a hush around me. The Director tells us both “When The Big Star walks up, grab his hand and congratulate him for the success of his Great Script.” (I’m calling him The Big Star in this blog but The Big Director calls him by his Real Name!) For the first time in my life a Male Star who defines Tall Dreamy Hipper than You Young Leading Man appears & is rehearsing shaking my hand. He is very good at it. I smile and politely say “congratulations”. Lovely Fake Make-Up Girl turns beet red and walks away to check on her coat (I know, what was that about?). The Star says under his breath “Great commitment to Role guys.” I get it. (Cue music crescendo!) He’s saying ‘go for it’. I am very grateful for his concise funny honest constructive direction. He has done us a huge favor. I grab The Girl, did she hear what The Star said? I explain. This is our chance…our one special moment (cue music again). We’ve got to go out there and be Extras but we’ve got to come back Principals. She nods and understands we really have to be the Crew Folks congratulating the Successful Writer. She gets it.
Real Make-Up People I already know surround me. They are proud and want me to do great. Well wishers. I have to lean down so they can reach me and powder me and make me look pretty Momma. Begone Shiny Dome & thanks to Max Factor my shaved head is a lovely palate of youthful splendor (okay I exaggerate but excuse me for living it to the hilts…this is how it really happens folks out here in HollywoodLand). Many friends whisper “good luck John. You can do it.” I look down at my wine glass filled with Canada Dry and notice it is not shaking. I am not nervous. I know what I have to do and know I can do it. This moment is an affirmation what I have been doing leading me to back to this. I know I am never going to work in an office again and will instead do what I love which is being on-set. Show business is my life. News Flash – Hold the Back Page.
I close my eyes and am walking onto this very sound stage as a child seeing BONANZA filmed and still feeling the wonder now that is Movie Making. I ask the 2nd AD what is the Male Star’s Character’s name? “Michael.” She reminds me to Pantomime the words not actually say them. I know that the Director instructed me to speak the lines. But 2nd AD is great to work with and she is my Direct Supervisor. During our next rehearsal I mime the words, as instructed. The Director shouts “I want him to SAY THE LINES.” People start running up to me…”Upgrade! You’ve been Upgraded!” Several people from Wardrobe start straightening my tie and shirt and more Make-Up and powder are applied by a team surrounding Fake Make-Up Girl and me. I am very calm and focused and feel extremely joyful, Extra Lucky and ready for my close up Mister Demille. The 1st AD who does not speak to Extras unless the building is on fire comes up to me and calls me “Kid”. He reads me the dialogue for the scene and tells me my cue is after Blond Girlfriend finishes her last line. I am to Pantomime the beginning of my conversation with Male Star and then when Blond walks by finishing her bit I start talking for real. “Wait for your Cue” he says.
They finish loading the camera.
“Quiet. Quiet on the Set. Rolling. Sound! Picture! Everybody!”
Camera pans large Wrap Party on a Hollywood Sound Stage. Standing by the food is World Famous Rap Star (being played by a World Famous Rap Star…who has been charmingly picking up every beautiful girl on-set all day. Everyone loves him). He is the Male Star’s Best Friend. The Gorgeous Blond Actress/Girlfriend jokes to her Producer that he never writes Big Musicals for her anymore. Waaaaah.
Enter Male Star walking past Wardrobe/Make-Up Team.
“Michael, congratulations on your great script”
“Naaah. You guys did the work.”
“Hey… You made it happen!”
Male Star sheepishly looks adorably humble shaking his head as he bananas through crowd toward friends.
The Cameraman says out loud “He was like a Principal.” I gasp. 1st AD slaps me on the back “Perfect Kid. Do it again like that. Great.” They like me.
Take Two timing is a bit faster and I only get one line out before Male Star walks by but I am told I was again perfect. They really like me. 99 Background Performers are asked to exit the Stage and wait outside. I am kept behind and told where and what to do to fill out my Contract. I exit the Stage to the crowd of Extras who applaud and hug me and tell me that since it didn’t happen to them they are glad it happened to me. “You deserve it!” is said over and over. Everyone is generous and honestly happy for me. It is one of the most exciting moments of my life. You can’t write this stuff…oh wait I am. But I am living it luckily…
“I’d like to thank the Academy Members, my Director, the Hot Star, Wardrobe, Make-Up, Cher’s Stand-In Stunt Dance Double (yeah I know her, she’s really cool & afterwards she hugged me twice & said “hi” to Lucky my dog), my boyfriend’s Mom for the great shirt and to all my fellow supportive Background Performers…not only my true friends but particularly the jealous bitches who tried unsuccessfully to steal my magic thunder.”
How interesting when you don’t take things personally that others say — being too busy floating on a cloud of Hollywood Glamour helps a lot, trust me. Moments after My Big Moment some lump-head says “Days ago I was asked to be a Costumer and I said no, so it really should have been me not you…just kidding.” Ahhhh no you’re not. The tall aging stand-offish platinum blond chick who’d spent 3 days talking to me while never looking up texting begrudgingly mumbled “congratulations.” But my friends (of which I have many) hugged and kissed me and were thrilled. Fake Make Up Girl was upset that she didn’t jump at this chance and also speak a line (which she had been instructed to do but only she knows why she didn’t). She was a doll afterwards and I felt for her but when fate gives you the chance you gotta grab life by the …oh you get my point. She sweetly said she hopes being this close to it brings her another chance. Many said the same thing. Some of the Extras I know shyly came up later to say it had been thrilling to see me do so well and they hoped they’d too be ready when their moment came.
It’s been 29 years since my last Upgrade. In 1981 I was in the First Major Big-Budgeted Gay Themed Hollywood Studio Film called MAKING LOVE (this was 25 years before BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN thank you). I played ‘Young Gay Man in Bar #3’ (yes yes I know Type Casting…ha ha hold your comments people for below). I got to ask Harry Hamlin “Hey Bart. Going to the Party Saturday Night?” Let’s hope it’s not another 29 years…
My Newbie Extra Pal said “John you made bank!” Yes I got a lot of money for this and that is exciting. However that is not what this was about for me. Long after everyone had been released and I had signed my Contract I went back to the Empty Sound Stage where ‘Holding’ was and got my stuff (& where Dad’s BRADY BUNCH was shot). One of my favorite things is to walk through the empty Studio Lots at night back to my car. It is a protected environment and very safe yet you stroll through New York City Sets and turn corners onto Western or European Streets that Gloria Swanson walked on in 1925. I was beaming and so happy walking past the massive Empty Lake Tank with the Sky Blue and Billowy Cloud Back Drop. Time to leave the Studio to drive home after a marvelous day. Touch wood.
Now I hold my breath by their Editing Room Door listening for my 2-Line Bit to hit the Floor. Cross your fingers the kid stays in the picture when it is released next Spring.
P.S. Just between you and me… so keep your big cake hole shut, okay? My first couple of days on this same above movie can be checked out in my blog archives called:
‘Lucky Starr…the Movie Dog’
Don’t tell anyone. I mean it.
Fine. Spread it around. Happy now?
You’d better delete my email address before you forward this or else. No. Wait. Stop.