Thursday, September 4, 2008

MR. DeMILLE, I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP

I take it back. All the things I said. Every single word. Maybe there's hope for me, after all.

What in the world am I talking about? Let me explain. Yesterday, I went on another audition. This time, there were no naked babies, no products to hawk. They were casting a movie called Visitor, about Gabriel Liberman, an Argentine man attempting to enter the United States illegally. My character, Frank, an airport police official, had only a few lines. I did three takes, with assistants to the director standing in for the other two characters in the scene. I opened to lukewarm reviews. 

"Good. But less sympathetic," the director instructed. So I turned on the scowl for take two. The director's critique: "Good. Let's do it again, not smiling like the first time, but not so mean. You should be somewhere in-between." Got it. Take three: I acted my butt off, trying to nail that middle ground. The director smiled and nodded. "Very good," he said. I thought he was just being polite. He clearly liked me, but I could tell that he felt there was still untapped potential.

Then he had an idea. He wanted me to try a different role, another police official but this one colder and more matter-of-fact. In this scene, I would be inspecting Liberman's bag, and despite Liberman's protestations, I'd insist on confiscating the contents inside until his release from custody. This time, we'd improvise the dialogue. Oh, dear, I thought. How'd I get myself into this?

Action! I huffed and puffed my way through the scene, being as nasty as I wanted to be. For inspiration, I thought about real-life airport security personnel, those guys and dragon queens we usually dismiss as being so surly because they hate their jobs. I entered Method mode. Daniel Day-Lewis I'm not, but I gave it my best shot. "That was great," the director said after we'd finished. "Your acting was very natural and realistic." He gave a few technical instructions for one final take. I turned up the iciness and topped off the scene with the most intimidating "Take him away" that I could muster. "Perfect. I loved it," he said after we'd finished. "I like you a lot better in that part than in the other one." Hmm... Does that mean I'd forever play the jerk? If so, bring it on. As Olivia de Havilland's Catherine said in the 1949 film The Heiress, "I can be very cruel. I've been taught by masters."

The director seemed genuinely pleased. Although he raved about my look, which I assumed must be perfect for the movie, he asked, in Spanish, if I'd be willing to alter my appearance (Beard? Mustache? Yikes!) and if I'd still be in Buenos Aires from January to March of 2009, which is when the movie will be filmed. "," I responded, wondering if I actually had a chance of getting the job. I figured that he must have liked me, or he wouldn't have wasted five takes on me.

Regardless of how it turns out, I have no intention of giving up my day job (which, at the moment for this freelance scribe, is nothing in particular). But despite my previous thespian misadventures, I think I might love acting (just skip the script and let me improvise). I feel like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, ready for my close-up. Poor Cecil B. DeMille must be tossing and turning in his grave!
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