Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Happy Birthday Mr. Beatty, Pt. 2
Where were we. Flash forward to the making of "Bulworth," which Mr. Beatty wrote and was directing and starring in. I got called to do some background work for five nights in South Central.
For anyone who doesn't know, background actors aren't treated very well in my business. They are more often than not thought of as living, breathing props that can simply be shoved into place and not afforded any consideration. Frankly, many (and I mean MANY) of the people doing background work are crazy and a lot of them make the life of a 2nd A.D. (Assistant Director) miserable. SO as a result, I suppose they get treated badly. But there are also those that act professionally and aren't crazy and unfortunately get lumped in with the rest. I was one of those (of course!)
So, I reported to set for the first night's work, camera ready and wardrobe in hand. At the time my hair was short and dark and the look was getting me quite a bit of work. It was still light outside but we were told not to go anywhere without a security escort due to the, uh, nature of the neighborhood. I went through wardrobe, where they chose an upscale suit. When the A.D. came around, I was picked as one of the cabal of reporters in the scene. Then we settled in for a looooong wait. Finally, as the sun was setting, we were all called together outside. Usually, as background, you are told little if nothing about the context of the work you are asked to do (props, remember?) But this time was different. The 1st A.D. called us all together "Our director is going run down the scene for you."
And Warren Beatty strolled over and introduced himself to the crowd. There were over 100 background that would be working for the next five nights, in the climactic scenes leading up to the end of the film. If you've seen the movie, these scenes take place in front of Halle Berry's character's family home after the press has discovered that's where Bulworth has been hiding out and with whom. Warren ran down the movie's premise and the work we'd be doing for the next week. He wanted us to be a part of the process. He gave us direction and he asked for our best. And you know, everyone (with the exception of a few too crazy to keep it together) really rose to the challenge. For five nights, we were all working together to help Mr. Beatty get what he needed. Amazing. I'm not going to lie, I was impressed. I've seen low rent directors with no track record and no pedigree treat everyone like shit.
But, it gets better...Next, the reporters were being placed in the scene. There were probably 20-30 of us. Mr. Beatty went around to each one of us. "Hi, I'm Warren, what's your name?" and he'd shake our hands and look us in the eye. Now, here's the kicker. Once you told him your name...he remembered it. And called you by it for the duration...That's how Mr. Beatty has been seducing America for years, people. By being a human being who treats every contact as one of value. For the first time, I regretted not sleeping with him. Imagine what that experience must be like!
I got my SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) card courtesy of Mr. Beatty. On the 2nd night, while blocking another piece of the scene, he threw me a line. They had hired a couple of actual reporters to speak all of the 'reporter' dialogue but he thought it seemed weird to have the rest of the reporters not speak. So we said "Marion, throw out your best question." Sadly, I can't remember what it was and it never made it into the movie but I got elevated to day player rate and got my card.
So it happened, on night four, on about hour twelve of an eighteen hour night, I found myself relating the Beverly Wilshire Hotel incident. He had no recollection of it, of course but when I told him that I had politely declined, he looked me up and down with narrowed eyes and pursed smirk. Then, as his DP called him away, he smiled and said "Good for you. Good for you."
We've crossed paths again in the last several years. And I'm happy to say, he's still that same gallant, charming, roguish, present man. And he still remembers my name...
Ah, regrets, I've had a few.