Sunday, November 20, 2005

September part 2

Today was more of the same, in the same location, same wardrobe, same makeup (although I got spattered with fake blood today and not yesterday). I was less tired today, since I got some real sleep last night, but they worked me harder. We started a lot earlier than yesterday, and Stone shot many, many takes of the same action as yesterday. I'd say I stumbled around, confused and dirty, for thirty takes today.

Nicolas Cage was indeed on the set today, and I was told that he was there yesterday too, though he was hard to recognise. The man seems to have lost a great deal of weight for the role (either that or he's just starting to gain it back from playing the skeletal motorcyclist in GHOST RIDER) and had a moustache. I was able to watch him psyche himself up for a performance (he jogged in place quite a bit), but didn't get a chance to talk to him.

Oliver Stone was wearing bright red today rather than pink. I had no interaction with the man, though I did bump into him yesterday, leaving something of a grey smudge on that hot pink shirt of his. Have I mentioned that I may be the least-coordinated human being on the planet?*

A guy named Nick, a police officer in Santa Monica, acted with me, guiding me through the crowd, and he was a real professional and a darn nice guy. He wants to do screenwriting, but can't get through his first script. But he has a black belt and is proficient with nunchucks.

Not much of note happened today. I did only the one scene, just shot from different angles and managed to keep most of the makeup and soot on my hands and face, though it itched and irritated my nose a little more today.

After a while, I just sat in holding (the sort of waiting/rest area for extras) and read my book (getting it supremely filthy in the process) and chatted with others (an Israeli and a German). I got into a discussion about Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, since it comes out on DVD on Tuesday with the guy from Israel. I really didn't like the film (to make a long story short: my face still hurts from that slap of an ending), but the friend I saw it with just thought it was so darn fine that it must have been my own black, corroded soul that tainted it for me. So I'm honestly curious what others thought of it.

As we were talking, a small, middle-aged woman spoke up. She plays an alien on the TV show "Invasion" and said that she refused to see WAR OF THE WORLDS for personal reasons. She then told us about Tom Cruise's crazed Scientology antics, how badly the extras were treated on set, and how he's another in a long line of homosexuals set up with starlets by managers and/or publicity teams. Clearly running the show now, she told us she had asked her agency not to book her on WAR OF THE WORLDS, and wished they had not booked her on this particular movie either.

"Oh, is Oliver Stone a gay Scientologist?" someone (might've been me) asked her.

The woman told us her reasons: she was from New York, had lived through September 11th, and out of respect for those who gave their lives and those survivors whose lives were torn apart from the events of that day, she didn't want to work on the movie. Not giving me a chance to ask her to clarify, she began to cry, telling us she was sorry to be there, where people were capitalising on the tragedy, but was booked on the gig before she had a chance to turn it down.

Well, I didn't wish to upset her further, so I let her change the subject to the opening of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and the part where the kids hide in the outhouse in SCHINDLER'S LIST, and then the German guy interrupted her to talk about the historical inaccuracies in those films, and how the World War II-era Germans weren't all evil, and how the Russians were the real bad guys. Somewhere in there, I got up and went in the other room, preferring to read my book.

But afterward, when it was time to go home, and all the sooty and/or injured extras were sitting together, I mentioned what she had said to the others, wondering if any of them knew what she meant about being sorry she was there, and the disrespect this film showed to those who perished on that awful day.

I honestly don't know what she meant. I mean, movies are where we (Americans, at least) get our history, even more than classes, fever dreams, and Time/Life books. The vast majority of what we know about the Old West, the Great Depression, and the Dark Ages comes from movies, same with World War II, and do you think 90% of people under twenty-five would even know what The H.M.S. Titanic was without James Cameron's movie? I remember taking my little sister to see PEARL HARBOR a few years back, and afterward, she said, "Did that really happen?" I explained that yes, FDR really did stand up, kids really were playing baseball at seven a.m. on a Sunday, and indeed, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett fell in love with the same girl back in 1941, among other things. She said, "Wow. I thought we fought the Germans in World War II." I said, "No, that was the Korean War."

But I digress. I wanted to know what upset her, specifically. Knowing nothing about the script, I thought maybe she thought SEPTEMBER would be another of Oliver Stone's conspiracy theory movies (like JFK), but I think she was opposed to the idea of ANYBODY doing a September 11th movie. Is it because it's too soon? Is it the idea that someone could possibly make money from telling the story of this particular event? Is it because watching it unfold on a big screen might reopen still-healing wounds? Is it because we were shooting in L.A.? Is it because filming it might cheapen the occurrence, make it into some kind of melodrama, or be historically inaccurate (like U-571)? Is it because of all the grab-assing I mentioned yesterday (and yeah, there was excessive amounts)?

If you have any ideas, I'm genuinely curious.

Professor Rish Outfield

*Katie Anderson, who once tried to teach me to waltz, could attest to that.

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