Wednesday, January 04, 2006

North Pole Confidential

January 4th, 2006

Alarm didn't go off this morning. I don't know why, exactly. I awoke with a start, instinctively aware that I'd overslept. In the kitchen, my alarm was on zero, but no sound was coming out. That had never happened before. I may have to stop somewhere tonight and get a new one.

I called the man who booked me (he answered personally) and he told me to get on over to the set anyway. On the drive overon the 10 Freeway, I was worrying about it (this was a big-shot casting director and this was the first project he'd booked me on) and mentally beating myself up, though it was no more my fault than the extinction of the dodo bird was, when an old codger in the lane to my left turned on his signal, then moved into my lane. He was right next to me--so close I could see that he was an old codger--and I mindlessly swerved out of the lane. I don't know how close he came to hitting me, these things always seem a millimeter off, but I was damned lucky there was nobody in the right lane for me to hit into, especially with morning traffic. After that near miss, I cared a lot less about oversleeping and getting on Bill Dance's tish list. Funny how life can do that.

Initially, I was booked on the new David Fincher movie CHRONICLES today--I'd even had my hair cut for it--but that was canceled yesterday for some reason, and I was booked instead on THE SANTA CLAUSE 3. I didn't know what to think about that. I loved the premise of the first S.C., even though I'm the opposite of a Tim Allen fan, and I didn't see the second one.

I'm in Downey now, at a big ex-aircraft hanger, and except for missing out on two hours' pay, I don't seem to be suffering for my lateness. We're supposed to be at the North Pole, so I'm pretty bundled up (not compared to yesterday, though). After Wardrobe, they actually sent me to Makeup, where I got a working over. It had been a long time since I'd had makeup put on me (not counting the experience of Oliver Stone's September 11th movie*), and I don't imagine it did much good (kind of a Band-Aid on a bullet-wound sort of thing), but it felt nice.

There are a lot of extras here today, half of them kids, and some of them are made up as elves. Elves are cool. My buddy Merrill married one, but she was from Canada, not the North Pole.

There are so many of us that instead of calling us all to the set, they've been asking for volunteers. I didn't volunteer earlier because I was writing this, but maybe I'll do it now.

Okay, there's WAY too many children on this set. Sure, they're professional kids, and not prone to running around and screaming and killing and such, but there are supposed to be 400 (that's four hundred, folks) of them today, and that's about 370 more than I can handle. The scene is set in some kind of Christmas-themed amusement park at the North Pole, with rides and photo ops and toymaking and shaved ice. It's quite magical, even if Spencer Breslin is here, as fat as ever. I saw Tim Allen briefly, but feel nothing about him one way or another (even though he was "in" 1995's best movie).

The only scene I worked in, I was a parent waiting in line with my family to get our picture taken in one of those cardboard cut-out things. I was given an unremarkable-looking boy with longish hair to play my son, and as I spoke to him briefly, I became more and more convinced that he was actually a girl. I guess I should've asked her name.

They just fed us and now the children and elves are having some kind of Arts & Crafts session, which booted me from where I was sitting. An old guy was watching EPISODE III with his grandkids, and he let me watch the deleted scenes with him. While interesting, I didn't feel these scenes were as great as those cut from EPISODE II. I was at Circuit City Monday and they had REVENGE OF THE SITH on sale for $13.99 and I weightilly considered buying it. EPISODE III is the only STAR WARS movie I haven't purchase on the day it came out. If you know me at all, it's absolutely mindblowing that I haven't bought it at all, but I just didn't enjoy the film. I have since begun the arduous process of training my mind to think of STAR WARS as three films again. It's an uphill climb.

I don't know if I need to go into this or not, but a bad installment of a movie franchise does not stand alone . . . it damages the series as a whole. The awful third MATRIX film and the uneven second one sully the first film. Really shitty Freddy movies make the whole ELM STREET series, including Craven's inspired original, weaker. An abominable ALIEN RESURRECTION leaves an ugly stain on Ridley Scott's and James Cameron's excellent films. If you disagree (and I recognise that a lot of people do), just as STAR TREK: NEMESIS how that franchise is doing.

But enough unpleasant conversation, let's get back to Santa Clausing. We shot an extensive later scene on the North Pole set. An ancient idol of mine, Martin Short, is playing a phony Father Christmas (I guess he's Jack Frost masquerading as Santa), and was all but unrecognisable in the hair, suit, and makeup. I have to admit that my taste for Mr. Short has soured since the Eighties (and meeting him a couple of times at LaserBlazer, the video store I used to work at). Still, he wasn't a TOTAL ass, so I should endeavour to like him once again.

In this scene, I was given a beautiful, dark haired daughter to take pictures of and hang around with. She was preternaturally lovely, but also WAY too smart for her age, the kind of hyper-intelligent maturity that is only cute in children named Simpson or Rushton. She was nine years old, but very still, quiet, and professional, even though she claimed this was her first acting job. She used words like "supposedly," "outspoken" (though she really meant "outgoing"), and "not necessarily" twice. The lass was adorable, though, and I'm sure she'll soon learn to pretend to be dumb, since it's so much more attractive.

Still, it's weird--in just an hour with her, I did feel some sort of connection to the girl (and not in a pedophillic way, either). I enjoyed wandering around with her and felt protective of her, trying to shield her from the streaming masses of kids, crewmembers, adults, elves, and Christmas Tree People that scurried through the set as if Easter Egg hunting. When it was time for us to part, I was just a little bit jealous of the many parents waiting to hear their kids excitedly tell them what we'd done. A strange statement from someone who claims to hate children.

Or is it? After all, taking my own little sister to be an extra on a Kirsten Dunst movie years ago was a highpoint in our relationship. Now she's all grown up and juggling two jobs, three boyfriends, and a drug habit, with very little time to be a kid at my side like the old days.

Because of child labour laws, they dismissed all but a handful of children before the final shot of the night (the "martini"). I was given a mulatto child, but when she was taken away, I was instructed to pretend there was a kid beside me. It was now something like three adults to every one child, including the elves, so they placed the children up front (there were actually a couple of dwarfs walking among us for that last shot).

After that, it was time to go home, but amazingly, I was recalled for tomorrow. I'm pretty happy about that, even if it is way down in Downey. We'll see if I can actually make it on time then.

Unca Rish Outfield

*Did I tell you that they refused to pay for the makeup, wardrobe, and prop bumps on that project? After ruining our bags, my shoes, and making us seriously uncomfortable, they did away with our bumps just as they did lunch on those days. I guess that anti-SEPTEMBER woman was right.

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