Friday, February 17, 2006

February 17, 2006

I haven't done much you'd be interested in this week, so I haven't posted. But I could be wrong, and maybe there is something of interest in this week's experiences.

Monday I worked "House" again. I don't know how I keep getting on it, but I hope that continues (the girl at the Fox studio store might have recognised me, as she gave me the employee discount without me having to ask). We were continuing the episode from last week, but weren't on the hospital set with the regulars. This time a little church had been set up on an adjoining stage and we were all churchgoers, the kind who clap and sway and watch people get faith-healed.

It was a short day (we were done before lunch) and pretty easy. Except for an infuriating extra with a mop of unruly Dennis the Menace hair, who kept talking during takes and wandering around. He got moved to my section when Joel saw he was being a camera-hog, and the people in my corner started to trade places not to stand by him. This guy whooped and made asinine remarks, went up the aisle toward the preacher, and just plain couldn't shut up (not wouldn't, apparently his defective brain wouldn't allow it). I suppose I should be forgiving of stuff like that, but I actually wanted to jab him with a Taser until he stopped twitching.

On Tuesday, I didn't do Jack W. Shit. I watched ETERNAL SUNSHINE again, but that's about it.

Chalupa is my favourite Spanish word. Even more than chingaso.

On Wednesday, it was my day three on DREAMGIRLS. This time we were shooting up in Pasadena. We parked at the Rose Bowl, then were bussed to the holding area (a high school gymnasium), then were bussed to the set, passing the Doc Brown BACK TO THE FUTURE house on the way. They said there were between six and seven hundred of us, but it was somewhat well-organised in that there was enough food for everyone and the check-in lines were never long.

It was supposed to be 1975, and everyone had outlandish outfits on. A lot of the black extras got huge Afros and the white ones got long sideburns (I didn't get either, which disappoints me, since I stood in the makeup line for so long). What I did get was a bright red polyester suit and a fluffy creme-coloured shirt and matching shoes. A couple of the extras made fun of me, but I thought it was great, to get to wear something so hideously Seventies that it beggars comprehension. And it ain't like it's me wearing it, it's some 1975 Grammy attendee wearing it. I snapped a couple of pictures, and a few minutes later the A.D.s made an announcement that people shouldn't take photos of their wardrobe, as it was all copyrighted by Dreamworks SKG. I would imagine there were even more pictures taken after that.

I saw Vincent from last week's DREAMGIRLS table and he said, "Hey, you didn't print any of what I said in a magazine, did you?" I told him I didn't like people putting words in my mouth, and we were fast friends.

All we had to do was sit in a big auditorium and watch the performances. Beyonce sang part of one song and was, again, the best-looking person in the room. When Mark and I worked SPIDER-MAN 3, we made a geek list to pass the time of the top ten "Saturday Night Live" cast members. Surprisingly, we both had the the same pick for number one.

Said performer--Eddie Murphy--sang two songs (or lip-synched to his own playback), and was energetic, looking surprisingly young and healthy, and made everybody laugh just by saying the s-word. He unbuttoned his shirt for the audience and was supposed to have dropped his pants, but the most he ever got down was his zipper. I wonder if they'll suggest he showed more in the finished film.

There weren't enough of us to fill the whole room (probably a thousand seats there), so they moved us around, depending on where the cameras were. For some of this, the dude next to me wore his own period outfit. It was so pot-ridden, it smelled like Cheech & Chong's skid marks. Luckily, I got moved soon after, but before I did, he complained that we weren't allowed to have our phones on the set. When the man behind him explained why, he insisted that everybody, not just rich people, had cellphones in the 1970's. I didn't question him out loud, but I think I would've seen it in a movie or TV show if that were the case.

Unfortunately, also in the group I was sitting with, was the blond mental defective from the "House" church. I had never seen him before, and now I see him twice in a row. He may be an evil spirit sent to punish me for my crimes against humanity.

The shoot went until three in the morning (actually a bit earlier than they hinted we'd be getting out), and I got home around three-thirty. The next morning I was doing a game show (my first of the year), so I had time to get some sleep before heading over.

The game show was NBC's "Deal or No Deal," hosted by Howie "Never Funny Not Once" Mandel. They had security beyond the norm, actually wanding us AFTER we'd gone through the metal detector and had our possessions searched and/or confiscated. Mandel actually seemed to be a nice guy, and somewhat clever even, but I did wonder how hard it would be to host a game show where everything is up on a teleprompter and they halt the damn show every five minutes to do something again.

In line to get in, I saw a girl who worked with me on DARK STREETS, and had gone on to work it two more days beyond the three we did together. She told the others how much fun it was and that she would have happily worked on it another week. It's interesting how peoples' experiences can differ so much, but maybe it should teach me not to be so judgmental of those who complained about SPIDER-MAN 3 or the jobs where we only sit and clap.

I sat next to John the Ladykiller, who I like very much. He actually got up from where he was sitting to hang next to me. Unfortunately, that was next to the warm-up guy (a warm-up guy is a comedian hired to keep audiences energetic and awake during a long day of shooting a live audience show. They usually annoy the crap out of me because they tell lame jokes and ask people inane questions, and I don't like to be told to applaud or stand or jump around again and again and again. But hey, that's just me; I don't know if I could be a warm-up guy), so after lunch, we moved to the other side of the stage.

The show, if you've never seen it, is pretty entertaining, once they get going. There are twenty-six hot models (although you'd be hard-pressed to find a SINGLE non-implanted breast among them, much less two) with twenty-six briefcases, each with a denomination in it. The contestant has to pick one and eliminate the others, hoping they got the one with the high dollar value inside, or sell it to the evil, shadowed Banker, who attempts to buy their briefcase off them, depending on what numbers have been eliminated. I know that's a weak explanation of the show, but I shouldn't have even described that much (after all, do I explain what "House" is about, or "E.R.," or "My Mother the Car 2006?").

We entertained ourselves by deciding which models were the hottest (and which ones John had probably already done), and I picked number six. She was so good-looking . . . well, I don't know what. She could be a Cylon maybe. John the Ladykiller had a female friend next to him who he used to date the best friend of (and she thinks he's still dating her, so I wasn't to say otherwise . . . wow, this guy is like James Bond). She actually seemed pretty cool, cute, with a real sense of humour (not the artificial kind beautiful girls steal from "Friends" reruns and then paste on to try it out), and I wondered if, maybe . . . Well, it doesn't matter, since she was all over John, one of those things where she constantly touched him or put her arm around him or laid her head on his shoulder. Ah well.

The show was very slow and they constantly re-did spontaneous things because they missed them the first time, despite having ten cameras all over the set. The first game took forever, and I suspect that both the contestant and her family were all actors reciting well-memorized lines or ad-libbing according to a set script. Sorry, Mom.

We sat for two shows, taking up seven hours. They wanted volunteers to stay late for a third show, and I normally would've stuck around (for the extra cash), but he didn't have a car, so I gave John the Ladykiller a ride home. That guy is about the opposite of me in every way (he's tall and fit and handsome, into drugs and womanising and midget wrestling), and if I had half his charm I'd be writing this blog from a stripper's bedroom instead of my own.

Which gets us to today, Friday. I'm working in West Hollywood on a film called HE WAS A QUIET MAN, starring Christian Slater, William H. Macy, and Elisha Cuthbert (who I had a brief thing for, and still have the GIRL NEXT DOOR poster on my wall). We were shooting a restaurant called Solare and playing diners (I've often remarked that I have eaten in more fancy restaurants in my time as an extra than I ever have in real life).

Christian Slater looked awful: he had been royally dorked up with red, blotchy skin, thick glasses, an overbite, and fully half of his hair gone (I assume it was shaved and he hasn't lost it). If you saw him on the street, you'd never have guessed who it was, nor given him a second glance. It must be nice to get to chameleon yourself like that as an actor. Cuthbert had brown hair about the same as she did in the HOUSE OF WAX remake and I wondered if her hair is really blonde or brunette.

I saw an extra I work with every week who I've nicknamed The General (no idea what his name really is) because he was our garrison's leader on THE GOOD GERMAN, and he told me the plot of the film. It's quite clever, actually. SPOILERS: Basically, Christian Slater is a put-upon office employee who snaps and goes to work with a gun on the same day another employee does the same thing. When the other employee goes postal, shooting up the place, Slater pulls out his gun and dispatches him, becoming an unlikely hero. Cuthbert is shot through the spine and becomes paraplegic. END SPOILERS.

In the scene I was in, they had gone to a nice restaurant and he was feeding her in the wheelchair. Slater banged her wheelchair against the tables next to theirs, which included mine. We shot a fantasy sequence where she was fully mobile, then several passes of how it really was.

It was a very small shoot, and I believe there were fifteen or sixteen of us. Small shoots are infinitely preferable to big ones, since you'll sometimes get union vouchers and union food (got the latter, not the former) and always get more personal crew attention and camera time (got the latter, not the former). We didn't go very long, as the production had to be out of there by four for the restaurant to commence its usual day. I like small shoots and I like it when they're in a hurry.

Cuthbert struck me as particularly difficult to amuse, but the longer I sat by her, the cuter she got. I think the nose has something to do with it--her nose curves upward on the end in a really unusual way. I took the opportunity to say something to her, but the infamous Outfield stutter took over when I tried. It hasn't reared its ugly head since I gave that little elf on SANTA CLAUSE 3 the drawing I made of Martin Short crushing her in the door.

The woman I was partnered up with (my date at the table) was quite a good actress, forcing me to raise my game even in the shots where our backs were to the camera and pretend to talk and drink. She was, however, what the textbooks refer to as a know-it-all, telling me all about the inner workings of the film world (in Canada, she went to many auditions for real parts, before finally slumming it and doing Extra work), how she knew what the movie was about using deductive reasoning (I simply asked somebody), and the prestigious jobs she had gotten in her mere two months of working here in L.A..

She was a writer of poetry (hmmm*), but was making the transition to screenwriting, using all the bits of information she had picked up here and there. I tried to be friendly--and indeed was--but it got a little tiring to hear her condescend to me when I'm sure I had a decade on her, so I said, "I'm impressed you've actually written a screenplay. You have no idea how many people in L.A. call themselves screenwriters and when you ask them how many scripts they have written, they say, 'I'm still working on my first.'" Well, I'm still learning the format, but I've got the story for one all ready to go. "Oh," I said, "Whoops, sorry about that." Of course I knew that's what she was going to say, but I had to deflate the balloon a tiny bit (after all, she said "aunt" so it rhymed with "haunt").

We spent a couple of hours together on our "date," up at the bar and then at our table right next to the principals (Slater and Cuthbert). She told me about this bizarre diet she was on--not really a diet since she weighed about 97 pounds--something she called a "thirty-day cleansing." I told her I'd give her a dollar if she'd eat a Dorito. But I was just kidding. I don't have a dollar.

Rish Chalupa Outfield

*A screenwriter or storyteller talking down to a poet is, in my mind, like a basketball player or boxer talking down to a professional bowler. But hey, that's just me.

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