Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fun and Astonishment in Hollywood.

"What's hard is simple. What's natural comes hard."

A lyric from Sondheim's song 'Anyone Can Whistle' and probably as good a phrase as any to have carved on my tombstone.

Couple of interesting projects coming up. One is a one-night-only, invited audience to a reading of a new, comedic screenplay by Jeremy Dylan Lanni's 'Used Books.' I'll be reading about eight or nine roles in it and will share the stage with Powers Boothe and Edie McLurg, both actors I admire. Also Bruce French, Peter Jason and my buddy, Larry Cedar. Should be fun. It's a very funny script.

Powers' work as Jim Jones in a 1980 TV movie called "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones" is still stamped permanently in my brain. Powers won an Emmy for that one and deservedly so. And Edie's work as the principal's secretary in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" still makes me laugh out loud all these years later.

On the 30th Angie and I are heading down to The Old Globe in San Diego to see our friend, Hershey Felder, open his new one-person show, 'The Art of Leonard Bernstein.' Big to-do with a formal, sit-down dinner afterwards. Angie's brother, Kenny, lives there with his family so we'll kill two birds with one stone and hang out with them for a bit, too. And being the sucker I am for a good zoo, maybe I can convince her to make a day out of that, too. The San Diego zoo is one of the best in the world, I'm told. I was last there in 1984 during a long, fun, chaotic, nihilistic trip to the west coast with a buddy of mine.

I'm shooting a short film on Monday and today get the rare opportunity to actually rehearse it for a couple of hours...a rarity when doing film. So I'll take a jaunt over to hot and beautiful Pasadena today.

Another full house last night for 'The Interlopers,' the play I'm doing for a couple more weeks at The Bootleg Theatre downtown. I must say, this cast and crew have thoroughly spoiled me. I adore them. I've mentioned this before, but it's one of those very seldom moments in the theatre when everything came together and clicked. Great actors, funny people, sensitive direction, great script, good space, satisfying experience. It just doesn't happen that often, unfortunately. I have a small role in the piece and I couldn't care less. I'm having too much fun.

I recently learned (I'm always the last to know anything) that Chaz Bono, perhaps the most famous transgender in the country at the moment, came to see the play the other night. He left quickly after the play and had some problems with the language, I'm told. Said to someone that the term 'pre-op' is not used anymore. Huh?

Other members of the transgender community have seen the play (a lot, in fact) and have had the exact opposite reaction, weeping by play's end and testifying to its authenticity. So, who knows?

Tuesday I have a callback for a Sci-Fi film that could be a lot of fun should I land it. Fingers firmly crossed. I would get to shoot a scene in a helicopter. That would be one for the diary.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my cast members last night. She told me she's 'getting itchy to do some real work again.' She was talking about film. I'm always a little surprised to hear sentiments like that. I've always felt exactly the opposite. The 'real work' for me has always been the stage. The money work has always been film. Granted, I'm a walking anachronism.

A buddy of mine, a guy who works constantly in film and TV, a very recognizable face, once took me to task for a blog I wrote over a year ago about the difference between film and stage acting. He said, "Don't slight film work, it's very, very hard. You'll realize that someday."

Well, I've done quite a bit of film work since that conversation. And I stick by my earlier assessment. Film work is a hundred times easier than stage work (gasping and wide-eyed disbelief from the peanut gallery). I realize it's very unpopular to say that in Los Angeles. Whatever. It's still true. I maintain that the difference between stage acting and film acting is tantamount to reading a novel or reading a comic book. One requires a commitment of time, thought, care, premeditation, interpretion, stamina and grit. The other requires a certain amount of luck that what you're rehearsing (essentially all film acting is rehearsal caught on camera) gets captured on celluloid (or digitally). And yet...and yet, to say out loud that stage acting is the 'real work' is met with undisguised reactions of horror not unlike saying something critical about the Catholic Church in 14th century Europe. It's just not done. It's out and out heresy. Los Angeles worships at the altar of the Great God Cinema. And rightly so. It's big business. And, to be fair, every now and then it is art. No other word for it. I defy anyone to watch, say, The Deer Hunter or Citizen Kane or The Searchers or Jaws or Cinema Paradisio or Magnolia or On the Waterfront and say that's not art. It's a group effort, yes, but the final product is art. Movies like that, as rare as the Hope Diamond, transcend the human experience. They move and provoke thought and demand opinion. They leave you a different person, for good or bad. What better definition of art? And continuing to be fair, at its very, very best, the theatre can't really even compete. But films like that are almost accidental, it seems to me. They very nearly fall under the category of the monkeys and the typewriter. Eventually, given infinity to do it, they'll write Hamlet.

Again, a very unpopular assessment in this town and one that will probably someday bite me in the ass. So be it.

I got a call yesterday, out of the blue, and this producer guy wanted me to come in and do a quick scene for a film he was doing. One scene. 'Very quick,' he said. 'No more than five minutes,' he said. No money involved. And this is a budgeted film with a few major stars attached. He just needed a pick up scene. I have no idea how he got my number. Anyway, I forwarded the request to my management company. They quickly called him on my behalf and asked about the money. He said he had none, that he was 'at the end of his budget.' He just needed a small favor.

My manager wished him luck and said no. He got agitated. Said, "I don't want to work with him anyway." What the hell? What are these guys thinking? Try that with a plumber. "Hi, listen my name is Bob and I need my plumbing fixed. It's not a big problem. Just a little toilet issue. Won't take you more than five minutes. Just a quick job. As a favor. But I can't pay you anything. I've used up my plumbing budget for the month. So if you could just take a few hours out of your day and come over and fix this toilet for free, I'd be grateful."

And THEN...and THEN...when the plumber says no, this guy gets upset. "What?! You won't fix my plumbing for free? Why, you bastard!"

Good Lord. Hollywood.

See you tomorrow.

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