I can't seem to get a story out of my head that my wife told me the other day. She used to be, for some twenty years or so, a casting associate here in the LA area. She knows a lot of the major 'players' here. She has worked on a goodly number of films you would recognize in an instant. And now and then, she will off-handedly tell me some inside goop about the business, which of course, I always love.
So she tells me about the ultimate, to my way of thinking anyway, the ultimate Hollywood nightmare story. Although normally she has worked directly with casting agencies and even for a brief time as an associate producer on several films, at this particular time she was working closely with a management firm. Managing actors, that is.
A young actor, tall, goodlooking, sort of personable, former model, comes out here and auditions for one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood, the lead in a major motion picture, produced and distributed by one of the leading studios. He's all over the press, doing junkets, talk shows, etc. Problem is, he's no good. He's really not a very good actor. And probably never will be. But he's got his one and only shot at the gold ring. And he took it. Turns out the film was a flop, he was eviscerated by the critics, and the big time turned it's back on him.
For some reason this story, absolutely true and factual, fascinated me. Nowadays, this guy lives in somebody's guest house with his wife and struggles mightily for another chance. It is the Hollywood dream tale gone bad. Naturally, prudence dictates that I not use any names or titles, but I saw it as a gargantuan cautionary tale about being ready for the shot at the title when or if it comes.
I know and have worked with a lot of young actors, both here and in Chicago and New York. Some good, some bad, some with potential, some with wonderful instincts but no technique, some with charisma but no craft, some with craft and no charisma. I am drifting dangerously close to 'old codger-ism' here but nonetheless...
Young actors, more so here than NY or Chicago, think that getting the break is enough. Getting the shot at the title is enough. It's not. I am astonished sometimes at the sheer naivety displayed by young artists. And yet, I think it's only natural.
I don't know why people think the acting business is just something one can 'get into.' Good Lord, this is a tough and competitive biz. Even at the very low and early level upon which I compete, it is fierce at times. Of course, I've only been out here in LALA Land about a year or so, and I don't often get the opportunity to get in front of the real movers and shakers. But every now and then, I do. And even after some thirty years of making a living at this muck, I get very anxious as to whether or not I have the 'right stuff.' I can't imagine getting a shot at something big and not being supremely confident in my ability to deliver the goods. Early on I discovered that potential is the cheapest commodity in the world. No one is interested in potential, certainly not at my age, anyway.
Recently I was up for a rather large gig that ended up not getting because I didn't 'look' the part. That's okay. I can handle that. The CD involved called my agent personally and said, "He was the best actor in the room, but we decided he didn't fit the role." I can live with that. I'm not happy about it, but I can live with it.
The old boy scout motto...Be Prepared. It's so important. Hard to make a young arrogant actor realize that, but it is. And in this business of constant, day to day rejection, arrogance is not always a bad thing. As long as it doesn't go too far, that is. I tell my students this all the time...it's okay to think highly of your talent, but when the time comes to show your goods, well, you damn well better have them.
See you tomorrow.