25 October 2007

My First Gig

Fifteen years after my professional acting career started, that first, most glorious job has finally come to DVD.

And the callback that got me the gig still remains in my memory bank. It's crazy: I can't tell you what I ate for lunch most days, but I can still remember the improv I did that day for the director, Syd Macartney, in that cramped-as-hell upper floor that the Fincannons (casting) used to use.

It was the summer of 1992, almost morning in America, and it was my first major audition: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Took them a couple of weeks to get back to us, but when I booked it, I think I finally realized that I was on to something. Deep down, I knew I wouldn't be booking jobs like that all the time, but thank goodness I couldn't know that in 2007 it would still be my longest job to date.

Three weeks of shooting, when it was all over. The first week as an extra, an upgrade at the end of the last day, and then another two weeks as a principal later in the month. Not bad at all in Actorland. Hell, almost unheard of today if you're not a name. But the memories of myself as a teenage dork, interacting with this new world to which I was drawn are still here, if the money is not.

I remember the woman in the production office handing me a stack of twenties with trepidation. Nobody bothered to tell me about the per diem I was entitled to, until one of the extras did. I remember a 110-degree upstairs holding area in an abandoned warehouse, with a dead rat in the far corner. Oh, and I remember George Lucas walking around the set all day. Yeah, I didn't know how freakin' good I had it.

Most of the action took place in Thalian Hall (Wilmington, NC). One day my mom made the 3-hour drive (2 hours for the rest of us) and got to play the stage mom for a bit. She was mostly well-behaved. Once however, she brought a confession back to the seats where I sat, watching the next shot being set up. She was wearing her "I just got into mischief" smile.

"I just ran into George." Oh my God, please tell me you didn't say anything.

"Well, I introduced myself as he was coming out of the bathroom..." She told me all the wonderful gushing things she had to say about the whole experience, yada yada. Geez, I hadn't even talked to him and here's my mom stealing my thunder, a bathroom stalker no less!

It was a few minutes later when George, on stage going over the script with others, uttered the words, "Why don't we give those lines to Fred?" I know I didn't imagine it, either, because I turned around to my mom in time to see her turn around to me, both of us wearing our "Holy shit, did you hear that?" looks.

My other favorite story from that gig happened before the day I learned about the glory of per diem. I was at the hotel and decided to go downstairs and just get some chicken fingers at the hotel restaurant. With no money or car, my choices were limited. I stepped off the elevator and at the restaurant entrance was one of the leads, who said they were all going to eat and I should join them. Well....okay. If you say so.

See, my feeble brain couldn't quite figure out that the cast and director and producers were not going to step inside to the hotel bar. No, up pulled the van and I jumped in with the cast, Rick McCallum, and some other people I should have gotten to know better. So, not surprisingly, we went to the best French restaurant Wilmywood had to offer. Oh, and I was wearing cut-off shorts, a tie-dye, and probably Chuck Taylors.

And in that impressive wardrobe, I sat down at a huge table and ate dinner with all those cats: Lucas, McCallum, Flanery, and probably Anne Heche, too. (She wasn't Anne Heche yet, so I don't remember for sure.) I picked the cheapest thing I could find on the menu and still had to borrow cash from this guy. (McCallum picked up the check and the other guy gave me my precious money back the next day.) And after an early morning call and a late start to dinner, I was falling asleep in my chicken dinner. I was the broke-ass, teenage, tie-dyed nerd falling asleep at dinner across from George Lucas. Let's just say he's never cast me again.

But I have run into him a couple times since. I went to Vegas for New Year's around '99. As I crossed the pedestrian bridge at Caesar's, there he was walking towards me, anonymously shopping among the masses with his kids. Finally, seven years later, I had the balls to thank him.

Quickly, of course. And nowhere near a bathroom.