Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My One And Only Line

We had a crowded weekend of rehearsals for Lord Arthur Savile's Crime at the Washington Stage Guild; at this point in the rehearsal process, I usually need to actively disengage from the show during downtime; otherwise, I obsess. It was time for a road trip! And by that I mean, it was time to pop a movie into the player, and imagine a road trip.

Sunday, our rehearsal began late in the day, so I took the opportunity to sit down with a film which has been in my Netflix Queue for many months, My One and Only. Remember this one? It's not the Broadway musical of the same name (that one was a Tommy Tune hit built around Gershwin standards, and co-starred Twiggy, of all people). Anyway, this movie was released over a year ago, and starred Renee Zellweger as a divorced mother of two boys, who takes her kids on an adventure to find a rich husband. The story is based loosely on one summer of George Hamilton's life, when he was a teenager.

My One and Only was not a success, either critically or financially, and provided more proof that Zellweger should never be the headliner of a movie. I am not a big fan of hers, though I don't actively hate her as many others do; I certainly don't think she has any business trying to carry a major motion picture. She had some pleasant supporting players, including Chris Noth, Eric McCormack, and the lovely and talented Kevin Bacon, and the two young actors playing her sons weren't bad at all. But the movie does not hold together well, and the episodes look better on the page than on the screen.

When the film was released, over a year ago, it lasted only a week or two, at least in DC theatres. I enjoy Kevin Bacon, but was not impressed with the reviews this thing was getting, so I dismissed any thought of going to see it. The movie had come and gone before I remembered I actually had a good reason to see the film: I'm in it.

I don't do much film work (I wrote about my movie career, such as it is, here), but every once in a while, I get a call from Pat Moran, my favorite local casting director. Located in Baltimore, Pat has a national reputation, as she handled casting for Homicide and The Wire, two long-running TV series which were shot in Maryland. She also handled all of John Waters's films, which is how I landed in his Pecker years ago. The experience was a good one, and Pat occasionally calls me in for projects, but only when the role resembles that flamboyant character from Pecker.

Almost two years ago, when My One and Only was on its way to the area to shoot, Pat called me in to read for one of the dozens of day player roles she had to cast with local talent. A "day player" is an actor hired for a small role which is scheduled to take only a day or two to shoot, as opposed to a larger role which would require an actor to be hired per week.

As soon as I got to Pat's office and read the scene, I knew I was too old to play the character for which she had called me in. It was a good part for me, if I were a little younger or Zellweger was a little older (the role was an old boyfriend of her character's); I gave a nice reading anyway, though both Pat and I knew I was not right for this one. A week or so later, she called me in again, this time to read for a drama teacher who casts one of Zellweger's sons in a high school production. This was also a good role for me, and it included an absolutely hilarious speech about Othello or Oedipus or MacBeth or one of those guys, I don't remember. I DO remember that the reading went very, very well, and a day later, I was called by Pat's office and offered the part.

Several weeks later, I reported to wardrobe for fittings, and it was there that I discovered that I had not been hired to play the hilarious drama teacher, but had instead been cast in the dull role of Radford Teacher #2. (I wrote about that shoot here). I had exactly one line, in support of the young George Hamilton character, and it was a righteous bore. I don't mind admitting I was quite disappointed to get this decidedly less-important role.

I became so disinterested in the gig that I did not even notice that I was being photographed by Marco Pontecorvo, who had just finished the HBO series Rome, one of my favorite recent television programs. And if I had bothered to Google the film's director, Richard Loncraine, I would have discovered he was responsible for filming Ian McKellen's Richard III as well as one of my favorite TV movies of all time, My House in Umbria, starring Maggie Smith.
My One and Only spent several weeks filming in the Baltimore / DC area back in the spring of 2008, and I know many others who worked on the project. When I finally got the chance to see the movie this weekend during my precious downtime, I expected to see lots of local actors on that screen. But it didn't happen that way. When I sat down to watch this flick, I discovered that the first role I read for (the old boyfriend) had been cut completely. The second role for which I auditioned (the drama teacher) was also left on the cutting room floor. But my scene as Radford Teacher #2 was left intact, as was my one innocuous line (and I even got a very quick close-up).

When the final credits rolled, there were at least a dozen local names I recognized, though only one or two ended up in the final cut of the film. Apparently, many scenes were cut to bring this mediocre movie down to fighting weight, including those containing the bigger, brighter roles for which I auditioned. I didn't get to play anyone special, but still, it seemed somebody wanted me to end up in My One and Only, uttering these fascinating words:

"Tell us about your summer, George."