Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DAY THREE – “Brother, Can You Lend a Handmaiden?,” or “What’s That Russelling?”

Today sees the first appearance on set of Nathan Hollobaugh, star of "It Came From Yesterday." He looks and sounds like he's recovered fully from his ailment, and gives a spot-on performance as Professor Jack's older brother, James. We shoot a scene in which James mentors Jack in the ways of fencing and wooing damsels. Jeff can't seem to say the word "handmaiden" without raising his hand and spastically shaking it, as if possessed. When I point this out, he becomes even more grandiose with the gesture. That's one thing about Jeff as a director: whenever an actor does anything odd or absurd in performance, he will usually exclaim that he loves it and have them play it for all it's worth.

I get to play my first scene as the evil Thorn today as well. Three hours in the chair surrounded by our full battery of make-up artists (Midian, Rachael, Steve and Chuckie) and I emerge as the hideous Druid warrior with an appetite for destruction, which apparently leads to severe tooth decay if you eat too much of it. Part of my make-up is this black and yellow gunk they put all over my teeth to make them look rotten, so I must remember to smile for the cameras. Midian also draws some lines on my upper lip, a process that is extremely ticklish, and I try very hard not to burst into laughter and ruin the job she's doing. Midian senses my "pain" and starts laughing for me - or at me, or a little of both. I was nervous about what I would do for Thorn's voice, but after getting a resounding howl of approval from Steve Foland the previous night as I half-jokingly recited my lines in a throaty growl, it became as simple as that. Although I'm not convinced Jeff won't entirely replace my voice in post, a la James Earl Jones.

And on the subject of thorns, our sound guy Chris has discovered a new one in his side. As if the clatter of the trains and traffic outside the studio were not enough, he must now contend with a disturbance from within. The source of his aural dismay is none other than our grip Rasul (which most pronounce as "Russell," though he has become known on the set as Ra's al Ghul, after the Batman villian.) It's cold in the studio, and Ras has been wearing a coat that sounds like it's made of aluminum foil. It wooshes and crackles at even his slightest move. And it doesn't help that the owner of this rackety rag is the one guy on our crew who can't manage to stand still for even a few seconds. I'm not entirely sure how to pronounce Rasul's name, but "Rustle" certainly fits the bill. His coat is hereby banned from the studio.

Today also sees our first crew casualty, as our grip Dennis becomes ill and has to make a b-line for the bathroom. He blames the food for his belly woes, and he may be on to something there. The lunches we've been getting from the catering company have been good and bad: good in that Jeff over-ordered and so we always have extra food to reheat for later; bad in that we usually have to reheat it the first time. Yes, the "hot lunches" we were promised have thus far ranged from "lukewarm lunches" to "frostbitten lunches." Furthermore, the odd combinations of items have been either inspired or puzzling, depending upon your tastes. Today we got cold sausage thrown in with a salad. Another day our key grip Chuck found a brownie hiding under his tilapia, and generously offered it to Jeff. This fish-flavored brownie almost landed our director on the disabled list alongside Dennis. I once had a professor who warned that working in the film industry required a strong stomach. Never have his words rang so true.

1. The Brothers Cranston in action
2. The Brothers Cranston, inaction
3. Yours Truly in my "Thorn" get-up
4. Doing my Batman impression, as Ra's al Ghul looks on in awe
5. Dennis and Chuck: only one will survive today's lunch

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