This weeks episode of The Hollywood Hand-Off comes to us from the mysterious correspondent known only as 'E' who has sent us the enigmatic pic to your left and the following article detailing a particularly uncomfortable day playing the corpse of her much-suffering character, an underage-junkie-prostitute-barmaid-smartass-serial killer escapee-turned-imperiled witness. Ahhhh! That old chestnut.
Take it away E...
I’m not a corpse, but I’ve played on one TV…
Playing dead was actually one of the biggest challenges of my short-lived career. I thought “I win staring contests against my sister in law all the time! This will be easy!”
HA! I had to drag my ass outta bed at 4am to make it to the set for a 2.5 hour makeup session… head to toe!… I am slathered, painted and spackled with blues, purples and reddy browns,.. Did I mention my corpse is buck-naked? I’m shifted, spread out, adjusted… the director stops by to see the handy work and wants to know if I’m going to look “real” enough! Dude, I’m gonna be chiseling blue paint outta my ass crack for the next week, how much more “real” could you possibly want??
Ok, ready to go out into the world and carry out my role as the ‘silenced witness’. Did I mention it’s about 5 degrees (41 degrees F)? Did I mention this is Calgary, Alberta, Canada and there is still snow on the ground? I know I mentioned I’m naked!!!
Can’t have the housecoat they gave me too tight around me, or put shoes on, because we need to keep the make up intact, so now I leave the trailer, walk across the cold, dirty street in bare feet, and head up to the roof of the building where ‘silenced witness’ is found – beaten, bound and frozen solid… sounds cool right?
Yeah, well… I cut my foot on some goddamn ice walking across the street! The makeup guy has a fit, until I remind him that the director wants realism and this might work for us… thanks for your concern though, you’re a stand up guy… we now get to rush up to the roof and I’m ready to go, I’m in the zone, I’m gonna be the best goddamn ‘silenced witness’ anyone has ever seen!! The PA says “Have a seat, they just need another minute to set up.”… and I wait two fucking hours, naked, on an uncomfortable barstool, with a housecoat ‘loosely’ draped over me and a sore, bleeding foot. I’m betting Meryl Streep never had to put up with this shit… someone would have at least gotten her a coffee.
At last! They’re ready for me. They even have space heaters set up just out of the shot, because even though the sun has come out, the wind has picked up. I’m starting to realize that they would not have had to put all this make up on me if they’d just let me lay there in the cold for 10 minutes. No worries, I’m a professional, right?
I’m shown my spot, I disrobe and lay my naked body down on the supposedly swept roof to film my dead scene. Holy mother of god, did they sweep it with a rake?? I’m now laying on asphalt roof shingles and rough gravel (and I could have sworn there was some broken glass!!). A huge yellow tarp, that actually crackles and snaps as it is unfolded and shaken out, gets laid on top of me and I’m ready to roll. The scene begins and the tarp is whipped back to expose me, frozen, dead, tsk tsk, what a shame… the tarp is kept back and the 2 “cops” get into a physical scuffle over losing another witness… are you kidding me?!?!?!? I can’t move, breathe or blink and these assholes are bringing up dirt, dust and debris two inches from my face?!?! There’s no respect for the dead.
We run this take nine times before some genius thinks this might be hazardous to me, and perhaps they could throw the tarp back over me before they have it out… to this day I dream of kissing that PA. Another six takes in the freezing cold and the director thinks he finally got his shot. Hallelujah! I’m frozen and numb from the hairline down and I have pebbles in my hair (and numerous points in between), but I did it, and I was brilliant. Visions of Oscar danced before my eyes and I regaled all of my friends, family and co-workers with tales of the difficulty and art involved in playing a corpse for weeks after.
Needless to say, the Academy never called- and my T n’ A are - I have recently discovered - forever immortalized on Mr. Skin. Oh well, no biggie.
In the words of the great John Gielgud:
"Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself"