Wednesday, February 17, 2010

World War Me

It was 06:00 hours, Paris, France. The air was chilly and the sun was far from rising, still sleeping in the east. Having barely woken up myself, I still had sleep in my eyes as I stepped into the transport vehicle. My lady's kiss still fresh on my lips, I started worrying about what I had gotten myself into. I'd never been to war before, and quite frankly, wasn't sure if I was gonna be coming back to my girl on the "right" side of a body bag.

Sitting in the truck, there we were, the six of us sitting face to face, three in a row. Nobody making eye contact, we looked like a rag-tag group of kids never seen the face of war before. There was Jimi, the quiet one, Bob, the joker, Jeremy, the nervous kid, Wheaton, the all-American good-guy, Thomas, the Asian, and then there was me, contemplating my future or maybe lack thereof. Everybody was quiet, too early for talking, and to scared to care, until Bob, broke the silence cracking a joke about who he was going to thank first when he got his award. We all forced a laugh out, except for Jimi, he pretended like he was asleep, but I knew he heard, no one in their right mind would'a been able to sleep at time like that. We were on our way to war, we were going to a place sane men don't come back with their heads on right, that's right, we were on our way to be extras in a movie.

That's right folks! My first job in Paris! I was going to be the Radio Operator of a B17 Bomber in a movie about World War II!!! Who knew that CraigsList was finally gonna pull thru for me!? And I must admit, I was pretty surprised when I got an email saying the director of the movie wanted to see a "street" shot of me. What!!!? The DIRECTOR wants to see a "street" shot of MOI!!! Oh my gawd!!! The director of a big Hollywood film wanted to see a "street" shot of me! ME!!! Not some other dweeb who's broke and looking for work in Paris just so he can buy his next baguette, but ME.

So without any further ado, I did 30 (15) push-ups, slicked my hair back (I wore a hat) and struck the fanciest Hollywood pose I could think of, to take a photo that would force this Hollywood Director (he was from Ottawa) to look no further than me to fill the big part of the Radio Operator (background actor #6). The next day I received an email from the assistant director asking if I was alright with shaving my beard off. Alright!!? Am I alright with that!? I would have cut my left nut off for this part! So, razor in hand I wrote them back telling them it wouldn't be a problem. Finally, my destiny of moving to Paris and becoming a big star was actually gonna play out (as a an extra). All my dreams had come true.

Arriving on set, I noticed very quickly that there weren't any trailers for us and it was well below freezing. I guess they wanted us to feel like real soldiers. Perfect, the Stanislavski Method Acting, the only way I've been trained. No trailers no fuss, where's my wardrobe? Ah, there we go, a military jumper so tight I could hear my anus twinge; it was the definition of a self-wedgie but I wasn't complaining. Did Daniel Day Lewis complain about not having a warmer jacket on the set of Gangs of New York and getting pneumonia because he didn't want to compromise the authenticity of the time period? Exactly. Then neither would I. Ok, suited up, off to hair and make-up. What? No hair and make-up? Right! Gritty! I love it.

Like true soldiers, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Our enemy (Ah! NOW I know why that Asian dude was hanging with us!) was apparently not the Japanese, but was the damn lighting crew that obviously had never once been artists in their bleak miserable lives and therefore didn't respect our valuable time that they were wasting. If it weren't for those hot paws I tell you, I was probably going to lose a limb, but I didn't say a word. Uh-uh. Not me. I am a professional. And being a professional I knew how it was in Hollywood (having been there once on a layover); the director needed things to be perfect! No detail could be spared for the Silver Screen (on the History Channel). So for the purposes of perfection, we waited some more, snacking on the delights that the catering crew had so graciously set out for us: the actors, knowing what we had been thru (having not gone thru anything yet).

Then it happened. We were called upon to fulfill our duties. To sacrifice our mind, body and soul's if only for the entertainment of others. We put ourselves on the line for an audience that would never understand what we had to go thru in order to make their petty lives seem worth living. So they could live another day to switch another channel. God! We were brave! -Wait! What? Why is the camera back there!!? Surely there must be some sort of mistake! Does the director know the camera is back there!? Renny -I knew the directors name- Renny! Does Renny know that only my back is visible to the camera! I think not! -Oh wait, he's right there, beside the cameraman. Stay calm soldier. STAY CALM. The trenches of acting can be a scary place, but an actor's duty is to remain calm in the face of adversity. Surely this is just an establishing shot, and they'll be moving on to my close-up soon enough. Just a few more takes from this angle and then the focus will be all on me, the Radio Operator....and CUT! Perfect, here we go, my time to shine....huh? What!? What did Renny just say!? Lunch!? Why are we breaking for lunch? That seems like an odd choice? We're all set-up! Let's do the shot! I’m ready to shoot Renny! It's video! Let's just keep shooting! Where's the producer? She would lose her mind knowing that we're ready to roll but were breaking for lunch!! This is crazy! This is insanity! This is ludicrous. This is my big scene!

Sadly, my big scene never came that day. In fact, after lunch, like the IDIOT that I am, I MISSED my BIG scene because I thought that the Stealth Bomber that was STUPIDLY flying around outside was SOOOoooo much more important to see that I missed my opportunity to have a scene all to myself. That's right, quiet Jimi, barely making a peep all day, was all of sudden actor of the year. Hooray! For Jimi! You did it! You stole another man's part. A true soldier would never have done that. A REAL actor stays true to his kind. Not this one tho. Not today. Today I let my enemies in a little too close, and I lost. I lost my chance at being the next big hero, the next Hollywood star like Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor. Now the best I could hope for was maybe being an extra in the remaking of *M*A*S*H* the movie, and to be honest, I don't even know if I'd have the guts.


  1. Promise I will thank you in my Oscar acceptance speech...right after my lawyer, dog walker and cleaning lady :)


  2. Best blog post yet!

    By 'Renny" I assume you mean Renny Harlin, director of Cliffhanger and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4?

  3. Thanks!

    And, yup, thats the one....he also directed Star Wars (all 6) and Avatar.

  4. All radio operators were unsung heros, Dan, but then again I haven't heard you sing.

    A truly gripping tale,

    Merci de les gens de la Resistance

  5. Hi Dan, Just back from Merida-we took a three day sidebar trip to this old colonial city, capital of the Yucatan. It was great-we stayed in a beautiful little hotel, La Mision de Fra Diego. Your picture as the radio operator reminds me of an old photo of your grandfather who was in the RCAF during WW2. I will be looking forward to seeing your back when it appears on the History Channel. Love Mom and Dad