Monday, October 12, 2009

Ready For My Close-Up

September 21, 2009

It is now 22:00 and I should be going to sleep. I need to go to sleep. Really, I do. I want to be fresh for tomorrow, alive and full of all those things that make me so incredible and easy to like. I was planning on being in bed on my way to sleep already over thirty minutes ago. That was the plan. But who can sleep on a night like tonight? Tomorrow is a huge day. HUGE.

It all started a couple of weeks ago. I was out having a bite to eat and reading Vanity Fair online, wondering what all I would have to do to actually get my name in the pages of Vanity Fair, but this is another story for another blog on another day, and suddenly someone interrupted me. He wanted to know if I was interested in being an extra in a movie. I said sure, sent off pictures of myself and basically forgot about it.

Then a few days later I got an email with details. It is for a movie titled “Eat, Pray, Love”, based on the book by Liz Gilbert. Parts of it would be filmed near Delhi, and star an actress named Julia Roberts. You know, Pretty Woman? Erin Brockovich? Notting Hill? Yes, THAT Julia Roberts!

So tomorrow morning I have a 03:00 alarm and a 04:00 pick up and then a ninety or so minute drive to the set, or as we in the biz are wont to call it, the location. And Julia (as we are colleagues now, I feel it is OK to just call her Julia and I will tell her to just call me Robb) will be there all day. I may be scrubbing floors with Julia. How many of you can say you have every done that? Maybe you have scrubbed floors, but not with Julia Roberts. And certainly not on film.

So I should be closing for now and get some sleep. Julia is probably tucked in and already in dreamland. Or maybe she is awake with the excitement of meeting me.

September 22, 2009

3am is really early. I mean, like REALLY early. I would normally be groggy from waking up so early, but the fact is I barely closed my eyes. My head was filled with all the memories I was about to make. Julia and I joking around the set, or perhaps comparing notes on India. She would ask me where she and Danny should go for the weekend and I would give her tips and offer to babysit the twins. She would confide in me that she is a bit insecure about her acting abilities and I would patiently reassure her and give her a big, big hug to make her feel better. She would tell the director that her new BFF should not merely be background decoration, but should play a more substantial role for the betterment of the film and meanwhile, back in her trailer, I would playfully clutch her Oscar for my imaginary acceptance speech while she took pictures for her Facebook page. And oh, how she and I would laugh at our private jokes while everyone else looked on in jealousy.

I arrived on location to the signs of “No personal photography” and a list of rules:

  • Strictly no personal photography is allowed on set
  • Please deposit your mobile phones and cameras with the designated person
  • No mobile phones to be carried to set
  • Any phones or cameras on set will be confiscated
  • No personal food or drink is allowed on set
  • Smoking is banned on set
  • Please remain silent and disciplined when on set

 I saw the signs, as they were hanging from and leaning on anything that didn’t move, took pictures and then changed into my costume and waited for Julia. Actually, we waited and waited and just before lunch we were all taught a chant we would be using in a scene. See, we were playing people from the ashram, and supposedly people from ashrams chant. A lot. So we chanted… Govind bolo hari gopal bolo… Radha Ramana hari gopala bolo... over and over and over again. And then we chanted some more, just to be sure we all had it and could do it while clapping. The religious experience of walking and chewing gum. After we all kind of got it, we were taken to the set and I picked my cushion and sat myself down. There were supposed to be some empty spaces so I was told to keep the one next to me free. Five minutes later, I was told “the actress will be coming in and sitting there”. THERE? Next to me? ME? This shot had all the makings of a close-up and my pillow was going to be next to hers. This was it, the start of our lifelong friendship. It was too good to be true. I could not believe my luck. And rightly so. I was asked to stand up and was moved a couple of feet away. I would be less than two meters from “the actress”, but that is not the same as being next to and in the same frame with. I was robbed.

So the parts with Julia were done and then we set up for all different kinds of shots. I got chosen for the close-up. Imagine if you will, me sitting and clapping while the camera which was located about two feet away from my face filmed me. Up close. I was instantly glad I had thought to trim any unsightly hair. It was amazing. The more I am in front of a camera, the more I realize I not only love it, but I was born to be there.

Well, we finish the shoot and are told by the director that it was a wrap for the day and that “tomorrow we will shoot swami and the band” just as I was standing up. That was when a voice from behind me laughed and said “swami and the band?” and I turned around saying something like “sounds like a 70’s band” and there I was, face to face with Julia Roberts and we locked eyes. And there it was, that smile beaming at me. AT ME! And then she told me in that voice of hers, “you are the single most devastatingly handsome man I have ever laid eyes on in my entire life”, but she said it using the words “remember the 70’s” and I swooned. I have seen that smile a gazillion times on film, but it just does not capture how truly spectacular and amazing and big it really is. And this wasn’t an “acting” smile, this was the real deal and it was fabulous. I will never wash my eyes or ears again.