Several years ago, I read Bruce Campbells marvelously funny and entertaining autobiography, If Chins Could Kill.
ICCK is a fascinating read, told by a man who’s been front and center in the Hollywood industry for over twenty years. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Campbell a question at a screening of his film ‘The Man with the Screaming Brain.’ I choked, asked him some rambling inane bullshit, and he shut me down like he was Bruce Willis and there was 1 second until the bomb went off. It was kind of awesome.
Anyway, Campbell, a man’s man if you believe the Old Spice commercials (and we do–there are no Nonbelievers here) made a lot of fascinating points about being an actor in an industry that favors the lucky and attractive rather than the literate and mildly-attractive. He and David Duchovny apparently hung out on an X-files set making fart noises. Not quite up there with Sean Connery punching out Johnny Stompanato, but awesmome in its own right.
Anyhow, there’s a section in the book where Campbell recalls a time a fan came up and congratulated him on an appearance in some TV show, I’ve forgotten which. Funnily enough, so had Campbell, and had to be reminded. When asked why he’d accepted the role (whatever it was) he finally remembered the part and responded with ‘I needed a new water heater.’
This blew my mind.
My notion of actors living out of their cars for the love of THE THEA-TAH was forever shattered–which is good, because it was bullshit anyway. Actors, in other words, are people too.
Not in a ‘TMZ HAS EXCLUSIVE PICS OF LINDSEY LOHAN AT THE BIKINI WAXER OMG SHE HAS PUBES LIKE A HUMAN HOW AWFUL!!!’ but in a ‘Now where did I leave my phone, it was just right here‘ way. I love imagining actors in such situations–getting a craving for Taco Bell and then realizing they aren’t that hungry when they get to the drive-thru, so they order a drink and a single taco to save face; losing the number of the guy who trims their trees and spending a frustrating morning trying to remember his name, or at least what letter it started with; having cookouts, trying to decide if a pair of pants are ready to be thrown out or will last another few days, getting gum in their hair, dropping some freshly buttered toast and it lands BUTTER SIDE DOWN, etc. But most of all, I like imagining actors as people who sometimes do stupid things to pay the bills. There’s no malice in this, no jealousy aimed at a person who had the courage to pursue a dream and is having trouble making it happen–more, it’s just a fun mental exercise, another form of entertainment, if you will.
So often I will review a terrible film in which a respected or decent actor will appear, and wonder what the hell they were thinking. Since I know that sometimes in filmmaking the script that is written is a far cry from the finished project, I guess that had a lot to do with it. And sometimes you’ll wind up with someone Oscar-caliber making something terrible just for the fun of it, or the costumes or effects or chance to go somewhere foreign and exotic, or because they want to make movies their kids will enjoy. I’m pretty sure that 8 out of 10 films Nicholas Cage does are based entirely on his liking for the wig he gets to wear. I don’t know these people, I just know their work.
But sometimes it’s nice to sit back, nod to myself and say ‘Ah, she was redoing her bathroom.’