Not Really Dept

 

Although I am credited with appearing in the following works, I, uh, do not.

My attempts to explain below.

 

 

Birth

Feature film
2004
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Written by Jean-Claude Carriere
With: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Danny Huston, et al.

 

I am not in the film “Birth”, although various websites say I am.

I did film a small role for it, but it was cut from the finished film.

My agent was surprised I even went to the audition, the casting director was amused that I seemed interested in the role, and when I met the director, he asked me “Are you sure you want to do this?”

But that director was Jonathan Glazer, who had made the exceptional film “Sexy Beast”, the film was written by Jean-Claude Carriere, who had collaborated with Luis Bunuel, and the scene was with Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall. I was to play a waiter in a fancy restaurant who kept putting the wrong entree down in front of the two ladies, then switching back. There was also a scene where Lauren Bacall’s character cornered me by the kitchen door and questioned me about a mysterious plot point, and so I thought the whole thing would be fun: working with a great director and screenwriter and doing a small scene with Lauren Bacall. Where was the downside?

After accepting the part, I received a revised version of the script, which cut the scene with Lauren Bacall, and reduced the tableside scene to a fairly simple interaction as I delivered the food, got the plates down in the wrong order, corrected that, and left. I thought this could still be a vivid little moment, maybe even comical.

Upon arriving at the set on the day we were to shoot, I was handed the latest version of the scene, which had me simply deliver the correct entrees to the correct diners and leave the scene, saying: “I’ll be right back.”

Sigh. Okay.

The movie had commandeered a fancy restaurant for the shoot, and setting up the shot took hours. There were 30 extras, all dining in the background, and of course the table in the foreground where the action of the scene took place.

The kitchen of the restaurant was in full swing that night, supplying the extras with food and replenishing the plates I had to deliver in the shot, from which the two star actresses had to eat.

Once in costume, I was taken to the kitchen and given a crash-review of fine-dining waitering. I had to wear gloves, carry and put down the plates just so, show the wine deftly, etc.

I had waited tables years before, and never liked it, and liked it even less now. The waiter, and another waiter, and a cook, and another cook kept having me carry and put down the plates, while they watched, arms folded. Apparently I did everything wrong. I would get contradictory notes from all four of them, and try again. I just got worse.

But then I was called to the set, they were ready to shoot. Jonathan Glazer took me aside and said he had been thinking about the scene, and that he wanted me to . . . I waited to hear the adjustment . . . to change my line from “I’ll be right back” to “Right back.”

“Just ‘Right back’”? I asked.

“Yes!,” he said.

I could do that, I said.

The stars arrived and were settled into place. We did the first take, and I somehow instantly became an exemplary waiter, gracefully floating into the shot, plates stacked up my arm, expertly placing them down, cooly showing the wine label, and exiting after a polite but firm “Right back.”

“Cut! Let’s do it again.”

We shot it 4 or 5 more times, with new plates of fresh food each time. After I left the shot the take went on for a long time, with Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall eating and talking. Jonathan discussed the scene with the actresses after each take, and eventually all seemed satisfied. I was released. Jonathan thanked me.

I didn’t see the film when it first came out, but was with some friends months later when it turned out they had rented it to watch that night. I didn’t mention that I was in the film, hoping it would be a nice surprise when my scene came on.

The film was quite good, sere and moody, and I recognized from the script the scene just prior to the restaurant. It finished and we cut to the fancy amber-lit place, packed with busily-dining extras. “Here I come”, I thought, but then saw that the two actresses already had their plates of food, and were eating.

They had started the scene just AFTER my character exited, after my utterly brilliant delivery of the line “Right back”. There wasn’t a frame of me left, not even a flicker of me in a background mirror. I laughed out loud. My friends asked what was funny.

But I am listed as playing “Waiter”, and will occasionally get a check for $4 when the movie is shown on TV in Iceland or something.

Showbiz.

 *

 

Kate & Allie

TV series
1989
Season 6, episode 21
“My Boyfriend’s Back”

I had done a classroom scene for a young director in a film school in NYC, who turned out to be one of the junior producers on this series. He very kindly wanted to thank me for the scene by offering me a role on the show, which was quickly closing in on it’s final episode. I was delighted, but was doing a play at the time, so scheduling the episode was difficult. It wound up that the only one we could make work had a character who was just an off-screen voice.

Kate and Allie go see a play which was written by one of their ex-boyfriends, which quotes an awkward conversation they once had. Or something. I was to be the actor in the play.

We shot on the stage of the Old Ed Sullivan show. I was placed in a chair next to the camera while Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James watched the imaginary play in shock. You can hear my voice, muffled in the background of the shot. You may even be able to see a glimpse of my sleeve at one point, at the edge of the frame.

I was hoping they might turn the camera around and show the scene Kate and Allie were watching, but they just did a few takes of their reactions and called it a day.

The Ed Sullivan Theatre was very cool, though. It was later redesigned for the David Letterman show but at that time it still looked pretty much the way it had in the 1950’s and 60s, when Elvis and the Beatles and etc etc had performed on it. I enjoyed sitting there for a few minutes, looking out.

 

*

 

Home Improvement

Some year.
Some episode or other.

Starring some people.

I think – and hope – this mistake has recently been corrected, but for years I was listed as having appeared in the final episode of this series. People would even tell me they had seen me in it. But I wasn’t in it. At all. Didn’t even audition for it. Maybe it was a mistaken name or confused union member number. But it kept turning up as a credit on the internet and people would ask me about how it was to work on it. Or insist that I had done it, that, no, really, they had seen me.

I wondered about a possible amnesiac episode.

But then checked where and when it had been shot: in LA, while I was doing a show in NY. But people still didn’t believe me.

(Oh, and just so you know, screen actor’s union, I also never received any mistaken payments for this show that I was not ever on.)

I am sure it is a good episode.

That I am not in.