The Naked Truth

I had tried avoiding him, I postponed our meeting twice, but after bumping into him at BAFTA I could avoid him no more. I had to give Marcus an answer about the Marilyn movie. I had to decide whether or not to do nude scenes. This could be a turning point in my career – for the better, or for the worse. Who could forget what Showgirls did for Elizabeth Berkley (or didn’t do, rather)? But there have been enough success stories to give cause for consideration.

Why don’t men have this dilemma? It’s very straightforward for them; other than romantic leads, male actors aren’t expected to uphold unnatural beauty standards and epitomize eternal youth. So guys like James Gandolfini can get a big break and no one expects or wants to see them naked on screen.

Then there’s the thought that your family, friends and that stupid kid who used to blow spitballs at you in high school would see you naked.

I was hashing all this through in my mind while Cheri and I were out for an afternoon run before my meeting with Marcus. We decided that we’d take quick showers and reward our hard work with a mani/pedi at New York Nail Company. Her place was closer so we went back there to get ready. I had second shower because she had to pop her spare towel in the dryer for me. She said it’d be done by the time I got out and she’d hand it to me. So I turned off the water after showering and waited by the door as arranged for my discreet towel service. But just then the door swung wide open to reveal Cheri’s roommate Gina standing there agape. I was in full view, inches away.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” we said in chorus.

We were both embarrassed. Cheri quickly rescued me with the towel, but it wasn’t big enough to cover my entire body AND to bury my head, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t metamorphose into one of the puddles on the floor. I reached down deep for a sense of dignity and walked out of the bathroom.

“Sorry, I was just going to brush my teeth,” Gina muttered without making eye contact.

I ran into Cheri’s bedroom, fell back on the bed and laughed.

“I can’t believe Gina just walked in on me!”

But as I was laughing, I started crying, too. I knew it was irrational. Gina was a woman for goodness sake; I guess it was the shock and unexpectedness of it all. Cheri and I laughed about it while getting our toes done. I picked OPI’s “Royal Flush Blush” to mark the occasion.

I knew my answer by the time I met up with Marcus and decide to finally come straight out with it. Before I could get to the elaborate justification I’d conjured up about Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts being the highest-paid actresses and never doing nude scenes, Marcus said “Oh, that? Don’t worry about it, we lost our funding anyway.”

“Oh,” I said “then… what are we doing here?”

Flirting with Disaster

A few text messages, a couple of exchanged voice mails, and Dean finally asked me out on a date. Or was it a date? You never know with these industry things. I didn’t care – we were going to see a movie. Not just any movie – a premiere. It wasn’t at just any old cinema either. It turns out Dean is a card-carrying member of BAFTA. I couldn’t resist calling Olivia to gloat.

“Olivia, guess where I am? I’m in BAFTA.”


“Well no, not really. I’m on a 38 bus on the way to BAFTA. I can’t chat now, I’ve gotta call Dame Judi to see if she wants me to save her a seat.”

“Very funny. How’d you get into BAFTA?”

“Well remember that old git writer Dean? He’s a member.”

“Okay Lucy, he got you into BAFTA, that’s a start, but don’t waste your time if he can’t HELP you, you know get a part in a movie.”

She’s all business sometimes.

“Okay, okay Olivia. Well all I know is I’m headed into BAFTA. BAFTA! Last week, I was not going to BAFTA, and today I am going to BAFTA. BAFTA, BAFTA, BAFTA,” I sang.

I knew I had regressed to playground “I’ve got ice cream and you don’t” tactics, but I couldn’t help it. It’s not every day you get into BAFTA.

I signed in under the one watchful eye of the BAFTA mask and then walked up the stairs to meet Dean. Disappointingly, the carpets were beige, not red. The bar was decorated in a neutral palette and clean lines. It reminded me of the sophisticated W Hotel.

We got a drink and as I wondered where the premiere crowd was, we were ushered into the cinema. The lights dimmed and I glanced around to get a look at the other audience members. There were only about 20 people and not one Dame Judi among them.

Twenty minutes into the film, I realized why the crowd was so thin – the movie was a flop that would probably go straight to DVD if it got a distribution deal at all. I thought Dean must have agreed as he stood up to leave. But it turned out he was just going back to the bar to get another round, and so it continued every 20 minutes until the film was over. By the end we were giggling at every line (probably not the intended response as the film as a mystery).

We parked ourselves at the bar to debrief over another round. I asked him who he thought was more to blame for the disaster – the writer or the director. Dean got serious in a hurry.

“What the writer writes is not always what the director films. It’s a collaborative process. A collaborative BUTCHERING process between the director, the producers and whatever snotty flavor-of-the-month actor they put in the film that thinks he knows how to write better than you… or changes your script around because he can’t pronounce R’s correctly.”

“I see–”

“You know, I once had an actor change ‘irrespective’ to ‘irregardless’. Can you imagine? I had to put my name to that shit.”

“That sounds horrible.” I tried being sympathetic if only to bring the volume of his drunken rant from an eight down to a six.

“Lucy, you’re the only one that understands me. Lucy, I’ve written the Great British Screenplay. I really have. It’ll blow you away.”

“That’s great. Is it in production?”

“I can’t let them butcher it, Lucy, I just can’t. It’s like a child to me. Would you let someone butcher your own baby?”

“Of course not.”

“No one will let me direct it, but I’d rather have it go un-made than get butchered.”

I noticed he was getting a bit teary eyed.

“Will you read it, Lucy?”

“Uhhh, sure.”

“I knew you would, Lucy.”

He leaned towards me to kiss me on the cheek, but knocked over his whiskey in the process. Saved by the Bell’s. I scrambled around for some napkins when a helpful arm reached from behind me and handed me a stack.

“Thanks,” I absent-mindedly muttered over my shoulder while trying to plan my escape.

“Anything for you, Lucy,” Marcus said.

Fever Pitch

At certain times of the year, the entertainment business in this town seems to snap into gear. No one plans to get much done over summer (particularly in August) or over the Christmas period. Then there’s a scramble to get things on the move. January seems to be the month during which all the behind-the-scenes action takes place. So after a seemingly endless dry spell, I now have audition notices coming out of my ears.

Actors are always the last piece of the puzzle, as if an afterthought. It is, like the woefully low wages, all down to supply and demand. You’re lucky if you get a day’s notice for an audition, which makes trivial things like rent-paying day jobs rather inconvenient. I was bemoaning trudging to another round of castings when my writer/producer friend Olivia invited me to a pitching event.

“You get 60 seconds to pitch your idea for a film to a panel of experts. Come on, it’ll be fun – maybe someone will have a project for you.”

Maybe they will, but it’ll be at least two years in development (if it even gets funding) before anything comes of it. But I figured why not, I needed a night out and the venue was on my bus route.

We spent an hour watching hopeful writers, directors and producers boiling their dreams down to minute-long pleas only to be told their projects weren’t commercially viable, were “between genres” or that a similar project was already in development starring Tom Hanks.

Though the pitching was disenchanting, the pitchers of sangria were delightful. Everyone was so busy schmoozing, they didn’t have time for boozing, leaving the limited free quantities to the more resourceful amongst us. Olivia was feverishly working the schmoozer set, so I sat at the bar and started chatting with Dean, a screenwriter. He was a “real” screenwriter – he didn’t even need to be a “/something”. He had a dozen movies optioned and four actually produced – a couple of indies and a couple of big budget bang-em-ups. He was a bit older and, I hoped, wiser than most of the crowd and boy could he talk. The more he talked, the more I drank, and the more I drank, the more interesting he became. I was enjoying his recounting of how he went from driving a forklift to writing – and selling! – screenplays, when Olivia whisked in out of nowhere and swooped me away with some made-up emergency.

Once at a safe distance, she said “Lucy, darling, what are you doing with that writer? You need to be dating a director or a producer. Writing is lonely work – that guy will talk your ear off just because he’s out of the house and has someone to talk to. You’ll never get anywhere with that old git.” Then she repeated, as if I was clueless, or drunk, or both: “Date someone who can help you.”

I knew on some level, she had a point. But I couldn’t help it – he was cute. I pretended to drop my bus pass and stalled just long enough to slip him my card on the way out.