Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Workin' with Steve

So last week I booked a job. Yay!

I played the part of a box office girl who tells Inspector Clouseau (played by Steve Martin) that the tickets for "insert name of summer kids movie here" are sold out. It was described to me as a movie trailer teaser promo. Oh my! Basically its a trailer for Pink Panther 2, which will air like most trailers - before the start of this summer's biggest flicks: Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, etc. Oh, did I mention I got to work with Steve Martin??? It was a last minute booking, so I spent all weekend devouring Steve's new book, Born Standing Up; I watched the Jerk for the first time all the way through, and also caught Pink Panther 1, which I had never seen. Anyway, the bulk of the trailer, from what I can tell, is the two of us arguing over the fact that he can't get tickets for "" movie - and then he proceeds to break into the theatre anyway.

All weekend long I was floating on my own little cloud. It's always great to have a pending job, because nothing ever seems as hard when you can nod your head while letting your happy little secret put a sparkle in your eye. It was the weekend to run into old friends who have been succeeding wildly in the biz. It was the weekend to have a table of industry folk that you wait on and who get drunk enough to stumble upon that ultimate LA social blunder: What do you really do? It was the weekend to call your parents.

There was no script, and I like it that way. That's my specialty! That morning, on location, Steve was already working by the time I arrived. As I was being escorted to set, fully made-up and costumed, the PA commented on the fact that I was shivering. He said, "Yeah, I know that feeling, when you are so nervous that it makes you shiver. " Um... who had said anything about being nervous? It was the middle of May in LA and a really chilly day for no reason at all! OK, and maybe I was nervous. In fact it seemed that everyone on the crew was expecting me to be a pile of anxiety over having to work with a legend. Apparently it didn't faze them, but I was being treated with kid gloves. And here's the thing: I was really cold, and pretty excited, and even tense - but I wasn't nervous. No really, I swear. Although the PA's comments weren't helping.

"OK, it's time - follow me," that same PA announced in hushed tones to me as he lead me by the elbow towards an open door in the old movie theatre where Steve was shooting. It was between shots, and Steve was standing behind the video monitors talking with a man I could only assume was the director by the way he responded to Steve's questions without hesitation. The room (and I'm seriously not making this up) fell silent. Everyone stared at me and the bailiff on my arm for an awkward moment, and then Steve stood and took a few steps toward me, hand outstretched. The director hefted himself from his tall chair and stuttered, "Oh, ah, Tah-ra, this is Steve. I just wanted you to meet...before." I stepped forward, looked him straight in the eye, and saw the man I've known since I was a kid, for the first time. And.... nothing. No violins, no electric shocks, no confetti or spotlights, no gasps of recognition or secret knowing looks. There he was, just a man, and probably sick to death of the velvet cage he'd been living in for so long that everyone around him treated him like the most expensive fish in the tank.

I'm sad to say that I didn't get my picture taken with Steve Martin. I didn't have a conversation with him about the feeling of performing live. I mentioned to him at one point that I knew a director he had worked with in the 80's, and had I been able to tell the story properly, it might have made for a truthful moment. Instead it came out sounding like a 2nd grader's first attempt at writing a story. And we both smiled awkwardly and went back to work.

A more respectful and kind person you couldn't ask for. He shook my hand several times, always looked me in the eye, called me by name and told me that I did a good job, that he had enjoyed working with me. A true professional and a gentleman. And then he was gone, whisked away in a huge black SUV complete with leather seats and tinted windows. If I ever have the pleasure of working with him again, I feel certain he will greet me like an old friend.

It was a good day - I was working as an actor, which is what I wish I could do more often than 5 or so days a year. Hopefully if all goes well, I will have some excellent footage for my reel, and my mom and dad will be watching me on the big screen this summer for a few seconds, across from a guy that my dad has horribly misquoted all my life. Don't worry, Dad, it is funnier when you do the jokes. But that's probably because I love you.

* In this blog, I called Steve Martin 'Steve' 7 times. To his face, I only called him 'sir'. *


bullet said...

"...probably sick to death of the velvet cage he'd been living in for so long that everyone around him treated him like the most expensive fish in the tank."

I know what you mean. I met him years ago at the opening for Little Me at the Roundabout. He was all by himself, everyone too scared to approach him. I walked over to say hi and as soon as we started talking, he was mobbed. He looked absolutely miserable. I wanted to apologize for breaking whatever invisible barrier was keeping the idiots at bay. It seemed like he was stuck between two agonizing states - lonely genius or the mob's monkey.

bullet said...

Oh, and congrats, BTW. Though it may have been a small job, that's a big deal.

Unknown said...

Holy Crap, Tara! You worked with Steve!!!!!!!!!!

Steve is the only celeb I've ever been within handshaking distance of that I couldn't bring myself to say 'hi' and 'thank you' to. I was too overwhelmed by what he's meant to me since "Let's Get Small" back when I was 10 and you were an embryo.

He's apparently painfully shy in public situations as well, so I didn't want to add to it by being 'one of those people'. Good for you - on so many levels!

However, that you didn't give him a copy of my book? Really, Tara...think for God's sake!

I'm proud of ya, Tara! That's an awesome story and booking!


stacey said...

so much coolness.

great news, and great story!

Chad Darnell said...

I'm so proud of you!


ablebody said...

i bet if you'd studied some art history and dropped a little criticism of early 20th century abstract painters on him, he would've reasonably shit your pants.
but it's proly better that you remained professional.
still, coolness factor 10.