Friday, November 11, 2005

Do You Want To Play A Game? (The Finale)

I hate it when the phone wakes me up. When shopping for alarm clocks, I try to find one that has a somewhat pleasant ring. Something mellow, yet...alarming. But the phone – no matter what kind of phone it is – never wakes me up nicely. Because I know that on the other end of that alarm, there is someone who wants to ask me, tell me, or otherwise bother me.

It was my agent.

“Alan, they need you back on the Mario Brothers set.”
“What for? I thought I was done.”
“They need you for some pickup shots.”
“But I'm scared of Dennis Hopper.”
“They're flying you down there.”
“Yeah. First class.”
“I'm so there.”

Now, you have to understand. This was a big deal for me. First, I'd never flown first class, and second, I'd never had a major production company need me badly enough to fly me first class. I was really excited about this. And no amount of Hopper weirdness was going to ruin it for me.

As I walked toward the plane the next day bound for Wilmington, NC, my head was filled with bizarre first-class fantasies of semi-nude air waitresses feeding me champagne and truffles while massaging my feet with olive oil. So, it's only fitting that the only thing I ate or drank was some kind of messy thing on a plate that made me wonder what those poor schmucks in coach were getting. And the only action my feet got was from the kid sitting next to me stepping on them whenever he got the playtime jones.

When we finally arrived, I walked down to baggage to find a guy holding a sign with my name on it. We got in the van and drove out to the set. As it turns out, they needed me to shoot the segment in the devo chamber where the big chair slides back, taking me to the big flashy thing. What I found out after putting on my Devo (the band) duds was that while I'm in the chair, it would move back along a track, stopping under the big flashy thing. The chair would then shoot upward, propelling me head-first into the hole in the big flashy thing. I immediately looked around for someone who looked a lot like me, was dressed a lot like me, and who would hopefully be doing this stunt for me.

There were just so many things that could possibly go wrong with this. The chair could fly backward at Mach 5, firing me through the factory door like a new-wave cannonball. The chair could stop under the big flashy thing, but not precisely aligned with the hole my head was supposed to fit into, resulting in a deadly cranial fracture when the chair shot up.

The AD (a different guy, who was apparently hired the day before) wanted to run through the scene a few times before shooting. Dennis and I wouldn't have lines this time, so I felt a little more at ease. I'm sure Dennis did, too. I sat down in the chair and learned that the chair operator had already tested it throughly and I had nothing to worry about. The only thing I had do was to sit really still when the chair shot up. He hit the switch and the chair started its trip toward the devo machine. When it finally stopped, the operator told me to look up. I was staring into what looked like the back-end of a huge cement mixer with Christmas tree lights. I felt like the space shuttle preparing to dock with the space station for an intergalactic drag show. 

“Okay, look straight ahead and don't move,” he said. As soon as I looked back down, the chair shot up surprisingly fast and I found my head inside a small chamber, surrounded by more pulsing multicolored lights. Then, a whoosh of movie smoke surrounded my head and poured out of the hole around me.

As the chair lowered, the first thing I saw was Dennis, Bob Hoskins, and some guy named John Leguizamo staring at me with the most perplexed look on their faces. It was like they were watching an exotic dancer do a certain trick with a banana that I won't describe here in detail. Unexpectedly, they applauded as my chair moved back into position. After a couple more run-throughs, we shot the scene, except that I was instructed to scream bloody murder when the cement mixer lights started flashing.

We finally broke for lunch after a few successful shots. It was a really warm summer day, so lunch was served outside under tents. And we were apparently the last ones to eat since there was hardly anyone left out there. I grabbed a plate and sauntered down the line. Lots of pasta and salad type things. I'm a big fan of any kind of pasta dish, so I went for a few of the pasta salads. Nice creamy pasta salads with mayo and cheese. Man, it sure is hot out here. I wonder when they actually started serving lunch.

I think you know where this is leading.

We had a few more takes to do, so I finished eating and headed back inside. Later that evening, we wrapped for the day and I waited for a van to take me to the hotel. I wandered around outside for a bit, looking at various set pieces, when my stomach started gurgling. Must've been the onions in the salad, I thought. Then it got worse. The next thing I knew I was heaving several major organs into the bushes outside the makeshift production office.

When the van finally got me to the hotel, I ran up to my room and spent the entire night either in front of the toilet where nasty things were shooting out of my mouth, or on it where similarly nasty things were shooting out of my ass. I was completely miserable and while I was sitting there blasting bodily fluids all over the place, I had but one thought:

I actually did a scene with Dennis Hopper.

I kept seeing his wicked stare in my mind while I barfed. This is for you Dennis. This is all for you. (flush)

The next morning, I was officially done with this damn film and wanted to get back home in bed with my mellow alarm clock. However, while they were willing to fly me down there, they weren't so generous with the return ticket. So, they duped one of their PAs into driving me the 5 hours back up to Norfolk.

My wife met me at the door, hugged me, and told me I looked like total crap. I told her the whole sickening story and she took me straight to the ER. A diagnosis of food poisoning and couple of IVs later, I was back on my feet, a little woozy, but back on my feet nonetheless.

I didn't actually see Super Mario Bros. until it was released on video. My wife and I were on the edge of our seats when the devo chamber scene started. I saw myself over on the right side of the screen for a split second and then even longer when I stood beside one of the Goombas. But then the devo chamber scene came and went with no devo chamber technician sliding chair action, no overworked scene with Dennis, no shots of my head in the drag show cement mixer. The scene had found it proper resting place on the cutting room floor.

At first I was a bit let down after working, barfing, and crapping so hard for that scene. But I later came to appreciate the director's (whoever it was that week) judgment in cutting the scene because it really did detract from the rest of the scene, as well as from the main storyline. I doubt that anyone involved ever mentions it anymore.

Except Dennis and I.