I’ve already written about what sets apart the Good Actor, the Bad Actor, and the Ugly Actor. I like to think there is no real “Hollywood Blacklist,” since even if I as a casting director put you on my blacklist, a producer could hire me to cast my next film, give me a list of actors, and if your name is on that list, my blacklist ceases to exist. So, with that caveat in mind, I present to you three roads actors have recently taken to land on my oh-so-not-good list.
Crazy in the Room
I’ve seen high-maintenance actors do some pretty odd things during auditions before. That’s not reason for blacklisting. High-maintenance behavior simply causes me to make a notation on an actor’s headshot and weigh more carefully whether they get invited in again in the future. Here, I’m talking about baffling in-room behavior that causes a director to look at me in bewilderment, then scribble on a notepad, “Get him OUT of here!”
Once, an actor began his “reign of crazy” out in the hall before the audition. During another actor’s read, I could hear this deep “huffing and puffing” going on, as though a big bad wolf were prepping to take down some pigs’ houses. I heard my assistant attempt to quiet this oddity (and I assumed it was an actor rehearsing for another project going on in one of the other facilities nearby), but it continued. When this actor was invited in to read, he made us aware that he needed more time to warm up.
Now, I’ve had actors ask if they could do a few push-ups before reading for a very physical, emotional, high-octane role (and that’s fine). I’ve even had actors turn away as if to “get into character” and then turn around to begin the scene in character. I’ve seen mini-chants, breathing exercises, quick prayers, you name it. But this actor began running laps. We’re not in a huge space, mind you, but this actor ran, oh, I’d say a dozen laps before coming back to his mark. Then, he did push-ups. He did a series of yelps and yips while doing this calisthenics routine. I attempted to “butt in” so that we could begin the actual audition, seeing as each actor was only going to have two or three minutes in the room and he had used up a good two minutes with this crap already. Each time I began, “Whenever you’re ready,” “We’d like to see you begin,” and, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve prepared,” I was met with a bark, as if from a rabid dog.
“I’m getting my voice,” the actor said. By now, the director had already written the above-mentioned note to me about getting him out of the room. My assistant, having heard all of this yelping, had already poked his head into the room, and I had motioned him in, affirming his instincts. Meanwhile, the actor had taken off his jacket and had put the contents of his pockets into his hat on the floor. He began the first line from the sides. Each word was delivered with the force of a sledgehammer and Mack-trucks could’ve been driven through the pauses between each word.
“Let him get to the end of the sentence,” I said to myself, figuring we could at least let him do that much of what he’d prepared before thanking him and sending him on his way. But, wait! Before he got to the end of that first sentence, he stopped and asked if he could begin again. Cringing with the vision of how he was seeing this go down (and knowing he’d describe this as an audition he was rudely rushed out of, not even having been given a chance to do his work), I said, “Sure. Just this one line, though.”
Again, he began. And it was worse than the first time. More sledgehammery. More slowly. More migraine-inducing. When he hit the first period, I rose and said, “Thank you so much!” and walked toward him (as did my assistant). I then got a death-glare like none I’ve ever received. I’d just become the most hated casting director in this guy’s life, after allowing him to run track and field and be obnoxious in my casting session for five solid minutes. But, wait! Remember, I told you he’d unloaded his pockets and taken off his jacket, right? He took another two minutes to get himself put together to leave the room, glaring at me the entire time, as I “reviewed notes” with the director and then welcomed in the next actor, showing her the mark, answering her questions and letting her know we appreciated having her in for this project.
The director later asked me what I tend to do in such situations. “This has never happened to me before,” I responded. “I can only hope his manager calls for feedback, so I can let him know what he’s sending out there. And, I’ll write across his headshot: NEVER AGAIN.” “You’ll keep his headshot?” she asked. “Yes. If I don’t, I may block him out of my mind and unwittingly schedule him for another audition in the future. Can’t risk that!”
Crazy After the Audition
This is a doozy. I met an actor at a networking event a couple of months before the audition in question. Basically, he got the audition because I knew him through our meeting, he’d followed up with a headshot and resume, and he’d stayed in touch via email. When he submitted on a project I was casting and he was right for the role, of course I wanted to bring him in and see what he could do.
He was great! Wonderful actor. Superb instincts. Great look. I think my main note on him, for this project was: “Too good-looking for the role. Strong actor. Call again.” That’s it! So, no big deal either way. Now his headshot would move into the files of “actors whose work I know” and I’d call him again in the future. It’s over, right? Not so fast.
Now, after every casting session, I come home to a round of emails thanking me for the audition, letting me know conflict dates for the shoot, commenting on something that may have happened during the day (“I was late due to the traffic jam on the 405,” “I gave you my old headshot, but I’ll mail my new one next week,” “Thanks for the great opportunity!”). So, when I came home from this marathon day of prereads that evening and had an email from this particular actor, thanking me and asking for feedback, I thought nothing of it. I answered the emails that had to be answered that night before bed (since I was thoroughly exhausted), then prepped for another very long day of casting sessions. I came home from that second day of casting with three more emails from this actor.
They ranged from odd questions (like, “Do you remember meeting me two months ago?”) to bizarre high-maintenance actor insecurity rants (like, “Oh, I see why you’re not writing back. I’m a bad actor. I suck. I won’t bother you again.”) and finally, the stalker-psycho-level (like, “I know I said I wouldn’t bother you again, but I just need to let you know that I thought you were REAL and now I see you’re FAKE like everyone else in Hollywood. Thanks for nothing!”).
Giving this actor the benefit of the doubt (I know, I know, as I’m reading over this column, I too am wondering why I bother sometimes), I wrote back after another back-breakingly long day of casting to say, “I do hope you think you’re being cute and just aren’t sure how offensive you’re coming across, because if you’re serious, I have no idea how to respond to you.” Sure enough, he was being serious, and I got another full inbox the next day with reasons why I’d led him astray, by being friendly and social at the networking event, two months before.
Seriously, the reason this guy got called in (with no agent and no manager pitching him) for the lead in this project was precisely because he was on my radar after that networking event. And there was no reason for him to ever not be called in again, until the email flood began. Man, talk about blowing it!
And this last one’s a hoot because it just happened this past weekend. I was out socially with a group of actor friends and some significant others with no attachment to the industry. One of the folks in our group was a smoker who went outside every hour or so to smoke and chat with other smokers. He came back in after one of the trips outside and said, “Bonnie, give me your business card! I just met this great actor who you have to call in. He’s really cool!”
Well, I usually like to be the judge of that, but I figured it would be no big deal to hand out my card (since most of the time I’ve given my cards to actors at clubs, bars, restaurants, or any other public place, telling them they should follow up with a headshot since they’d be right for something I’m casting, I’m blown off — which is a little baffling, seeing as I only give out my card after we’ve been talking about their career and my current project and I’m not trying to pick anyone up, seeing as I’m always out with my other half).
A couple of hours later, as we were leaving, my friend introduced me to this guy (this great British actor he’d spent so much time with, on smoke breaks). I shook his hand as he pretentiously asked, “So, you’re a casting agent, are you, luv?” I tried to place his accent and answered back, “I’ve been a casting director for just a couple of years, yes. You?” He began talking about his credits since “crossing the pond” and I stopped him and said, “Wait. You’re not British.” He took a breath, laughed, and in a totally American accent said, “No, man. I’m not. You got me.” My friend was pissed that he’d been had. Me? Not at all. I know a lot of people assume that their ability to BS is part of what makes them actors. But that doesn’t cut it for me in terms of winning an audition slot in the future.
Now, I’m not saying I fault this actor for assuming he needed to BS someone in order to look good to a CD. Heck, I don’t even know that he necessarily cared whether he could ever get in for a meeting. This could all just have been a fun game for him, on smoke breaks with a stranger. But what it did was it got me thinking about that whole “authentic self” issue I’ve raised before.
If you always surround yourself with those whose tier you aspire to share, you will soon find that you do, indeed, have more and more in common with the people working at that level. If, on the other hand, you feel the need to “get over” on someone for any reason (sport, to impress, or otherwise), you may find that reputation is a hard one to break out of. And, as anyone working in this industry for any period of time can tell you, eventually you will have to come back around to your authentic self. Wouldn’t you enjoy getting to be that person all the time?
What happens if your choices get you blacklisted? Fix it. Find out why you’re not getting in front of certain CDs (the actors in the second and third examples above know exactly why I won’t be calling them; the actor in the first example will only know why if he reads this column or has bitched about me to someone who reads this column and that person tells him to read it) and do what it takes to make things right. If it takes some time to get back in the room, so be it. Use your time well and make sure you practice accountability for your choices, which will let us all know that you’ve maybe made some changes that will get you back in the room. ‘Til then, don’t do that Bitter Actor Syndrome thing where you blame everyone else for keeping you down. We want you to come in, kick ass, and be the one we cast. No one ever wants to see you on the blacklist.
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Let’s DO this!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000284.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.