Monday, January 30, 2017

Butch Cassidy and the Intern Kid

Here’s a Friday Question that prompted an entire post.

Greg Gibson asked:

On many occasions over the years, I've heard actors in interviews say that the spent "two weeks working in a restaurant kitchen" or rode around in a patrol car or lived in a cave for two months or something while they "researched" the role they were playing. I always assumed they were simply being pretentious, but does this actually happen? Is it possible that when you go out for dinner, Meryl Streep is in the back making your salad, or that you may stumble across Robert De Niro someday while out hiking in the woods?

More than possible, it happened to me. I was a sports intern at KMPC in Los Angeles when the General Manager came into the newsroom and said there was somebody about to do a movie on radio and wanted to spend a few days observing a station. Would I mind ushering him around for two days? I said I’d be happy to and the General Manager then brought in Paul Newman. He was about to do a film called WUSA. This was late ‘60s/early ‘70s so we’re talking the BUTCH CASSIDY/STING Paul Newman. I almost plotzed.

He turned out to be the nicest guy in the world. Very down-to-earth. Oh, if only there were selfies back then!

Lots of actors do research. Ted Danson went to bartending school when he got the CHEERS gig.

But that’s NOTHING.

For SOPHIE’S CHOICE Meryl Streep learned German and Polish and learned to speak German with a Polish accent.

Forrest Whitaker tops that. In preparation for playing dictator Idi Amin he moved to Uganda and learned how to play the accordion (Amin was an accordion player) even though he did not have to play an accordion in the movie. He also learned how to speak Swahili (but what actor doesn’t do that?)

Rooney Mara got real piercings for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTTOO including her nipples.

Marlon Brando’s first movie role was in THE MEN. He spent a month in a VA rehab ward.

Daniel Day-Lewis spent two days in a prison cell without food or water to prep for IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. And for MY LEFT FOOT he spent the entire shoot in a wheelchair.

Finally, there’s Bobby DeNiro. Everyone knows he gained a ton of weight for RAGING BULL. And he trained with a professional boxer. But did you know he also moved in with Joe Pesci for awhile to establish their chemistry?

As you can see, actors make great sacrifices for their art. But none was greater than Paul Newman, forced to spend two entire days with me.

20 comments :

Peter said...

Scott Baio did some research last year when he appeared at the RNC and gave a speech endorsing Trump. It was research for his new role: "Someone please hire me. I need an acting gig".

Alan said...

"forced to spend two entire days with me" ROFL.......

Didn't the crew hate DDL for that method acting crap, having to push around his wheelchair for an entire shoot, what with all the wires and other obstacles.


Ho! By the way....

You left out Sharon Stone who slept with the entire unit of Basic Instinct to prepare for the role.

The entire cast of Friends slept with one another to remove any awkwardness and to truly build a bond.

Bill Avena said...

As an old Robert Stone fan I'd appreciate this movie being rereleased. It's incredibly timely.

Matt said...

Possible Friday question.

While these are funny stories about actors doing research, I would think it might be even more important for writers. Do you have any stories of writers going to extremes to learn a field?

Brian said...

I'm not a professional actor, but I spent a quick and inadvertent internship at a radio station, as well.

It was about twenty years ago and I was going from station to station, putting in applications (yeah, I know). I went to one station and I found the place in a bit of chaos. Before I could introduce myself, the harried woman on the phone, covered the mouthpiece and said, "Mr. ______ is here! You! Go get him. He's out front now!".

So, I went. I follow orders.

There was a blind man emerging from a car and I said, "Hello, Mr. ______ [ed. note, we called him "--" for short], I'm here to take you in."

Politely, but firmly, he said, "I'm used to having someone meet me when I arrive, as YOU were supposed to do." I apologized and he went in.

After a bit, I left the reception area and drove home with the full knowledge that I couldn't work there. After all, I got a poor performance review from two people and I had never been hired! It could only go downhill from there.

MikeN said...

>Forrest Whitaker tops that. In preparation for playing dictator Idi Amin

I was really worried where that sentence was going...

Johnny Walker said...

Don't forget writers does my research! :) Ed Catmull talks a lot about the major benefit that Pixar experiences from visiting the places their stories are set in, and I know that you're from a school of TV writing, Ken, that benefited a lot from primary research (M*A*S*H, and the Charles Brothers on Taxi).

Did you get a chance to do any research before starting Big Wave Dave's? That would have been fun! :)

Donald Benson said...

Recall "Murphy Brown" did a very meta episode about an actress (Morgan Fairchild, I think) studying Murphy for a TV show, and a chunk of the episode was devote to Murphy doing -- badly -- a simple walk-on gag. At the end, Connie Chung came on to do almost the same walk-on gag, chiding Murphy for cheapening journalism with a sitcom appearance.

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching "New Edition" on BET. Emmy awards written all over it. The five principals were cast twice. Once as pre teens and again as adults. Not only was the acting superb, but they performed all the outstanding musical numbers and intricate dance routines. Defiantly worth watching.

Wally said...

I'd like to add 'Fleabag' to the growing group of unfunny comedies (NoLOL for short -- my term). It started out with shades of 'Dream On' and was different and biting. But it coninued down a dark spiral staircase quickly in its 6 eps. Nothing wrong with dark but the ratio of laughs:dark was quickly diminishing around terrible people. So, "Love", "Catastrophe" and others I can't think of at this moment now have more company in their confusing, quixotic(?) group.

RobW said...

Personally, it all makes me think of the story told about Dustin Hoffman depriving himself of sleep for several days for his scenes in Marathon Man, only to be told by Sir Laurence Olivier " My dear boy - why don't you just try acting ?? "

D. McEwan said...

For Hitchcock's Rope Farley Granger spent two months learning to play Mouvement perpetuel no. 1 by Francis Poulenc on the piano. He never mastered it well enough to be heard on the soundtrack, but then, due to the noise of moving the camera and sets around in the insane ten-minute takes shoot, the entire movie was post-dubbed anyway. But he learned the fingering well enough to do it onset in the film so it looks right.

On Hail, Caesar!, for his role as Hobie Doyle, Alden Ehrenreich learned horseback riding, rope tricks, twirling guns and playing the guitar. He has stated twirling the spaghetti, mimicking the lasso, was the hardest part of his role.

Jahn Ghalt said...

The Paul Newman story reminds me:

Don't forget to work your outline for your next memoir!

Coming of Age in the Seventies

It may not sell like hotcakes - maybe only like girl scout cookies.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought since a comment was made about Murphy Brown. Can you imagine the scripts being turned out for that show in today's era of "fake news"? Or maybe they would be stifled by the Drumpf Gestapo? Would be interesting. Janice B.

Mike said...

@Wally: The term is SadCom.
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/11/bbc3-fleabag-louie-girls-transparent-master-of-none-sadcom

Aaron Sheckley said...

I enjoyed the hell out of Fleabag, Catastrophe, and Lovesick (aka Scrotal Recall), and I find them all to be hilarious. Dark comedy isn't everyone's thing, of course, but if you like it, the English are definitely the masters of it. Frankly, I'm far more perplexed as to why a more traditional sitcom like Two Broke Girls is considered funny enough that it's still on the air what, for five or so seasons?

alan0825 said...

I hate to admit it, but WUSA wasn't a very good movie. That's probably why you don't hear much about it these days.

Johnny Walker said...

Again with the autocorrect :( I should really proof read before I hit send.

pfh64 said...

I believe Kurt Russell learned to write left handed to play Herb Brooks in Miracle.

MikeN said...

An episode of Monk had Stanley Tucci playing an actor based on Daniel Day Lewis who is playing Monk for a movie. The story was he was so serious an actor he had to go to rehab after playing an alcoholic, without actually drinking.