Monday, December 22, 2003

The Old "Hide the Alien Probe" Trick.

On my third and last trip to the set of "Reversible Errors", I met up with Chase, an actor with whom I meet up frequently and a guy who invariably gets called to play a cop. Chase and I have played cops together a number of times - on Task Force: Caviar, on Phase IV, sundry and various others.

On Phase IV I was one of four cops who arrested Dean Cain. On the first take my “partner” and I hadn't thought to talk about who was who for the shot - and as a result, after we loaded Dean in the back seat of the police cruiser, we both went around to the passenger side. "I thought I gave the keys to you!" I ad-libbed and the crew laughed.

That was the day I arrested Superman.

Which has nothing to do with the story I'm telling here, I only just thought of it.

Anyway, Chase and I are hanging around the Reversible Errors set reminiscing fondly over the time he was humping my leg on The Lexx.

Let me explain.

Sometimes you get to an audition and you only find out what they want when you get there. This audition was one of those times. So the casting agent says to me, "You're in a grocery store in the produce section and a third eye grows in the middle of your forehead and this eye makes you want to kill, KILL, KILL!!!

Interesting. I think about this for a moment and what comes to mind is the Tweety and Sylvester episode ("Hyde and Go Tweet") where the cat is chasing the bird through a laboratory and Tweety hides (ha-ha) in a bottle of "Mr. Hyde" formula. With much jittering and contortion, Tweety is transformed into this monstrous thing and starts chasing Sylvester around the lab. So that's how I played the scene, with much Tweety-like jittering and contortion and maniacal blabbering.

And I won the part. Go figure.

It was for the role of "Produce Manager". And even though it was an "Actor" role, there were no lines. And even though there were no lines, I was still sent a script. It arrived the day before shooting. I read it and my face went white.

In the opening scene the produce manager is invaded by a carrot-shaped alien probe which enters his body through his rectum.

("Rectum? Damn near killed 'em.")

I thought … well I can’t remember what I thought. I remember sitting on the downstairs couch dumbfounded, wondering what my parents would think should they ever see this particular part. I made a spot decision: “Well ... this might be one I don't tell them about”.

I shot my second scene first. For my first day I had already been captured by government agents and was immobilized in this thing that looked like a hot water heater with head clamps. What the thing actually was … was a hollowed-out hot water heater with head clamps attached. What it was supposed to be was this portable X-ray tube where the chief agent could see me and then gaze up to a monitor and see how the alien probe was playing havoc with my innards. Supposedly.

Tidbits from that first day of shooting on The Lexx:
  • The guy leading me around to see everyone was the rectal alien probe expert, Professor Shnoog. Professor Shnoog was played by British actor Clive Merrison. Many months afterward, I saw him playing a scene with Kristen Scott Thomas in a movie called Up at the Villa. This is my one degree of separation from Kristen Scott Thomas ... with whom I fell in love as Katherine Clifton in The English Patient which is my all-time favourite movie. As I’m writing this article, I had to search for the title “Up at the Villa” and wouldn’t you know it, I find that Clive Merrison was also in The English Patient! Who knew? Had I known all this at the time, I might have been much more conversant with Mr. Merrison. Hmmm. So maybe it’s good I didn’t know.
  • The head of the agency was this guy Prince, played by Nigel Bennett, who despite his long and growing list of film credits will always be known around my house as "It's not Oatmeal!" I got to do two scenes with him, one in his dark and evil office, and one in the Oval Office of the White House ... which was a very cool set. On that awful evening when I first received the script, my heart sank because it read so bad on the page. Whatever anyone else thinks about this episode in particular, I thought Nigel Bennett's performance greatly transcended the material (such as it was) and rescued the show. "It's going to be good after all!" I thought. (Well, let's not get carried away.)
  • I arrived at the green room for my first day on set and a production assistant welcomes me intoning, "Welcome to the world of soft porn". This did little to assuage my fear of the shoot and its related subject matter. When I noticed that Season Three episodes had started showing up on the satellite network, I found out what he meant. Young, nubile, naked bodies. Directly targeting the 18-24 male demographic. Alas, there was no nudity in my episode. (Rats.)
  • By the way, to this day I still haven't seen the episode. I was told that they played it on the movie screen at the Oxford cinema which was rented out for the year end cast party for The Lexx. Somehow, I never received an invitation. Sheila from Filmworks told me about this later during some subsequent audition. It was a terrible episode, she told me. But your part was good, she added.
I seemed to have wandered off track.

What I started out doing was telling you how Chase and I got involved in some good old-fashioned leg-humping.

So here it is, my second day of Lexx's "The Bad Carrot" shoot and we're on location in the brand new grocery store at the south end of the city. It's open for business and all the customers are milling about, doing their early morning marketing. We begin shooting the first scene of the episode. Two black SUVs pull up and ATF agents spill from every door. They burst into the store, weapons drawn and at the ready, and deploy directly to the Produce section. A bewildered store manager (me) wanders over. The agents surround a display of carrots and the lead agent (Chase) pokes through them, searching them, frisking them maybe, with the barrel of his 9mm Glock. Suddenly, one of the carrots flies up into the air and whizzes around, ultimately going up the pant leg of the hapless produce manager. Undaunted, the ATF agent tackles the manager and starts shoving his hand up the man's pant leg in attempt to apprehend the evil carrot. This is where Chase and I are flopping around on the floor, him humping my leg and his hand up my pants. All this while the shoppers (both extras who are in on it and real people who are not) look on in shock.

We shoot the scene and shoot the scene.

When the director is satisfied he's got the shots he wants, he asks for the actors to record "wild lines"; lines that are performed soley for the benefit of the microphone and audio crew just in case there's a need for them during post-production. I'm also asked to do my lines. As you may recall ... I have none. But while all the other shoppers shop and the little old ladies and gentlemen are perusing the grocery store for Metamucil and Campbell's tomato soup way over there in aisle seven, I stand under the microphone and scream blood-curdling screams at the top of my lungs as the capricious carrot supposedly makes its anal invasion.

Chase and I are on the set of Reversible Errors laughing ourselves silly over the memory of it.

----------------- Still to Come -----------------

  • Christmas with Valerie Bertenelli
  • Stuff I haven't done yet but hope to.

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