Sunday 18 December 2011

Movie Star Girl - Chapter One

It felt like the beginning of something. They sat in a tiny restaurant on Mulberry Street and Tommy hid the Bolognese sauce stain on his shirt. Nicola knew about the stain but she could also see how desperately he was trying to hide it. Weeks later, they’d joke about it, but on this night it was important business.

When they think of their first meeting, they think of Mulberry Street, but they actually met two hours before, in a run-down office just off Canal Street. Nicola was late and Tommy was pissed about it. Everyone was pissed about it. They’d seen fifteen actresses already and they had no time for a late one.

But then she walked in.

Tommy fell immediately in love and wanted to cast her. He knew it wasn’t professional, but love isn’t about being professional. Luckily, she had talent. It was more than just acting skills, she exuded something. An essence. She was like a Van Morrison song – soft yet surprising; with an unexplainable magic. She dived into the role of Jessica, and the whole room was captured, including Georgia, who usually hated everyone by default. Tommy knew they had to cast her. He was a unique filmmaker, and his debut feature was almost certain to impress. When it came to the female lead, he wanted someone with a simple, elegant beauty and a good heart and soul. It was definitely her. “We’ll let you know," said Georgia, giving nothing away, as Nicola went off into the night.

After a bad audition, Nicola would normally wait to get home before crying her eyes out. This time, she was certain she’d blown it. She disappeared into the night somewhere on the lower East Side and burst into a thousand tears. They flowed like they hadn’t in years. She’d fucked up auditions before, but this time it hurt because she loved the script and everything about the project. She was certain it would be her big break and now she was certain it was broken.

Tommy left the office happy, as did the producers. They’d found the missing ingredient. Tommy was also left with the bittersweet feeling of knowing that he was absolutely doomed. He grew up falling in love with movie star girls and now he was about to employ one that made his heart scream all over the Manhattan night. Georgia and Jay re-capped the afternoon and talked about the location visits coming up the following week, but Tommy’s attention was gone. He wanted to disappear into the night and think and dream and feel. It was insane, he knew; but as a writer and director he lived for those moments when life gives you a spark which makes you want to dance with the New York night all on your own. “Is that okay with you?” asked Georgia, about something. Tommy looked back all confused and made an excuse about feeling sick and wanting to leave. He lied about getting a Taxi, just to get rid of them, and then he took off into the streets with the sole intention of breathing in the New York night on foot.

Tommy didn’t believe in magic, except for when he did believe in magic, which was very rare and usually only lasted for about an evening; which is why he was so pumped up on this particular night, for it was undoubtedly magic.

Should I do it? Or would he think I’m insane? Am I even meant to have the director’s number? These were the thoughts that kept circling in Nicola’s mind. She wanted to call him to apologize for being so terrible and unprepared. I shouldn’t call, figured Nicola, which is probably why she dialed his number while eating a self-pity-deli-sandwich.

He didn’t normally answer numbers he didn’t recognize, but tonight was a night of magic, he’d decided. “Hi, is that Tommy Morrel?” asked the female voice. It’s her, it’s her, oh my God, what if it’s really her, he pondered. “It’s Nicola Pent, I read for you today. I’m an actress. Kind of.”
“Kind of?” asked Tommy.
“Well, based on today I am maybe not an actress.”
“You were great.”
“I think you’re thinking of someone else.”
“We all loved you.”
“I just want you to know that I love your writing, and everything you’re doing with the film and I really think I might be right for it, which I know is insane after what you saw today..”
“Nicola, you’re right, you might well be right for it—“
“You don’t understand. I was not at my best today, I’m embarrassed by it.”
“Are you insane?”
“Sometimes I’m a little insane,” she explained.
Tommy had an idea. It was the type of idea that he’d never attempted in real life but had always attempted in his movie scripts. Fuck it, he figured, tonight is a magic night. “Whereabouts are you right now?”
“Little Italy” she responded.
“Me too! Whereabouts?”
“Just outside Angelo’s.”
“Wait there. I’ll be two minutes.”
“Um, okay.”

Tommy hung up. It was an abrupt hang up, like they do in political thrillers, which he instantly regretted but figured he’d make it up to her when he got to Mulberry Street. The only problem was that he was actually nowhere near Mulberry Street. He hailed a cab and demanded they get there in two minutes.

The Bolognese sauce was, surprisingly, not a result of going to an Italian restaurant. In fact, Tommy didn’t know how the sauce stain came to be. He looked down at his shirt when he got into the cab, and there it was. It was big. Almost enough to make him cancel on Nicola. Luckily, he had a masterplan: arrive on Mulberry Street, run into a restroom, and wash it off before she sees him. Or he could dive into a store and buy a cheap t-shirt of some kind. All of these things could have worked had Nicola not been standing in the exact spot where the yellow cab pulled up. Nicola smiled and waved awkwardly as Tommy stepped out of the car. It suddenly hit Nicola that she was meeting a director who absolutely despised her and was probably meeting her to recommend a career as a receptionist.

“Why would I despise you?” asked Tommy, as they sat down in the restaurant. “Because I’m the worst actress you’ve ever seen,” said Nicola.
“Okay, cut it out. You’re fantastic. We’re considering you for the role.”
“Really?” she asked.
“What do you want to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Me neither,” added Tommy.
Nicola was all ready to ask ‘then why the hell are we here?’ but instead found herself laughing and smiling. It was a spontaneous moment, that made a bolt of life flow through her body; making her instantly happy. She was comfortable with this director guy. She didn’t know why, but she was. She smiled at him and he smiled at the world and they ordered some wine.

The Bolognese stain was covered by Tommy’s left arm for most of the evening. This made it look like he had a bizarre disability, but for him, that was better than looking like someone who spilled food all over himself. Nicola found it amusing, if only because he was getting in a pickle about the fact the sauce was now all over his arm as well. They talked about the film and then they talked about their favorite songs and then they talked about religion and relationships and their pets and their dreams and four hours quickly rushed by.

They stepped outside somewhere around midnight and decided to get down to serious business: the cupcakes. For reasons not quite known they both had a craving for delicious cupcakes. But from where? Tommy knew a place on the Upper West Side and Nicola knew a cute place in Chelsea but they were both too far away for the craving. “We will walk until the cupcakes present themselves,” announced Tommy, and that they did.

Tommy was extremely aware of the magic. The temperature was just right, the conversation was flowing and for the first time in at least five years his sense of humor seemed to work on another human being. “This is a good night,” said Tommy.
“Indeed it is,” said Nicola, who had forgotten all her madness about being a bad actress.
“I need to tell you something,” said Tommy, in an unexpectedly serious tone. Nicola stopped and turned to him, ready to take in whatever he had to say. She suspected something terrible, like cancer, but hoped it was something sweet, like ‘Can I kiss you?’
“What’s up?” she asked. 
“I have a rather troublesome and somewhat outrageous amount of Bolognese stuck to my shirt and I don’t know how it got there.”
Nicola fell into a fit of laughter that lasted for at least five hours. “I’m serious, I don’t know how it happened” added Tommy.
Nicola tried to talk, tried to say anything sensible, but she was too lost in laughing-breakdown-mode.

Tommy’s phone rang, which surprised him, as he had forgotten there were phones, or buildings, or indeed anything other than Nicola and the Manhattan night. It was Jay, the producer, all excited and loud --- “We’ve got him! We’ve fucking got him!” yelled Jay.

It was good news. Jason Hurl, the movie star, agreed to do Tommy’s small indie film. He slashed his fees, cleared his schedule, and agreed to dedicate himself to “Two People Lost”. This was the moment Tommy had waited all his life for. A giant movie star was agreeing to star in his picture. Amazing. But of course; Tommy realized what it meant --- that Nicola, the new piece of Brooklyn magic that had strolled into his life only hours ago, would have, as her love interest, a Hollywood icon. Jason was married, of course, but then everyone in Hollywood is married right up until the point they’re not married anymore. Tommy immediately regretted the sex scenes he’d written. Maybe they weren’t integral after all. Maybe the film didn’t need to be a romance anymore. He considered making it a gay drama. Nicola looked at him and wondered why he’d been spaced out for about nine minutes.

Nicola playfully mentioned that she desperately wanted a cupcake, and Tommy snapped back at her, “I know. I get it.” She was surprised by his abruptness. Tommy felt he had a right to be angry with her – because he was certain that she was already planning to have an affair with Jason Hurl even though she didn’t know that she would be offered the role, or that Jason would be in it as well.

Tommy could actually see the night’s magic disappearing in front of him. It announced itself with a gust of cold wind and a look of distance in Nicola’s eyes.

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