Monday, 19 December 2011
Movie Star Girl - Chapter Two
It was 4am, three Tuesday’s after the night they first met. Tommy and Nicola were all snuggled up in her bed watching Frank Capra films. This was a wonderful time for Nicola. Tommy, however, was in some kind of psychotic breakdown. Does this mean anything? Does she like me? What if she does this with lots of men? What the hell is going on? These were the thoughts scrambling through his brain.
Nicola knew something was up. She felt so close to him yet somehow he was miles away, fighting some kind of battle. She wanted to know why he hadn’t kissed her yet. There was a perfect moment for a kiss, just after 2am, but it was missed.
A missed kiss is no big deal for most people, but Tommy was not most people. He took it as a sign that she was definitely going to sleep with Jason Hurl on the first day of rehearsals. He made it worse by asking her a bunch of ridiculous questions. “What do you think of Jason’s acting?”, “How do you feel about working alongside a sex symbol?”, “Will the sex scenes be weird for you?” Nicola was honest; she was looking forward to the scenes. It would be great to work with such an accomplished actor. She wasn’t fazed by the sex scenes, she knew it was part of the job. The main thing for Nicola was that she was head over both her heels in love with Tommy’s writing, and her feelings for him were following a similar pattern. All signs of this were disregarded by Tommy. He was dreading the first day of rehearsals. He could see it already – one of America’s biggest movie stars, and the young and angelic Nicola, together, in each other’s pockets for the next two months. Tommy would have to sit and witness this, and at times, even encourage it.
The producer, Jay, rented a space on Ditmars Blvd in Queens, where Tommy and the cast would hang out for a week getting to know each other while working on the scenes. Tommy had demanded rehearsal time be worked into the budget so that the actors could get to know each other. Now though, he wished there was no rehearsal time and that the actors not get to know each other at all.
Jason arrived in a casual way, and was completely on time, which upset Tommy who was certain he’d stroll in two hours late. Jason was introduced to people in order of how close they were to the door. Nicola was one of the first. “You must be my girlfriend!” joked Jason.
“That’s me,” replied Nicola, as they embraced in a hug.
This was not enough of a reason for Tommy to shut down the production, but it was close. By the time Jason was introduced to his director, Tommy was ready to retire and emigrate.
Jason Hurl was absolutely lovely. A splendid human being. This made Tommy inconsolable. The cast and crew got to know each other and within a matter of hours there were in-jokes circulating and friendships forming. Tommy was sinking further into himself.
Georgia stepped over to Tommy and whispered in his ear that they should begin doing some work. Tommy agreed and spent the next two days rehearsing a meaningless shopping mall scene.
“Tommy, I think the mall scene is good enough now,” said Jay.
“It’s ready when I say it’s ready,” came Tommy’s response.
“We’re only here for a week and you’ve spent two days on Jessica buying vegetables.”
“We’ll move on soon, I promise.”
“The difficult scenes are the sex scenes. You need to work on them, you said so yourself.”
Tommy had made the decision to NOT work on the sex scenes. They’d just figure them out on the day, when there were lots of crew around and everything was impersonal. It would minimalize the intimacy between Jason and Nicola.
The third day of rehearsals began with five hours of focusing on the ladder scene. In this scene, Jason’s character is struggling to get his ladder to stand up properly against a house, and Nicola walks past and says, “I think you need a different ladder.” This is the whole scene. Tommy wasn’t happy with it and demanded they re-work it again and again.
During the break, Jason took Tommy to one side. “I think we should work on the more intimate scenes, because I’m a bit awkward about them and I’d like to get that out of the way before we shoot.”
“I want to improvise those scenes on the day,” said Tommy.
“I really must demand that we spend the next two days rehearsing them,” said Jason.
Tommy was very aware that a big Hollywood movie star had made a demand. If you ignore their demands, you lose them. Tommy knew that the success of his entire film could rest on this decision. “No,” reiterated Tommy.
“Okay, that’s fine,” said Jason.
Tommy was surprised by how well he took it. “I’m glad you understand.”
“I’ll work on it myself with Nicola,” added Jason.
Tommy’s heart sank. Graphic images raced through his mind. He immediately declared to the room that they would work on the sex scenes.
Nicola was concerned about Tommy. Something didn’t seem right with him but she couldn’t figure out what. He’d been really cold to her, and when that happens, it usually means a guy has lost interest. Add that to the fact that he always skipped past kissing opportunities, and she felt she had her answer. Why doesn’t he like me? Nicola thought about it some more and then sunk into a mini-depression. It wasn’t helped by the fact that she now had to work on a sex scene with a famous film star.
Tommy decided to compartmentalize. To be a professional. He had to put his feelings aside and do what was best for the film. The actors had to be comfortable, and intimate, and he knew it. He cleared everyone out apart from Jason and Nicola.
“Can I make a suggestion?” asked Jason.
“Sure,” said Tommy.
“We should just get naked. Get it over with. This is what I did with Scarlet last year, and once we got the awkwardness out of the way, it made everything easier.”
Tommy hated the idea. “If you are both comfortable with it, then do it.”
They did it. Tommy had imagined Nicola naked many times; yet somehow she was even more beautiful than he had dreamed. Tommy fell immediately into a new level of depression. Nicola was feeling extremely exposed, and shy, and looked to Tommy for support.
“Now you’re both naked, woo, you can go and have lots of sex together,” said Tommy. He had no idea what the comment meant, but Nicola felt hurt and Jason looked at him like he was a ridiculous infant.
“I think we should focus on the hugging scene, it’s the most complex,” said Jason. Tommy looked at him and realized that Jason had seized the authority. He had shown himself to be the adult. He looked at them both and realized that he had no idea how to talk to the actors. “Yeah, um, yeah – I was going to say, we should work on that scene, definitely,” said Tommy.
Gradually, Tommy got some authority back, if only because of his passion and understanding of the film. “It’s a key scene – because nobody has touched her in four years because of how fragile she is. So when you finally hug her, you know it, and the audience know it; that something has changed, that she’s let somebody in.”
Nicola smiled. She loved how passionate Tommy was about the story. He had a way of making a tiny independent feature film seem like the most important thing in the history of the world. It was a passion she craved but seldom found in life. She noticed it when she first met him, how he fixed his eyes on her and made her the center of the world. The only thing that made her sad was that his focus on her had shifted. In fact, whenever they had a personal moment, his eyes glazed over and he appeared disinterested.
“Do I move straight from the hug into kissing her?” asked Jason.
“It has to happen naturally,” said Tommy. “The idea is that it’s unavoidable – that their connection has become so strong that a kiss is inevitable.”
“So I should wait till it feels right?”
“There needs to be eye contact. You need to look at her and feel it.”
Tommy couldn’t believe what he was saying. Only a film director would do something as demented as purposefully making the woman he’s interested in fall for someone else right in front of his own eyes.
Jason and Nicola kissed. It was electric. Tommy could see the movie coming together in front of him. Not only did Jason look like a movie star, but so did Nicola. This would launch her into the A-list and he knew it. He was happy for her, and deeply unhappy for himself. The kiss ended after what seemed like an hour, and something had changed. Jason and Nicola had connected. How could they not? “I think that’s enough for today,” said Tommy. Everyone agreed.
They stepped out into the cold breeze and everyone was ready to go home. Tommy could hear the actors behind him, chatting casually. “So your Mom is from Pennsylvania?” asked Jason.
“Yeah, well, she grew up there,” said Nicola.
They were sharing family history, finding things in common. Tommy wanted to ask her out to dinner, which they’d casually talked about doing earlier but no definite plans had been made.
“Do you want to grab some food?” asked someone, and it wasn’t Tommy. It was Jason, talking to Nicola.
Nicola looked at Tommy. “Oh, well, maybe, I dunno, I think me and Tommy were going to—Tommo, you still want to get some food?”
Tommy turned to face them. If he said yes, they’d be eating as a threesome. If he said no, he’d be setting them off together. He hated both ideas.
“You guys go, I need to get some sleep.”
Nicola was disappointed. Tommy jumped on the subway and the actors went in search of food.