Saturday, April 04, 2009

Meryl Streep cracks walnuts with her teeth!

I worked four days straight last week on the set of a movie. It's not yet named, but the "Un*titled N*ancy M*eyers Project" needed extras to populate an indoor set in Brooklyn that doubled as an outdoor garden party in Santa Barbara (!)

I fit the Santa Barbara bill.

Anyway, we were supposed to be dancing on a deck and the scene is only 2 pages long. 2 pages could easily be done in a day. If it were a 2 page high speed action sequence in a thriller then yes---take 4 days. But a romantic comedy?

We were there 4 days, 12 hours-plus each day. The writer/director is a lady they call "Nancy 21" because she does like 21 takes of each set-up. Keep in mind, the actors here are: Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and Meryl Streep. Yes, they are shooting 20 takes of frickin' Meryl STREEP! On the bright side, that adorable pocket-twink Hunter Parrish was there all day, too, so at least we had something to look at.

But clearly the director believes this epic she's written is not a comedy, and rather the Godfather Part 4, because she is really type A to the max. I heard someone on set complain, "On the set of Parent Trap, they called her Nancy 31."

You can imagine the actors are all like, GAWD!! To their credit they were all truly amazingly professional. If they weren't so professional, the entire set would've been a disaster. Ocassionally, the super-cool Alec Baldwin would be like, "Goin' again right away!" because Nancy 21 never goes again right away---she watches the replay of each take before shooting again. But for the most part the actors tolerated her, and that is the right word: tolerate.

And after 12 hours on set you get really punchy. Extras, like me, were made to "dance" on the back porch and I was paired with this really busty, hot Polish girl named Natalia. Natalia and I went crazy after a while and I'd lift her on my hips and swing her around and the 2nd A.D. kept coming over to us and saying, "I told you before...KEEP IT P.G. rated!" (if I had a penny for the number of times I've heard a version of that!) By the time 14 hours rolled around, Natalia and I were so silly insane, she had given me a giant R-rated hickey on my neck.

And if you thought we were punch-drunk, imagine the actors! At one point Meryl Streep and Steve Martin are dancing on the back porch on, I don't know, take 15 of the same thing--without even any dialogue--when Nancy 21 says, "I take that back, Meryl, you can actually let go of Steve and do a little twirl by yourself this time."

At which point, Steve Martin says aloud, "Well if she gets to twirl, I'm going to peel an orange." And Meryl giggles, "Well if he gets to peel an orange, I'm going to crack walnuts with my teeth!"

Oh yeah. Fun on set!

The company moved back to LA the other day, but guess what? That 2 page scene? The 2 pages we shot over the course of 4 plus days? They didn't finish them! The company's moving back in May just to finish. Kinda makes you wanna, um, crack walnuts with your teeth!


The Blackout Blog said...

That sounds excruciating! I used to do the same thing with vocal recording: reviewing each take before doing the next one. But many times, if I just do it a few times in a row and review after, I'll find that we "got it" in one of those takes, saving a ton of time.

But as hard as it is to work with neurotic people, they often come up with the best end product.

karlaT said...

Wow that´s amazing, how was to watch meyl so close, how is she like?

alluhrey said...

i read and enjoyed this entry the first time i read it. it must have been an experience working with meryl streep and stteve martin! but working for nancy meyers??!! well, they're still filming and it's already the end of june. they started february. not even big action movies take that long to shoot, i don't think...