Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mystery Guest #2, Sign In Please

In my studio career, I've done lots of auditions. Lots and lots. We've had whole days where folks came in to read a part, or we'd ask agents to bring folks in we'd never seen before to see who was out there, and if they had some possibilities.

There was an open-call for the part of a kid for a video game company, and we were pretty shy of "young adult" voices, so we held an open casting. People would come in, take a look at the script, and then I'd record them for one or two "takes," say "Thanks! That was great!" (whether it was or not) and go on to the next one. Then, we'd take all the recordings and put them into a nice little collection and ship them out to the producer/director/writer who would do the casting. Sometimes, they'd ask for our recommendations. They'd at least inquire if there were any possibilities. This particular writer/producer/director (we'll call him "Bob") was also an actor, so we could talk about specific qualities that we were looking for in detail. In other words, we could "fine-tune" the search.

The day of the audition, actor after actor showed up to have their voice recorded so that Bob could hear what they might do with the material, and as with every audition they ran the gamut from possible to horrible. By two in the afternoon, there wasn't anybody I thought was any good. Oh, there were a couple we could "get by" with, but on the whole it was one of the worst casting sessions I'd ever had. I'd even go so far as to try and direct these people into a performance to little success. In fact, I'd just finished the worst audition of the day when a guy showed up--a late addition to the schedule. He was about six feet, carried a back-pack, it was obvious he came in right off the street. He apologized for seeming unprepared, said he'd just graduated from Cornish and his agent thought he should do some auditions. I said, "Great! Whatever!" And put him into the booth. Then I gave him the standard instructions I gave all the auditioners about the part and what the producers might be looking for. I wasn't expecting anything different than what had come before.

But, a great talent can come from anywhere.

Right off the bat, he was good, with an intensity and a commitment that nobody else gave to the role. Plus, his timing was terrific, making the most of lines that had only a bit of humor to them. And--this was amazing--he had a sense of subtext, like the character actually had a life before he started talking, and it informed what he was saying now. Very rare, and that put him head and tails above all the rest of the auditioners. In fact, when Bob asked me if there were any I'd recommend, I said "Just one." That guy. "In fact, I wouldn't consider anybody else." "He's that good?" "He's THAT good."

So, Bob hired him. He thought he might be a bit old for the part, but he said, "He knows how to make himself sound younger, so we'll see." He said he was very easy to direct, and did things in a very subtle way. He was very happy with the performance, and the project was completed.

But it was rejected by the game company.

"He's too old!" they said in their infinite wisdom. "We want someone 14 to 15. He sounds 18, youngest." So, Bob had to recast and do it again, which was too bad. But, the client is always right in these things. So, this guy who was so good ended up getting replaced in the project.

But everything turned out all right in the end. This guy, this young actor, who'd just graduated, got paid for the part, and went on to do "other things."

And the client got what they wanted, which was to get someone who skewed a little younger. I'm sure they've forgotten the incident, and that they rejected this guy. But if they tried to get him today, they couldn't touch him.

His name:
Brendan Fraser.


The Mad Hatter said...

This series is blowing my mind and continually makes me wish I made my bones in a more interesting workplace...

Simon said...

Now, if only he'd stop doing shit...

Yojimbo_5 said...

A guy's gotta work. And, like Anna Faris, Fraser is comfortable doing both high-brow (Gods and Monsters) and low-down (George of the Jungle, that "Furry" thing that's out now).

Not only is he comfortable, he's committed. I have never seen a bad performance by Fraser. Ever. And he's frequently the best thing in the movie.