Day 23 – Monday July 2nd
We were totally fucked by rain today. It poured on and off all day, causing huge delays. (Now we know why the film industry settled in southern California a hundred years ago.) Between downpours, we managed to grab the line we missed on Friday. Simon then did his drunken stunt, falling off the bandstand while chanting the ''En-ger-land, En-ger-land, En-ger-laaand!'' (Will anyone get this in the states?) Simon loves doing stunts, so he was inhis element. But most of the scene was
shot from below, angled up at him, which means we continually saw those angry dark clouds above him. How will we ever pull this off as a summer garden party in the Hamptons? Plus, because of our increasingly squeezed schedule, we had to lose Simon's conversation with the band members that motivates his antisocial behaviour. I hope the scene still makes sense. The funniest moment was Simon's shout-out to ''Orlando,'' which really puts some pressure on getting Orlando Bloom to do a cameo. If he doesn't, I wonder if we can still justify using the line, or if it will just seem like a cheat.
DIARY - CHAPTER 5
Sadly, this scene was supposed to take place during a brilliant fireworks display. But we couldn't shoot it at night as there's only six hours of darkness during the summer, so we had to shoot it as a day scene. I had decided, at very least, to have a bunch of kids running around waving sparklers to remind us it was the Fourth of July. But by the time we got to the scene, all but two kids had been released for the day. So we've gone from a massive fireworks display to two kids waving sparklers, which could easily be cut from the scene.
Simon brought his miniature Schnauzer puppy (Minnie) to set today. I decided to put her into the scene as a dog belonging to one of the party guests. But on her first take she was overacting and hogging all the attention by jumping on party guests. Sadly, I had to sack her and send her to her trailer. Simon protested, but I will not cave in to nepotism.
DIARY - CHAPTER 6
We finally got to Kirsten's swing scene at the end of the day. The idea was to have a second unit shoot Simon's stunt double falling into the hedges, while I shot the Kirsten/Simon scene with the first unit. However, it came to light that we did not have a backup for Simon's Hawaiian shirt, which meant we couldn't shoot both scenes simultaneously. We were all set up for the stunt, which we'll now have to shoot tomorrow. I'm told that this little delay will cost us about £6000 – surely making that second-hand Hawaiian shirt among the most expensive in the world.
After only a few takes on the swing scene, we started to lose the light. By 9PM, we were dead. I got my master, and a couple of ''overs,'' but never got the tighter shots I wanted for this somewhat emotional scene. I can't stand taking creative hits because of weather, and there's no way we'll make it back to this location for pickups. I've just got to hope there's a scene in the coverage that I shot.
Kirsten and Liat and I decided not to eat the late meal on set, as our hotel promised to keep the kitchen open for us until 10:00. However, when we got to the hotel at 9:35, the kitchen had closed, and it looked like we wouldn't get to eat. I had to raise a fuss, first at the restaurant, and then at the front desk, until they finally caved in and reopened the kitchen. I'd like to take credit for it, but I have a sneaking suspicion they recognized Spiderman's girlfriend.
Shoot Day 24 – Tuesday July 3rd
More bad weather, but we started the day with an interior scene – Kirsten spying on Hannah Waddingham, crying in the bathroom. I needed Hannah to cry real tears and felt horrible making her do several takes, but she was a pro and was smiling between takes. That was the easiest part of the day.
Next up was Megan's big scene by the pool with Simon, which was one of her audition scenes. Oliver and I agreed that a face like Megan's doesn't come along all that often, and we both wanted to show it off. It took forever to properly light and I was determined not to rush this important scene. On top of that, it was rainy and exceptionally cold,
and Megan and Simon had to lie on cold concrete by the pool. Woolley kept suggesting I have them lie on chaise lounges, but that would have ruined the dynamic between the actors, and nullified the blocking we worked out in rehearsal, which was all about body language. We really had no way of effectively covering the shooting area, so after each rainfall, the crew used heat blowers to dry the concrete so we could start again. It seemed every time we had dried the set and were ready to shoot again, the rain would return. But we slogged on through. Crew members were coming up to me between takes and saying, ''My God, she's good!'' I'd just smile and say, ''You didn't think I hired her just because she was beautiful, did you?''
Thanks to the weather, we didn't wrap until the sun came up at 4AM, and we still didn't get it all. We also had birds chirping over Megan's last few lines in a scene that takes place at midnight. Simon and I got back to our hotel at 5AM and got them to open the bar. The deal was we'd have to finish our drinks before the incoming breakfast crowd started to appear. Back in my room, I was asleep about two seconds before my head hit the pillow.
Shoot Day 25 – Wednesday July 4th
Our final day at Headley. This weather is driving me mad. My kingdom for a soundstage! Interesting that we're still filming our 4th of July party today, when it is, in fact, the 4th of July. (That date doesn't seem to carry as much weight here in the UK as it does in the states.)
Thankfully, we started the day with an interior – what will be the first shot of the film: Young Sidney watching his mum on television in the early 80's. The shot was supposed to track in to an extreme close up of the little boy's eyes from several feet away. This made for some steadiness and focus challenges, so we opted for starting tight on the boy's face, and tracking backwards. For the film, we'll run it in reverse. Ah… movie magic.
When the sun went down, we finished the Megan/Simon poolside scene, but had to skip the scene with Simon and Andy Lucas at the car. I've no idea when or where we'll pick that up. Then it was on to Simon's desperate search for the Wizard/Dentist -- running through the crowd -- in which he got to improvise most of his dialogue. Thankfully, it was a short, loose, handheld, single-take scene that we nailed in about four takes.
Kirsten's father, Klaus, was in town and visited the set tonight. I last saw him after filming Mother Night when Kirsten was thirteen. He watched us film the scene in which Sidney has to convince a drunken Alison not to drive home. Frustratingly, I only got to shoot three master takes before that damn sun came up again and the birds started chirping. It worries me because I need one uninterrupted take of this scene and I'm not convinced I have one that's perfect. There's talk of coming back to this location for pickups, but I know it won't happen. I'm concerned about how many scenes I'm accumulating that feel half shot.
Speaking of ''half-shot,'' I finally returned to my flat at 5AM. Tomorrow is another day. Well, actually, according to the schedule, tonight is another day.
Shoot Day 26 – Thursday July 5th (theoretical half-way point)
Shot the scene of Sidney trying to crash the BAFTA awards with the pig. It was an art department triumph as they converted the Old Middlesex Hospital to blend in with the actual BAFTA footage shot at the Opera House this year. Tonight went relatively well, considering Simon wasn't feeling great. Nutmeg, the pig did a splendid job, and I made sure she got a round of cast and crew applause when she wrapped.
Felicity Montague and Katherine Parkinson were a delight to work with. We ate our meal in a vacant room at the hospital, which also hosted a mouse that scurried about throughout our dinner. I relayed the theory about why women are especially afraid of mice and assorted vermin – the whole jumping on the chair thing. The theory goes that it's a primitive fear of something uninvited entering their vaginas. That pretty much set the tone for the remainder of our dinner conversation.
Oddly enough, my name appeared in a gossip column yesterday in a national paper, in a piece that was completely fabricated. It said that I had fired two female assistants and fired my writer for ''not being Hollywood enough,'' (whatever that means). I realized today it was planted by a disgruntled actress who didn't get a part in the film. I sent an e-mail to the columnist, saying I would donate £20,000 to his favorite charity for each claim that he could verify, if he would donate £200 to my favorite charity for each allegation that I could disprove. Let's see if I hear from him.
Shoot Day 27 – Friday July 6th
Back to soundstages at Three Mills, or as I fondly refer to it, ''Three Mile Island.'' We shot scenes in the lift all day. The effect I wanted, showing vertical movement in the lift, worked beautifully, thanks to a special rig we called ''The Descender,'' though it did take a while to set up. Between each scene we had floors flying in an out, walls coming and going, set dressing constantly changing (for the lobbies) – so even though we were in the lift all day, it was logistically complicated. To make our day, I had to jettison the brief scene where Simon shows the Clint Eastwood photo to the model. I also only got a master of Simon and Kirsten's ''Algonquin'' dialogue. I definitely need coverage and pray I'll be allowed to grab some pickups at some point.
Complications with all of our actors today. Call times for Kirsten and Hannah Waddingham got confused, putting a hole in our schedule during which we had access to neither. Hannah came after her Spamalot performance, so she was exhausted, but a good soldier. Simon was feeling increasingly shitty and feverish, and it showed in his face, which became pasty and sweaty, as his eyes got redder and more swollen. Plus, he had to take countless bites out of several hamburgers. I was seriously concerned whether he would make it through the night. Kirsten also wasn't feeling great.
Despite all this, we shot the burger coughing sequence, which I think will be a big laugh in the movie. It took a long time to get right. Tom, our standby prop man, had a spoon full of chewed up goo that he had to fling at Hannah's coat, timed against Simon's cough. Plus, the concoction had to stick, once it made contact. After a few attempts, it finally timed out perfectly and the goo stayed put, but it was so funny that all three actors started to giggle. After several more tries, we got one more good take, and I finally called wrap at 4AM.
As awful as Simon and Kirsten were feeling, he's leaving for France today for his friend Michael Smiley's wedding, and Kirsten is leaving for Hamburg in the morning to see her paternal grandparents. Me? I plan to sleep through the whole weekend.
Shoot Day 28 – Monday July 9th
Back at Three Mile Island for the first day on the set of Sidney's crap New York apartment. The production design was quite good, but I spent lots of time removing bad set dressing from the walls, replacing as much as I could. Miriam Margolyes started today as the Polish landlady. What a casting coup! She's perfect. She's a proper old school actress, but everything with her is ''fuck this'' and ''cunt that.'' You've got to love her. Script called for her to slap Simon outside the apartment door, and again, inside the room. Unfortunately, we had to do several takes. Simon admitted at day's end that it was the first time he experienced true
animosity towards me. I'll feel terribly now if the slapping gets cut in editing!
We then shot Bobbie's ''surprise'' scene with Charlotte. Woolley questioned why I wasn't shooting her full frontal, but I want to save the reveal for the strip tease in Maddox's office. Better to imply it now, see it later.
Shoot Day 29 – Tuesday July 10th
Bill Paterson's first ''real'' working day. Sidney brings a drunken Alison back to his apartment and has an uncomfortable reunion with his dad. We shot handheld all day. Between takes, Bill and Miriam stayed put to go over lines and work on the scene, something you don't see much with younger actors.
We ran a bit over today, and have to pick up one final shot of Kirsten tomorrow. We also keep rescheduling the simple shot of Sidney of ignoring the answering machine when his father leaves a message. Often the simplest shots keep getting postponed, because it's assumed they can be picked up anytime. The trick is to not let them fall off the schedule completely.
Shoot Day 30 – Wednesday July 11th
Ninth anniversary for Linda and me – our first one apart.
We knocked off the pick-up shot of Kirsten first thing. I asked Simon to sing ''Unicorns of the Universe'' off camera, to get Kirsten to laugh. It did the trick. We then had the dramatic father/son scene with Bill and Simon. I had this idea of Bill letting his hand hover over Simon's shoulder, but never quite letting it land. Simon, however, needed to feel Bill's hand to motivate his next line, so I instructed Bill to let it land, figuring I can cut it in editing.
I was glad we had time to rehearse and block this scene before shooting, as though doing a play. Fortunately, we had the whole day for the scene, which was an important one to get right, being the most dramatic one in the movie. I asked that we be able to fly out the wall behind the sink to shoot Simon in the foreground with Bill behind him. It was proper ''movie'' coverage, and worked out great.
Again, the answering machine shot got pushed off the schedule. Mustn't let it disappear.
Shoot Day 31 – Thursday July 12th
Interesting day of bits and bobs. (Great British expression I must import to the states.) I got to improvise today, devising bits of comedy on the fly, which was reminiscent of shooting ''Curb.'' We started with the shot of Alison sleeping. I asked her to snore and snort to take the edge off the sentimentality. She agreed to snore but really resisted the snorting. The business with the falling window blinds worked great. For Simon's morning affirmation speech in the mirror, I wanted him to rinse his mouth with brown New York tap water from rusty pipes, so I asked for a tea bag, and even put in a few tea grounds. Simon did a great spit take. He could well be the next Danny Thomas.
When he came into the living room to wake Bobbie, I asked her to groan and adjust her crotch as though she had a package. I hope it plays funny. It was ultimately a fun, challenging, and satisfying day, thinking on our feet. Simon is a good collaborator for working this way.
Shoot Day 32 – Friday July 13th
This morning we scouted Wandsworth Town Hall as a location for the lobby scene at the Apollo Awards. While there, I suggested that the area just outside could be used for the exterior shot of the limousine pulling up. A crane shot floating over the fountain should look impressive.
We had virtually the whole day to shoot the Alison/Sidney ''morning after'' scene. Ultimately, it went very well and should make for a touching scene. I wish every day were scheduled as reasonably as today. We even had time to finally nail the answering machine shot!
Saturday July 14th
A day off! Dinner at the Ivy tonight to welcome Jeff Bridges. Attending were Jeff, Kirsten, Woolley, Tessa Ross, Simon, Maureen, and Danny Huston. (Tessa looked like an excited schoolgirl sitting between Jeff and Danny.) Then it was off to the Groucho where I finally tried an espresso martini, then had to try two more. It was so great to see Jeff again. I joined him and Danny for a cigarette break on Dean Street, where the two of them shared stories about Danny's dad, John. As they swapped anecdotes, I became enraptured by their inadvertent game of ''Dueling Hustons.''
Kirsten and the infamous Johnny Borrell seem to have finally split, so Simon asked Paul Cook of Brinkman to join us at the Groucho. Paul wrote the love song ''Kirsten Dunst,'' and wasn't aware she'd be there. He was a bit in shock when Simon stepped outside to tell him who was with us. We were hoping sparks would fly, but Paul, a really affable guy, seemed too stunned to process the whole thing.
Paps had converged outside the Groucho and went nuts when Simon and Kirsten stepped out. With Maureen and Paul in tow, they all continued on to a jazz club on the east side. I begged off and walked back to my flat at 2:00 AM.
Sunday July 15th
Lunch today with Stephen, Laurie and Peter. The consensus is that we will not be returning to the locations where we're owed pick-up shots, i.e. Headly Hall, Café de Paris. So I don't know how I'm going to adequately complete these scenes. Plus, Woolley is now saying it will be too expensive to put the green screen behind Bridge's chair to give us the New York skyline in the background, every time he's on camera. This image was one of the first ones I wrote in my script margins a year ago. Fuck! I've got to fight for this one – figure out a way to minimize the cost.
Shoot Day 33 – Monday July 16th
Today we filmed the scene that ended with Simon and Kirsten dancing the cha-cha to ''La Dolce Vita.'' Despite their contention that they would just wing it, I hired a choreographer to at least give them a few steps so it would have a touch of panache, and not be too fumbling. I got the crane shot out the window. I just hope the effect looks good when it's blended with a New York exterior (which we have yet to find).
Day 34 – Tuesday July 17th
We shot the body of the Cuba scene, which worked out great. We'll need some additional shots of the dog, which I'll relegate to second unit. Simon, always game for stunts, got to get knocked about a bit today. The stuffed Cuba hitting the window was actually quite funny.
Unfortunately, I can tell I'm getting sick. The drumbeats of the ''Week 7 Cold'' are rapidly gaining in volume. I really need to get to bed.
Woolley told me today that if we go back to finish the lift scenes, I can't have the descender back. This is crazy! The film utilizes the upward and downward movements of the lift as a motif. You can't just drop it halfway through. I told him to take the cost of the descender out of my salary. Jesus.
Shoot Day 35 – Wednesday July 18th
Sure enough, I woke up feeling like shit today, having no idea how I'd make it to set, let alone last the day. I just drank loads of tea all day (plenty of that here in England), and had to walk off set to spit every five minutes. I actually started feeling better as the day wore on, so I think I dodged a huge bullet.
This morning we shot Simon's ridiculous dancing scene at the Cobden Club on Kensal Road. We generally blocked how I needed to move around the floor, but he improvised his own moves and was very funny. At one point, he kidded about busting some breakdancing moves, and I said, ''Go for it.'' He happily complied, and earned a round of cast and crew applause at the end of the take. Although it was funny, we immediately started to weigh the pros and cons of using it in the cut. I'll try it both ways and see.
After lunch, we had a company move to the Hempel Hotel in Craven Hill Gardens, doubling as the Soho Grand, for the ''goldfish'' scene. The script only called for Sidney to be sitting in the lobby, but I needed a visual gag from Simon to kick off the scene, so we worked out some business where he had to adjust a cushion on the sofa, leaving him fully bent over when the assistant entered. Initially, Simon's sweater hitched up, so then we enhanced it by hitching up his shirt, exposing his lower back. We stopped just short of the bum crack gag. But it was a satisfying piece of business to come up with on the fly. Brit actress Lisa McAllister, playing Sophie's assistant, did an impeccable American accent, and her performance was spot on. I asked her to be at Sophie's table at the Apollo awards scene.
Woolley tonight confirmed that we won't return to the Haymarket to do pickups for the chase sequence. I can't stand the thought of doing nothing to augment that scene. That aside, today wound up being a great day, with no new crisis to speak of.
Shoot Day 36 – Thursday July 19th
Yesterday's happy ending came to an abrupt halt today. Not a good day. Shot the first part of the Apollo Awards at the Troxy Cinema in E1. I can't believe we only have two days to shoot the opening sequence and the entire climax to the film. To do this right, we'd easily need three days minimum.
It took a long time to get off the first take, as it was a big crane shot, initially floating over everyone's head, then moving through the crowd and eventually landing on Simon. I finally got one good take at 24fps, before moving on. Afterwards, I realized I should have repeated the last part of this move at 50fps, to have a duplicate slo-mo shot for the end of the film. Maybe we can recreate this shot tomorrow on a dolly, but the day is already going to be impossibly jammed to incorporate all the shots we missed today. Tomorrow was scheduled just for the stunts, but now there's plenty to do before we ever get to the stunts. There are so many little pieces needed for this scene, both at 24 and 50fps. This sequence probably should have been storyboarded. Instead I'm just working off my shotlist, which seems to morph every five minutes. What we got today was great – we simply didn't get enough.
There was also a big chandelier hanging down in front of the green screen on stage. The effects ladies told me that putting an image in that greenscreen with the chandelier will be more expensive than creating the New York skyline shots behind Jeff's desk. A great time to find this out. We'll probably have to clip the top of the shot, until the greenscreen is clear of the chandelier.
No two ways around it: Tomorrow will be a major ratfuck.
Shoot Day 37 – Friday July 20th
Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat… sort of. We got the essentials, which was more that I imagined we would. I still wish I had one more day to get all the shots I wanted.
Thankfully, the day started with Oliver getting my dolly shot to cover for the 50fps shot I missed yesterday on the crane. We then choreographed the stunt with Megan, Simon and Gillian. When we were finally ready to shoot, I predicted out loud that we might have a shot at getting the bare essentials if every single thing went right, without any mishaps. I must have forgotten to spit at the evil
spirits, because on the first take, Simon accidentally stepped on Gillian's foot, which then caused some kind of equilibrium chain-reaction, resulting in Gillian briefly blacking out. ''Well, there goes that,'' I muttered out loud, before putting down my headphones and heading over to ground zero. While Gillian recuperated on a stunt mat, I shot Simon's moment with Max, with the sunglasses stomp. I asked Max to play it as though he was too cool to pay attention to any of the commotion.
After Gillian came around, we shot a few takes of the stunt, and it worked out all
right. I still wish I could have gotten a more elaborate version of this scene, with Simon leaping on stage, finding himself with guards approaching from both wings, then jumping offstage onto a table, like a punk in a mosh pit. For that matter, I never even had time to get a close-up of Megan while thrashing Simon on the tabletop. Today also would have been Jeff's first day, filming his reaction to the fight, but it got jettisoned for lack of time. We'll have to grab it as a pickup on a sound stage.
We went into slight overtime, working ‘til 9:00. I feel like I got the bare minimum needed to make a scene, but even that was more than I expected to get today. I'm sure I'll be pulling out my hair in the editing room, if I have any left by then.
Shoot Day 38 – Sunday July 22nd
A mixed day. Creatively satisfactory, but logistically frustrating. Wandsworth Town Hall for the Maddox/Sidney scene in the Apollo lobby. (I quickly cobbled together a ridiculous speech for Megan to give the reporter as our camera floats by her.) That scene went smoothly.
There was plenty of bad news waiting once we moved to the exterior. There weren't nearly enough extras to represent the awaiting fans, so we rounded up every crew member, producer, and assistant who could be spared, and threw them into the scene. The crane shot over the fountain worked great, but much to my shock and awe, we did not have the stretch limo to accommodate Sophie and her entourage, only a Towne Car. This was a ridiculous breach of verisimilitude, considering we're representing Sophie as the hottest rising star in Hollywood. Everyone kept saying that no one would know the difference. (Want to make a bet?) Trying to get to the bottom of this breach only engendered conflicting stories and finger pointing. More to the point, a stretch could not be had in time. I cringed on every take as Simon emerged from the front passenger seat and Megan exited the back seat of the Towne Car. This will get unintentional laughs among the glitterati.
It was an incredible snafu not to have Gillian in the scene today, but because her presence wasn't specified in the script, she wasn't called. It made no sense for Sophie's publicist to not be at her side during the biggest day of her career, after already establishing that ''Eleanor'' is always at her side. During the first take in which Megan emerged from her car, she floundered a bit, then asked me before the next take, ''Wouldn't my publicist be here to guide me through the crowd?'' ''Yes, she would be,'' I answered. ''But no one put her on the schedule, so we'll have to act like nothing's wrong.''
We finally moved on to Sidney's emergence from the theater, after the melee. This moment was never nailed in the script, but I had long been nurturing the idea of having one of the lookie-loos unhook the red rope from a stanchion, symbolizing Sidney's return to the side of the rope where he belongs. I took some of the more, shall we say, ''character'' looking extras, and auditioned them for the rope lifter. I made my choice, and put all the runners-up in the front row. I think the scene played out very well. We even wrapped on time, just before 11PM. (My A.D., Matthew Penry-Davey went home sick this afternoon. I'll have fun rubbing it in that we ''coincidentally'' wrapped right on time tonight.)
Simon and I enjoyed a couple of cigars during our lunch break. His mum was on set today, and I made certain she had a good seat by the monitors. How proud must she be? At lunch, I played her a cut of Simon's one dramatic scene with Bill Paterson, and of course, her eyes welled up.
Shoot Day 39 – Monday July 23rd
Back to Three Mile Island today for the ''Limpy pig'' party scene. An amazing performance of humiliation by Simon. I kept thinking of Emil Jannings being made to crow like a rooster by Marlene Dietrich in ''The Blue Angel.''
Megan was extremely apprehensive about having to play the scene in her knickers today. She was near tears in her dressing room. It was a reminder how shy and unassuming this young girl really is. Simon also had to work in his underwear today, so to put us all on a level playing field, I told Megan that I would gladly direct today's scene in my underwear. This seemed to scare her off. She declined my offer immediately, and there wasn't another word about it.
Speaking of underwear, an extra spilled cranberry juice on my trousers today, and I got a lot of funny looks as I went on about the stains all over my pants. It was then explained to me that in England, ''pants'' translates as underwear, which is a bit different than whining about stains on your trousers. Duly noted.
Simon was reading the new Harry Potter book today, and unless we were actually filming, he literally wouldn't put it down. I have funny photos of him in his underwear on the ledge of the hotel balcony, with his nose immersed in his book.
Before we wrapped the set, I wanted to get a take of Megan climbing on the balcony ledge, but was told that she had to shoot publicity stills at that time. It would be nice to prioritize shooting the film before taking photos to promote it. Talk about the cart before the fucking horse.
Lastly I shot the scene of the coked up Sidney watching his mum on the hotel television set.
I'm still fighting to save the green screen shots of the New York skyline behind Clayton's desk. It may be a losing battle.
Shoot Day 40 – Tuesday July 24th
Today, we shot the stripper scene in Maddox's office. Has any director ever shot anything that they didn't think took a hit because of being rushed? At what point do you finally get a schedule that seems reasonable? First I got my takes of the little Harding girls. It was a real struggle to get usable reactions from both at the same time.
We then got the bulk of the scene with ''Bobbie.'' Everyone was a little freaked out about seeing Charlotte with a penis, but she quite enjoyed it and ultimately got very attached to it. (Your joke here.) I wish I had time to really get some crackling choreography for this scene, but I guess what we have will stick to the film.
The big debate was whether to reveal the penis during the dance, or on ''Bobbie's'' turnaround. I shot it both ways so the decision could be made in editing.
The actors were brought in for the Cuba/window washer scene today, but sent home, once we realized we would never get to it. It's rescheduled for Thursday.
Shoot Day 41 – Wednesday July 25th
Today was Jeff's first day. I am so thrilled I got him to play Clayton. It was the first casting notion I had, more than a year ago. He's so engaging – real movie star material. Peter and Annie really nailed my request for his look. We shot the conference room scene of Sidney's Paris Hilton pitch. I was watching the monitors with a big grin on my face, as Danny and Jeff were framed in the same shot. I pushed so hard to get both these guys, and there they were on my set, side-by-side. Victory!
We moved onto the Rachel Petkoff pitch scene. Jeff wanted Clayton to have an unlit cigarette in his mouth when not in his office – a guy trying to wean himself. I agreed to it. I hope it plays.
Jeff wants to watch every take on the video playback as soon as we cut. He even wants to see the playback of rehearsals. We were told of this habit in advance. Whatever it takes to get a Jeff Bridges-level performance. Jeff is great about taking direction. He not only accepts it, he welcomes and encourages it. ''Is that what you had in mind Bob? Something like that? You want anything different? Do you want angrier? I can give you angrier.''
Much discussion between Jeff and I about our Gemini natures – considering both sides when making a choice (as performer or director) and the discipline it takes for us to ultimately come down on one side of that decision.
We missed two short montage scenes. I'm really concerned that anything we miss now will never wind up back on the schedule.
Shoot Day 42 – Thursday July 26th
Things came to a head today on the greenscreen in Clayton's office, and I lost the battle to have it behind his desk. The compromise was to have his picture window on a side wall, so we could control how often we saw it, thereby cutting costs. This unravels the swivel chair shot that I've been planning since I first read the script, and muddies up every shot I've planned leading up to Clayton's reveal.
Without having the New York skyline behind him, the next question was, how will this important part of the set be decorated? Every choice I was given was worse than the last – generic ''cleared'' art. Clayton's office needs to say something about him, and all it says now is, ''this is what could be cleared at the last minute.'' I was shown only two choices for his chair. One bad, one worse. I went with the bad one. I also hated all of the knick-knacks on his desk and on the bureau.
Stephen found a three-sheet of the 1963 Godard film Le Mepris to put behind Jeff, featuring a giant image of Bridget Bardot. Now, instead of having New York behind Clayton in every shot, we have French text and a credit for Jack Palance. I'm not quite certain what information this gives us about Clayton, but we'll let the critics figure it out. This whole exercise left me in a terrible mood.
By the time we addressed all of today's problems, there was no time to actually film the scene. Instead, we shot the Cuba/window washing scene, which actually went well. I also knocked off the single shot of Eleanor and Clayton looking over the magazine cover in his office (Scene 78). I'm very worried about how much we're falling behind. How will we possibly catch up before leaving for New York?
Shoot Day 43 – Friday July 27th
We started the day with the alternate shot for the reveal of Clayton at his desk. Instead, I had him standing, looking out his window, and turning to face Sidney as he entered the room. Not as good as swivelling in his chair, but at least it incorporates the skyline. After we got that shot we filmed the ''Bill Nathanson'' lecture, which played really well. Once we were up and running, we got some momentum to the day, and proceeded at a reasonable pace. We then did the brief ''Shag Tree'' bit for the ''failure montage.'' Art department put me in the middle of the Shag Tree. Quite a compliment.
Saturday, July 28th
A party last night at Automat. Everybody in the joint got stinkin' drunk, except me, of course. Jeff pulled Danny and me onto the dance floor to sing along with James Brown's ''Get Up.'' I kept getting cornered by really drunk, boring strangers. One guy nailed me three times and kept going on and on about what genius ''Curb'' is, well past the point where I wanted to throw up. I did meet Alfonso Cuaron, whom Danny invited. Nice chap.
Shoot Day 44 – Sunday, July 29th
It's becoming my mantra at the end of each day: Love what I got, but didn't get everything I wanted.
I was up at 5:30 this morning to make a 7:30 rehearsal with Simon and Jeff, so as to minimize time taken out of our shooting schedule. We progressed at a reasonable clip, shooting one two-page scene (''You're my little hit
man''), plus Simon's side of another (''I didn't know there was a ‘Take Our Daughters To Work Day.''') On the hit man dialogue, I asked Jeff to put an avuncular hand on the back of Simon's neck, which brought to mind Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti. Jeff and Simon are both so good at understanding what I want, and then giving me that. Working with actors and seeing a perfect end result come out of the collaborative process is the most thrilling part of this whole experience. It reminds me of why I'm doing this.
DIARY - CHAPTER 7
I'm told that the rep from the bond company was on set today, but my crew had specific instructions to keep her out of my sight. After she came into my trailer during lunch a few days ago, making noise about ''pulling the plug'' if we didn't stay on schedule, she is to never enter my field of vision again.
I was functioning on very little sleep today, and had to fight from dozing off during takes. The next couple of days will be crazy. We have only two days to get everything we need, and everything we've missed, before heading to New York.
Shoot Day 45 – Monday July 30th
Some relief as we basically got back on schedule today by shooting two scenes back-to-back in one direction then, going back and shooting the other side of both. It's not an ideal situation for actors, but Jeff and Simon both understood how critical it was for me to make my day today.
We started by filming Clayton's side of his phone call from Scene 19 (''I want you to come work for Sharps Magazine'') with Simon's dialogue on playback. The intent was to not see Jeff's face (the ''Bond'' device), so we can hold his reveal until Simon enters his office. After the phone call, we shot Jeff eating sushi (''If I give you an interview, will you leave me the fuck alone?''). Finally, we got Jeff's side of the final showdown with Sidney (''One more fuckup and you're gone!'') After Simon's snarky line about Eleanor, I encouraged Jeff to give a long, suspenseful pause before delivering the line ''Get out,'' just above a whisper. He nailed it, practically giving me goose bumps.
John Beard created a small set to match the Troxy so we could pick up Clayton's reaction to the melee at the Apollo Awards. We didn't get to it today, so it goes on the list for tomorrow, along with several other short scenes and pick-ups. I finally get to shoot the coverage I need for the ''Algonquin'' scene in the lift with Kirsten and Simon. Every moment is going to have to go off like clockwork tomorrow in order to make our day. We also learned that Kirsten needs to leave by 1PM, which means shooting her coverage in the lift first, which is going to create a domino effect throughout the day. God bless Matthew who agrees we should just go for it. We really have no other choice. There are numerous redresses of the lift to make it serve as both the lift at Sharps, as well as the Haymarket, for the pig scenes. The good news is that I won the battle to get my descender back! I just don't know why these things have to be battles in the first place.
The bad news is that I'm going to have to delegate the Mother Teresa trailer to 2nd unit, since I can't be in two places at once. I've called the actors in for rehearsal tomorrow at 7:30AM, so that I can get the performances I want.
Shoot Day 46 – Tuesday July 31st
A bizarre, if ultimately triumphant day. I started by rehearsing Megan and the other actors for the Mother Teresa trailer, and reviewed with 2nd unit how I wanted it shot. I then picked up Jeff's reaction shot at the Apollo awards, while the lift was redressed for the Sharps offices so we could shoot the ''Algonquin'' coverage with Kirsten and Simon. It took some time, but eventually, I got what I needed, and then Kirsten was off to the airport, next to join us in New York.
We ploughed through the rest of the day, non-stop. The actress that I had cast for the Clint Eastwood gag on the lift was now unavailable, so I was given an extra with no acting experience. She only had two words, and they'll need to be ADR'd. We shot two scenes with Simon and Jeff in the lift – one going down for the ''failure montage,'' and one going up for the ''success montage.'' That effectively wrapped Jeff. Then it was Simon with pig in lift, then pig alone in lift. What a catastrophe it would have been not to have the descender back.
It was then on to the steam room shot which involved one push-in to Simon who gave a wry smile as he was enveloped by steam. Most of the British crew was then wrapped, as the remaining scene that evening would be shot with a skeleton crew. I made a little ''thank you'' speech, and realized, yet again, that the British crews don't go in for too much sentimentality. Simon also bid farewell, saying, ''I'd rather work with you guys than the best crews in England.''
After dinner, Simon and I enjoyed a couple of cigars and beer outside our trailers. Andy Lucas was on set for that night's scene. I showed Simon and Andy a few clips from the cut on my computer. A small group gathered around and there were lots of big laughs. I hope that's a good sign.
Our smaller, 2nd unit crew made our way to the field just outside Three Mile Island to shoot the dentist/wizard car scene. We wrapped at midnight. I returned to my flat and packed for New York. Lights out at 3:30, alarm set for 5:30. It was a very turbulent flight, which may somehow be symbolic. It wound up being more than an 8-hour flight, rerouted due to headwinds. But that's why God created Xanax.