It was about this time that I had met a manager who said a some things that had a profound effect on me. In all honesty she was pursuing me because of my ex boyfriend Johnny . I believe she hoped to connect with him. She did not know the status of our relations, that we were no longer together and I did not tell her. It was OK because in the process of her working the angle, I got valuable, desperately needed input. Some tangible tools that would help to the trajectory of my career.
I was at that point so desperate to be liked and to be loved and to be seen. ugh, yes, still. I would go to auditions and when the casting directors would ask the perfunctory,"Do you have any questions about the character?" A question that they NEVER want you to answer with anything other than NO. I would answer with,"Well, how do you see her?" Naively hopeful that if I could fulfill their vision I might get the job and get the validation I seemed to constantly need.
This is disastrous for an actor. You see, the key to great acting I was later to discover is to illuminate the human struggle. YOUR human struggle. YOUR life. YOUR direct experience. No ones imagination is as interesting as the plain truth. To look at something about your life that you are actually dealing with in that time. Not some bullshit past, dog that died in childhood thing. Not that I am knocking The Method, but I am.
It was relevant when it came into being, which was the 1950's. But we are ,as a world and a society a far cry from that . Back then it was remarkable for a man to show emotion at all. Now people, sometimes complete strangers give us more information about their personal life than we ever want to know. With the exploitation of lives and emotional unrest everywhere on supposed reality tv.
So there I was, desperate to please and be liked and most of all....get the job. The results...not so great. I got harsh feedback at times. One heartbreaking one I remember was that I lacked depth and intensity. Or a common one, that I was too green. Funny because now one cannot not be too green. I wonder what they say to the newbies now.
It hurt me deeply yet I also knew a lot of their criticism was correct. And I simply did not have the tools to actually change it. This is where the manager came into play. She had invited me to her annual Christmas party. I got all dressed to the nines and showed up. Scared..... and more than likely I slipped in and out of my shy/mute state as there were celebrities everywhere. I was Johnnyless which I am sure did not make the manager happy.
I can only remember Willem Dafoe being there. I liked him and his work. But I felt nervous because he had done Platoon with Johnny. At a certain point during the filming while they were in the Philippines I had broken up in what was essentially a dear john letter. Literally and figuratively. Only to come back together once he returned.
I had just felt abandoned by him. He was my first love and for him to go and be gone for 2 months was more than my lack of maturity could tolerate. So what that he wrote me and sent pictures from the film with my name written across his helmet. Still, I wanted to hurt him and I had. I always intended to be with him when he returned. Upon his return we immediately holed up in a hotel close to the airport and came back together.
So Willem Dafoe represented a difficult time in my life and every time I looked at him, I felt it. I don't even think he noticed me. I believe the wonderful Andy Garcia was there as well. But I cannot be certain. I stayed for a bit, drank some vino and then escaped.
Escape is an apropos word because I have never been a social creature. I isolate, that is just me. I don't like bullshit and small talk. I still avoid really social situations. Unless it is with like minded people and we can have real conversation. This is limiting and I am trying to look at it a different way. I am trying to look between the lines, share whatever and know sometimes that is enough. I don't have to have poignant conversation all the time. And I am learning to laugh again and have fun.
A few days later, I was summoned to the managers office for a meeting. Maybe she wanted to rep me? I was excited with the ever present nerves of a young Michigan girl who was completely out of here element. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be an actress when I was a young person. Never. I did not choose it, it chose me.
She did not want to rep me, not yet. She said what a lot of people in her position are fond of saying." You are a project away from us working together." Which is shorthand for, there is too much work to do with you at your current state and once you are discovered, I'll jump on the bandwagon because I have not an original belief in my head. Sorry, but that is how I see it. Most Hollywoodlanders need those creative few show them whats up. Then, when it is sufficiently safe, they jump on board with false bravado and bullshit stories of how they knew and believed in you way back when.
Thank god I was soon to meet one such director but the managers words would help to make this connection stick. She said that she had been observing me at her party. That it was obvious that I was trying to be a "good girl." To be "liked." That I was putting on a mask basically. She shared that the good directors want to work with the actors who" know who they are authentically and show up that way. "
In others words, if I am shy, that is how I should show up. If I am a bitch or rude by nature, don't curb it. If I am a jokey kind of girl or an airhead without affectation but in my essence , that is how I must show up.
WOW. She had given me permission to just be me. That I was actually enough. It blew my mind. I was still so young and was not sure who I was. Moving around so much as a young girl, I was constantly changing myself to fit into a new social group at a new school. Old catholic money one year, new Jewish community the next. It was mind boggling and that combined with my very young childhood [another blog all unto itself] added to a loss of my identity.
So I did some soul searching. And I realized that when I first met people, I was shy. That was at least one truth I could grasp. That I and been entering auditions all positive and happy and bright. Regardless of what I was feeling. It was all so false. No wonder I was often rejected. That and the fact that as an aspiring actress you receive mostly rejection. Its the nature of the beast.
The other thing I did was not share my truth about what I had read. I would act like I liked the script even if I did not. There could be no real communication about the project unless I showed up honestly. Easier said then done. This one would be a tricky line to walk. But what I was doing was not working.
I digested this new information for a bit but in a short amount of time I would put it to the test. I was called excitedly by my agent. I had a meeting with an amazing filmmaker who was doing a tv series. David Lynch. Now I was not too familiar with his work, but I had seen the unforgettable and incredibly disturbing Blue Velvet. My agent encouraged me to rent The Elephant Man and I did.
I was touched so deeply to the very core of my being by this film. It was so different in tone from Blue Velvet. This man was a great director. My god. What a heartbreaking film. How much truth and depth..... I will never forget it and although it is absolutely difficult to watch at times, it is one of my favorite films.
I love most films like this. They resonate with me. Moments so personal , so painful they are actually hard to watch. They pierce ones soul. Like in Truly, Madly, Deeply when she is sobbing so hard you begin to as well. Like being at a birth of child and you find yourself bearing down and pushing as the mother to be does so. Another film I adore is Who's afraid of Virginia Wolfe.
Having played Elizabeth Taylor and vigilantly searching for the woman and not the legend/icon. I personally found this to be the role that came closest to revealing the woman. Not to mention the intense dynamic that existed between she and Richard Burton. Especially in the later days. That and some candid, unrehearsed footage of her were the keys for me. And I love her to this day.
While I watched David's second film, the script was being sent to me. I usually had to go get my scripts, they were not being delivered....yet. But since it was Sir David Lynch, they made an exception. After the emotional film, I am sure I most likely put on a pot of chicken soup, a constant in my life even today, I sat and awaited the arrival of the holy grail. It was not at that point called Twin Peaks. It was something with northern in it, but I cannot remember it. Maybe Northwest passage?!
I had not to date met a truly great director. Not one. I was scared. All that the manager had said was running through my mind. I started to contemplate what I might wear. But quickly realized I needed to read the script first. I was told it would not be a reading, just a meeting. That was not how this unique man worked. He would simply have meetings and in talking to you would decide if and where you fit into the beautiful world he was creating.
As I read the script I must admit that I did not find it so incredible. It was no Elephant Man. My agent kept referencing Peyton Place but this meant nothing to this young person. It read like a soap opera. Hence the reference but Blue Velvet meets Peyton Place. That was the one line pitch. I challenge anyone to have read it , in and of itself and guessed what it turned into. I inexperienced as I was could not see it. But was excited nonetheless. Be the magical hand of David Lynch would be touching it.
So there were the three options of roles for me as far as I could tell. The dead girl, Laura Palmer. The sweet girl who always cried, Donna Hayward. Or the sexy waitress who was being abused by her mean husband, Shelley. Sorry, I cannot remember her last name. [A tweetybird reminded me its Shelley Johnson. Thank you] Although in my life I was most like Donna, I did not think I could carry a show the way she had to. Let alone cry scene after scene. I would more than likely be seen as Shelley.
You see, there was NO AUDREY HORNE at this point. Sad but true. But ultimately not so sad as it turned out, right!!!!!
I remember sitting in the waiting room at Propaganda Films. My heart pounding out of my chest. Looking around at a few other girls no doubt experiencing the same emotions. Remembering what the manager said. Just be yourself. Just be yourself, was my mantra. Then my name was called. ldgutikehgsvrjmthnjbhvgfdsguritoyuiytyrtefwgshdjfmgnbvcdh!!!!!
The head shot they had was me in a black turtleneck with very short platinum blond hair. Very overexposed and artsy. It was why David brought me in. My hair had since been dyed to it dark color again. David immediately spoke of that. In fact, he did most the talking because I was being as I am in my life....shy. How I had to fight every impulse to be chipper and all this other stuff I had pretended to be in auditions and my young life up until now. And if forced him to talk more than he was accustomed to.
He said the picture reminded him of his daughter with the blond hair and all . A woman would I would come to know, love and work on one of my most intense jobs with. Boxing Helena. She is simply brilliant. Of course I am speaking of Jennifer Lynch. Again, this is another blog altogether. But did you know that Jen wrote the book of Laura Palmer's diary that came out while the show aired?! A little trivia.
David was kind and funny. Not at all what I expected. He was quirky but in an innocent way. I thought he'd be dark but he was not. Only the recesses of his mind were. Who's are not. And he had the courage to look at it. Through his work. The best description I have ever heard of him was Jimmy Stewart from Mars. That is the perfect one, to me.
Then he asked if I liked the script. Uh-oh!!!!!! The moment of truth. So far, I was true to me. Would I share my perspective? Could I??? It was nothing less than a character defining moment. A turning point in my life. The beginning of telling the truth. I said there, a huge lump in my throat, I felt like I couldn't breathe. He stared at me with a slight smile, prompting.....
I finally said.... well..... yea..... I thought it was ok...... He just looked at me. Not upset but wanting to hear more of my inexperienced perspective. And....... it seems like everyone is sleeping with everyone else. He smiled and seemed to appreciated my honesty. We finished and I left. Relieved to be finished and prayerful that it went well.
I got home to find an urgent message on my answering machine. My agent. Call asap. I was told that although it seemed that David was not offended, the casting director was outraged. She said I should've been more positive and tried to talk more and have more energy. It was devastating. Maybe that stupid fucking manager was wrong. Clearly she was and I blew a huge opportunity in the process.
I don't remember how long it was before I got the next call. But I do remember feeling lost and depressed. Wondering if I should even do this stupid Hollywood thing. Pulled out chicken soup again and isolated .
But the magic call came. One of the few I can count on one hand in this business that I will not ever forget. It seemed that the casting person was wrong. So wrong. That David loved me, wanted me on the show and was actually WRITING a role for me!!!!!!!! WHAT???!!!!!
I remember where I was standing as I got that call. I freaked out. I played it cool on the phone, mocking the casting directors earlier criticism. Hung up and lost it!!!! Jumping, screaming, laughing and crying. So much so that my crazy neighbor knocked on my door to check that I was ok. She then joined me in my celebratory dance and busted into some praise God's.
That David Lynch saw something in me that no one really had, save my dear agent of many years, was astounding to me. I am forever indebted to him. And frankly, I kind fell a little in love with him. As a patient does with a doctor that saves her and nurses her back to health.
It seemed for the moment, I had been saved.