2-27-91: We read through the script today, and it sounds good. Afterward, the cast hangs around in my office, with downtown Seattle as a backdrop. They've become friends. Six months of casting is paying off. It's still mind-bending, though, to see the characters you've written sitting around and talking in character.
3-1-91: Campbell's hair is shaped. It's like shortening the legs of a table. In the process, more is mistakenly cut.
3-9-91: Campbell's hair is becoming a flash point. I sense he's picking up on it. Rehearsals fall apart.
3-10-91: Nancy [my wife] tells me I talked continuously in my sleep. "Sick hair," I said, over and over.
3-11-91: Kyra is in the first scene, and she's like clockwork; she's excellent. We have a celebratory lunch with the cast – except for Campbell, who has disappeared.
3-12-91: Campbell shows up this morning to report that he married his longtime girlfriend Anne over the weekend. What a way to start a movie called Singles.
3-13-91: No sleep. Warner Bros. sees the dailies. "Campbell Scott looks sick," they say.
3-14-91: I'm keeping the studio's panic from Campbell, but he senses something is wrong. He's starting to make odd cracks and barbed jokes; they fire in every direction. It's getting under my skin. I take him aside and ask him what the problem is. He is instantly apologetic."It's my sense of humor," he says. Later in the day, a WB executive calls and suggests replacing him. I stand by Campbell and hope for sun and speedy hair growth.
3-17-91: I call Campbell and suggest a wig. He takes it well, but just beneath the surface I feel his angst. I admire actors; it can't be easy approximating real life with a huge, glowing camera in your face.
3-18-91: Jim True, the celebrated stage actor from Chicago, is loose and funny as the maitre d' and amateur Francophile named David Bailey. True has had tough luck in movies. His performances in smaller parts were trimmed from The Accidental Tourist and Fat Man and Little Boy. It will not happen in this movie.
Campbell says there is a wig he wore for a photo in Dying Young. It looked very realistic. Calls go out: Get that wig. In the meantime, he finds a strange long-haired wig on the set and casually strolls around wearing it. His self-effacing move defuses the pressure. He wins everybody over. What a roller coaster.
3-22-91: The Dying Young wig arrives. Campbell and I work on his look in the hair-and-makeup trailer. Nobody is allowed to see him. Finally, when the wig is right, we test it out. Seattle actor Johnny "Sugarbear" Willis arrives for a small role and, knowing nothing of the hair crisis, tromps into the trailer. He chats with us for five minutes about crab fishing. We seem to be getting away with it. Then Johnny leans forward, eyeing Campbell carefully. "That is not your hair, man," he says.
I meet Campbell out in the hallway and tell him we're going to go with his real hair, shortness be damned. Back to the trailer we go. In the three days we've taken to find his wig, Campbell's hair has grown just enough to work.
3-27-91: I'm starting to sound like Matt Dillon. It's infectious, his New York jukebox accent. For all his tough-guy parts gone by, he is a loved actor on the street. Strangers tell him they're "chillin' like Matt Dillon." He takes it all in with a bemused grin. He was slow to commit to the part of Cliff Poncier, but now he's here, and it feels right. Walking around the set in his Green River T-shirt, he looks perfect. A dedicated music fan, his trailer blasts with Tyrone Davis, the Replacements and the Clash. He's brimming with ideas.
"I love Bridget," Matt says several times today. "I'm in love with her." I drink he means it. He's anxious to play a reversal on the usual romantic male lead. In this movie, he will pursue the girl. ("And I don't want to smoke; I see my old movies, and I'm always smoking.") He's almost always dead-on with his first take, and if he isn't, somewhere around take 5 he might disappear around a corner. Then you might hear the sound of someone slugging a wall with his fist. Returning with laserlike concentration, Dillon's next take is usually perfect. His knuckles are bulky reminders that he's been acting almost nonstop since he was fourteen. "Sometimes I'm hard on myself" he says. "No big deal."
3-31-91: Easter, a day off. I look out the window at the water, and the sky goes blue. Two things about Seattle: One, this whole town is jacked on coffee, and two, on the right day it looks like the cover of Houses of the Holy.
4-1-91: The Bridget Fonda phase of filming is kicking in. She plays Janet Livermore, the architecture student killing time in an espresso job. Janet is in love with love, and I wrote the part for Bridget. For months, in person or on the telephone, we've discussed every aspect of Singles. Like a dry young Barbara Stanwyck, she nailed down every small detail of Janet's life. Seeing her finally do the part, I realize she's deceptively low-ball. From three feet away, it appears like she's not even acting. Seeing the same thing on film the next day, she explodes.
The dialogue involves the love-struck Janet trying to figure how and why Cliff could be less than electrified by her. Very directly, she asks him a private question: "Are my breasts too small for you?" In the script, it was surprising and funny. As performed by Matt and Bridget, it's achingly real.
4-4-91: Tonight the studio calls to say the movie is getting serious. This is probably not a compliment.
4-8-91: "Kyra is in tears," says the production assistant. In her trailer, Kyra confesses that she's not sure how she's doing playing Linda. Haven't I been telling her all along? "Yes," she says, "but you're so enthusiastic that when you get quiet, I get worried." She's right, of course. I have been quiet. My working relationship with Campbell is deteriorating daily. The air is thick with the unspoken. I know it's not easy for him. Steve Dunne is the hardest part in the movie. All around him are characters with odd and interesting quirks. His is the Curse of the Normal Guy.
4-9-91: The day ends with the last scene of the movie – Matt and Bridget alone in the elevator. It's a romantic scene, and it has some intricate timing. We film it fourteen times. Between takes, Bridget pluckily explains that kissing scenes are much easier when she actually likes the guy. "He's a sweetheart," she says of Matt.
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