The Authentic Experience
Often times, people tell me how lucky I am that I get to interview movie stars as part of my job as a film critic. Usually I’m just interviewing them over the phone, but it is fun when they do the press junket and you get 15 minutes with them.
One writer talked about being invited to George Clooney’s house to interview him, and loving the autographed photos he had on the walls of political dignitaries, and signed photos of the Rat Pack around his bar.
I’ve yet to be invited to Clooney’s pad, but when I heard about his bar with autographed photos, it made me think that perhaps I should share this story from a barroom brawl I was involved in recently. And it all started with me being an autograph collector.
As a movie lover, I especially like going to film festivals. There’s nothing like seeing some indie movies that might never make it to a “theatre near you.” It’s a blast talking to young filmmakers that have made their first movie. It’s also nice to hobnob with some of the bigger stars that like going to promote a film that doesn’t get the big distribution it would if it was done for one of the major studios.
The La Costa Film Festival had their first event a few months ago and I was lucky enough to introduce some of the movies showing. For a first time festival, they knocked it out of the park with the various events they had going.
There was a lot of delicious food, and lots of great people. There were a few actors I wanted to have sign DVDs.
The main one I was itching to meet was William Mapother. I was really impressed with his work in Another Earth and In the Bedroom (I never watched Lost, so I don’t know the character he played in that). And the fact that I have Another Earth signed by the star and writer of the film (Brit Marling), the idea of completing it with her co-star was thrilling.
The biggest name at the festival was Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, Oceans 11, Godfather 3, etc.). The only DVD I had of his was the underrated City Island from a few years back. It was a great film.
When he showed up with a movie he directed and stars in called At Middleton, he was hounded for pictures. I hung back for awhile, and wasn’t overly concerned with whether or not I even got him to sign my DVD. It was Mapother that I was all about meeting. It was to the point where I was stalking where he was at all times.
Since Garcia was kind enough to take photos with the many festival goers there, I decided not to bother him. Yet imagine my surprise when I was in the bathroom near the tennis courts and he walked in. I went into panic mode because I realized, I can’t ask for an autograph while I’m at a urinal.
He was with a few other people and I immediately washed my hands and left, so it wouldn’t appear awkward. I waited outside the bathroom and when he came out I asked him to sign the DVD. I told him about a conversation I had with the director Raymond De Felitta, and how I ended up getting a CD of his music. I said, “He’s an amazing piano player. I didn’t realize the guy was so talented.”
Garcia’s eyes lit up and he said, “I know, he’s great.” He then started telling me about a new movie he’s doing with him, and as we walked back to our seats, we had a great conversation (and of course, he was stopped a few more times for photos).
At the after party, I was enjoying a cigar and a glass of wine, when I saw Peter Riegert, who is currently on the show Dads (he’s done many movies, including The Mask and playing Otter in Animal House). He played a hippie DJ in At Middleton, and he was smoking a cigarette at a table with two women. I remembered seeing his name in the program, but only had the soundtrack from Animal House, which I had Kevin Bacon sign years ago when he came into the station to do a performance with his band. I forgot to bring it.
Riegert came over and asked for a light. As I lit his cigarette I told him I was going to walk over to his table and say, “Mind if I dance wit yo dates?” (a line from Animal House). He smiled as he explained, “You know how many times in my life people have done that to me?”
I was surprised. I sometimes get an idea I think is original, and it turns out it’s not. Another example of that was meeting Michael Madson at a swanky party. I told him I was at a Halloween party a few weeks earlier, and they had various body parts in bowls. I said, “I wish I would’ve taken one of those rubber ears. I’d have you autograph it.”
That references the scene in Reservoir Dogs in which he cuts off a guys ear, while dancing and singing along to “Stuck in the Middle with You.” He also said he’s been asked to autograph many fake ears over the years.
Riegert and I ended up talking for almost 45 minutes, and it was a blast. Yet I couldn’t take my eyes off Mapother, who was holding court with a small group, and a gorgeous girlfriend with a slight accent.
I happened to mention to Nancy Collet, one of the organizers of the festival, about how I wanted to meet him and possibly interview him. She relayed the message to him, and he suggested we have a drink the following night.
After I introduced a documentary, I got a call from a friend. Her best friend was in the hospital dying, and I immediately got into my car to drive to her house. During that time, I got a phone call from Nicole. She said William Mapother was going up to his room, and would meet me in the bar in 30 minutes. When I talked to my friend on the phone again, I didn’t let that little bit of information slip. I merely said, “I am about 45 minutes from your house, but I really don’t mind coming over if you need me there.”
She said she didn’t, and so I turned the car around and went to the bar to meet Mapother. Now, I’m hardly ever nervous when I meet people, but this time I was just a bit. That’s only because I think the organizer had told him I’m a film critic and that I was a fan of his work. Sometimes you meet an actor like this and they start talking about Preston Sturges films from the ‘40s, and I barely know what they’re talking about. I wanted to impress him.
He introduced me to his gorgeous girlfriend, and we sat by the fire pit sipping wine and talking movies. I started off by gushing about how much I loved Another Earth. He talked about meeting with Marling and working on the character a little bit with her. We talked for another 15 minutes about his character in In the Bedroom. I told him the story of my interview with Marisa Tomei and how it went bad when I mentioned the “dysfunctional family she had in that movie,” and her claiming it wasn’t dysfunctional. Mapother talked about how actors feel about the characters they play, and can take things personally that they shouldn’t. It was strange because, 15 minutes later I had mentioned how despicable his character was in In the Bedroom. I said, “But what was great is that…he was maybe 90% jerk, and 10% good guy, and a smart way to write that character.” He replied, “Wait…you think he was 90%? I don’t think he was all that bad. He wanted his wife back. He wanted his kids, and didn’t like this young guy his wife was bringing around the house.”
Our conversations would occasionally stop because of the drunk women at the fire pit near us. They got rather loud, and would stumble by us as they yelled, laughed, and head into the bar for more booze.
I admitted I had only seen one episode of Lost, and a polar bear walked on the screen, and I had had enough. He told interesting stories about the show. In fact, every story he told was interesting.
He talked about working post-production on one of the Mission: Impossible movies. Since Tom Cruise is his cousin, I said “He must love going to family events with you there, because you can talk movies with him. Other family members might just say, ‘You’re lucky, you got to kiss Cameron Diaz in that last movie.’ You’re actually talking about the technical side of film with him.”
After an hour, he and his girlfriend went to the Jacuzzi. I whipped out my DVDs, and he signed them. I was surprised his girlfriend hadn’t seen one of the movies we were talking about.
After they walked away, I walked into the ritzy bar and struck up a conversation with Nicole. We were talking about the various films we had seen at the festival and comparing notes. Within 10 minutes of our conversation, the drunk women from the fire pit were now screaming at each other.
It was like a scene out of Jersey Shore. They soon started beating the crap out of each other. It took two minutes before they were separated. One was bleeding and calling the other a “fake tit bitch” (for the record, her boobs looked real to me).
A few minutes later, they started fighting again. The only difference was, four other women jumped in. The men around them started to separate the brawl. Since this was an upscale place, many of them were in ties. One man was holding his girlfriend back and she was pleading for him to let go. She started kicking and screaming at him, saying “You’re a small d*ck loser! A small d*ck. Nothing but a small d*ck!”
He put his hand gently over her face, asking her to calm down. She then started punching his face, and again insulting his manhood.
At this point a short, balding African-American guy standing next to me with a Cohiba cigar in his hand, said “That ain’t cool to be bringin’ up a mans short comings in all this mixed company and what not.”
Within five minutes, two guys start punching each other. Blood flew off one guys nose, and they landed on a table. Glasses broke, and drinks rolled onto the floor. Another guy jumped in to pull his friend off the guy he’s drubbing into the floor. Yet, he grabs the guy by the belt. This leads to his pants coming half way off.
They got separated, and a short dude at the bar pulls out a badge in his wallet. He holds it up and screams, “I’m vice! Everybody stop fighting now, or I’m bringing people in.”
At this point, there were two huge crowds of people. Nancy told me she was scared, and I told her to sit down in the booth closest to us. We had been standing in the middle of this fight, and at one point, bodies ran into us. We couldn’t get to either of the exits.
Just as it seemed they were all tuckered out, the fight started again.
The two groups of people were bashing each other. The guy with the badge was trying his best to stop it, to no avail. A person landed on our table, and it all looked like something out of a movie. I was glad my wine didn’t stain my blazer as it was knocked over.
I noticed an old guy with white hair in a tuxedo who worked there, trying to break it up. He just ended up getting a ripped shirt and losing a cufflink.
I was hoping he wouldn’t have a heart attack or get punched by a stray fist. People were being thrown into the door, onto the bar. It went on for about eight minutes.
At one point, a woman took off her high heel and threw at a woman. Another guy had a gash over his cheek that had blood gushing out of it.
Women were calling each other “skanky ho’s” and other names.
One of the group starts to leave. A guy had a shirt ripped off his body and many of the people were bloody. One had blood dripping out of his nose. Another had a towel over the cut on his forehead.
A woman ends up charging the other group, and starts pulling the hair of another. They fell to the floor, and were clinching each other for a minute, until the bartender broke it up.
Finally, two uniformed police officers showed up and start talking to people. The African-American guy next to me leans in and says, “My wife hasn’t come down from the room yet. I thought this was supposed to be some upscale place. Guess I shoulda just stayed at the Motel 6!”
I was just glad I escaped with no injuries, and two autographs.