Ten years ago I was cast in my first film role. I showed up on the set not knowing what to expect. All I knew was I had two lines in two different shots and I was playing some kind of Satanist. It wasn't until I got to the set that I found out I had a death scene - a death scene where I would get to fire a gun and wear a squib (an exploding blood sack). Talk about a young actor's wet dream!
At that point I would have done anything they asked of me and I sort of did. I let them draw gigantic Satanist tattoos all over my body with a sharpie, I wore the wife beater t-shirt that was smeared with garbage and gutter slime because it looked too new, and I let them rub bananas in my hair to make it look greasy. (Apparently no one had any hair gel.)
The first scene I was in had me running into a bedroom and screaming, "Who the fuck is in my room?" Then a guy hiding behind the door hits me in the head with a gun and knocks me out. The guy behind the door is the main character in the film and was played by local actor Melik Malkasian. Melik is a great actor, super funny, really intense and crazier than a spring break frat boy on speed.
While setting up for the shot, Melik and I are talking about the scene and how we can make it look real. Melik convinces me that the only way to make the scene believable is if he really hits me in the head with the gun. He promises to pull his punch so it shouldn't hurt too much. I, being young, naive and at this point willing to do anything for the movie, of course agree. Melik thinks we better practice the hit a few times and starts to reel his arm back.
Just then, James Westby, the director, comes walking into the room and sees Melik about to hit me. "What are you doing?" He asks.
"We were going to practice me hitting him in the head with the gun," Melik answers.
"You're not actually going to hit him, you know."
"It won't look real unless I get to hit him."
"I don't mind if he hits me with the gun," I chime in.
"No, no, no. We'll use a camera angle that makes it look like you're getting hit," James says.
"Come on. I would really like to hit him. It'll look great," Melik pleads.
"I don't mind getting hit if it helps the film," I tell him.
"I will not let him hit you with the gun. He could kill you."
That was the end of the discussion. Looking back now I'm thankful James said no to Melik. He probably saved my life - or at the very least, he saved me from a severe case of brain damage.
James Westby is going to be on Live Wire this Thursday. I hope something horrible happens so I can finally pay him the life I owe him. Maybe I'll get to push him out of the path of a falling light or save him from a rabid fan with a machete. Freaky accidents happen all the time. Let's hope for the best.