At age five, Leonardo diCaprio was thrown off the set of Romper Room. Why? He was too rowdy. Since then, he has come up in the acting world. Claire Danes, who starred with him in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, said about her female fans, “They just like me because I got to kiss Leo in Romeo + Juliet.” Of course, Titanic was a huge money-maker with Leonardo as the romantic lead, and of course, with a monster hit like Titanic, Leonardo can do pretty much what he wants to do. Entertainment Weekly wrote about him after Titanic came out, “After Titanic, DiCaprio could probably sell tickets to a documentary about belly button lint.” Mr. DiCaprio is capable of great sensitivity toward his fans. At the premiere of The Man in the Iron Mask, to which he took his mother, a young fan got close enough to him to touch his hand. The fan says, “He just turned to me and said, ‘Hi. How are you doing?’ and he held my hand for a second. Then he actually apologized because he couldn’t stay. He said he had to get his mother inside. I couldn’t believe how polite and calm he was with all those people screaming his name.”
Jeff Bridges had a good reason for wanting to star in the 1976 remake of King Kong: “I used to pretend I was sick whenever I saw [in] the TV Guide [that] King Kong was going to be on, so I could stay home from school and watch the original.” Mr. Bridges, however, is critical of the performance of one of his co-stars in the remake. He says, “The monkey in that was just terrible. Oh, my God. Just terrible.” Mr. Bridges has also seen another movie numerous times: The Big Lelowski, a cult favorite in which he plays The Dude. He says, “Normally when a movie of mine comes on I’ll turn the channel, but when Lebowski comes on, I’ll say, ‘I’ll just wait until Turturro licks the [bowling] ball, then I’ll change the channel.’” But after Tuturro licks the bowling ball, Mr. Bridges will say that he’ll wait until another key moment in the movie occurs, and then he’ll turn the channel. This keeps repeating itself until Mr. Bridges discovers that he has watched The Big Lebowski yet another time.
Henry Lehrman, an actor, director, and producer, broke into show business with enthusiasm in the days of the silent movies. He thought that Hollywood filmmakers would be impressed by a French accent because of the movie success of the French company Pathé. Therefore, he showed up in Hollywood with a phony French accent that impressed no one. However, D.W. Griffith was shooting a scene in which a house burned, so Mr. Lehrman ran up the stairs of the burning building, then he jumped out of a second-story window. Unfortunately, the cameraman had not filmed this exciting event. No problem. Mr. Lehrman ran up the stairs of the burning building a second time, then he jumped out of a second-story window a second time. This time, the cameraman managed to film the exciting event, and Mr. Lehrman was on his way to a career in the movies.
Controversial film director John Waters, aka the Prince of Puke, finds inspiration for his films in real life. In a Baltimore bar, he once asked a man what he did for a living. The man replied, “Can I be frank? I trade deer meat for crack.” Mr. Waters reflects, “I can’t think that up. I could think of three movies about him. I mean, does he wait at a deer crossing sign and gun it when he need[s] a fix? It takes a while to get deer meat so you have to plan ahead, which isn’t what most junkies do. Little things like that, anything can inspire me. I base everything on regular people who think they’re completely normal and their behavior seems entirely insane to me.”
One of the best things that ever happened to director Roman Polanski was something he failed at. He had early success in acting, and when he applied to an acting school the directors turned down his application, saying that his professional experience had “distorted” him. This rejection motivated Mr. Polanski to succeed as a way to get revenge. He says of the rejection, “That was one of the greatest failures in my life, comparable with anything that ever happened afterwards in my professional life, and it gave me tremendous confidence and push, doubled my energies to get back at them.”
Occasionally, a comic movie star will be so popular and work so hard that he or she seems to be ubiquitous — appearing in every comic movie. For comic movie star Ben Stiller, that happened in the mid-2000s. In 2006, Mr. Stiller starred in Night at the Museum, which was written by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. When he was asked if Mr. Stiller was the actor they had in mind when he and Mr. Garant wrote the movie, Mr. Lennon replied, “We write every script with Ben Stiller in mind. If you work in Hollywood these days, you might as well.”
When Joel and Ethan Coen made the movie No Country for Old Men, about the aftermath of a drug deal that goes wrong in the Texas desert, they ran into a very high expense. The film required many extras — who were covered in “blood” — to lie on the desert ground for hours. The Coens discovered that they needed to buy specially made “blood” for $800 a gallon instead of using the usual inexpensive “blood” made with Karo syrup and red food coloring. They couldn’t use the sugary “blood” because it would have attracted many, many creepy-crawlies.
The young Bette Davis went through a period of false glamour—briefly—after becoming a star. With a fancy car, a uniformed chauffer, and a white poodle, and wearing fancy black velvet slacks and a fancy black velvet jacket, Ms. Davis ran into her mother, who stared at her and told her that she could not believe what her eyes were telling her. Fortunately for fans everywhere, Ms. Davis jettisoned the false glamour before that day ended and went back to being herself.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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