TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Publicist proves that it doesn't take muchto get in on the act

There are several ways for aspiring thespians to prepare to break into Hollywood. Drama school. Acting coach. Fashionable parties. Casting couches (sadly, they still exist, albeit in the form of sleek sectionals from Ikea). Based on my colleague's recent experience, there is another option that any young Julia Roberts wannabe may want to consider: become a unit publicist.

There are several ways for aspiring thespians to prepare to break into Hollywood. Drama school. Acting coach. Fashionable parties. Casting couches (sadly, they still exist, albeit in the form of sleek sectionals from Ikea). Based on my colleague's recent experience, there is another option that any young Julia Roberts wannabe may want to consider: become a unit publicist.

My aforementioned pal, the publicist on a time-travel action-adventure film, was called upon suddenly to play the role of a TV newscaster. Granted, that's not a dramatic stretch likely to pull any acting muscles, but consider that our neophyte's acting experience consists of some college plays and a few requisite fake orgasms. (Not with me, of course. Ha. I'm sure of that. Well, pretty sure, I think. All right, let's just hold on a minute here ...)

Anyway, the part was supposed to be played by a lovely actress flown in from Paris, who happens to be a girlfriend of one of the producers.

Alas, she displayed a command of English that could politely be described as negligible. The producer was likely unaware of this because heretofore they had spoken only in the language of love. Or some crap like that.

Bottom line, she couldn't do it.

Enter my friend, the publicist. "Hey, someone said, "what about her?"

What about her, indeed. She was rushed through hair and makeup like a British pub-crawler trying to finish off three last pints at 10:55pm.

"Learn this, they said, thrusting a full page of text into her hands.

She had one hour.

Now, we're not talking cheapie TV movie here. This is a big budget Hollywood film starring an Academy Award-winning British actor and an American star known for his unlikely rise to success and a string of comely model/actress girlfriends.

Lights, camera ... where's my bottled water, I'll be on set when I'm damn good and ready ... action. Understandably shaky on first take, she improved with the second, and nailed it on her third. The entire crew applauded.

Well, now, do you think she received such adoration the previous week when she arrived triumphantly with a photo book in hand, announcing, "Hey, I finally got the SOB to approve his photos. Threatened to tell People about his date with that one-legged stripper."

Hell, no she didn't. But recite a few lines from a piece of paper and she's suddenly hailed as the new Meryl Streep. Care for a foot massage?

How about a nice cup of tea?

"I never got so much respect on set before, she admitted to me. "I wanted to say, 'This is not hard, people. Try getting a photo shoot done in one hour with a cranky director, uncooperative star, and prima donna photographer.' But, yeah, I must say, I did like the attention."

Take heed, publicists, and sign up for a drama class. Your moment in the spotlight may come, too.

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