The Publicist:

A film set is the place to learn what truly motivates an actor

A film set is the place to learn what truly motivates an actor

Civilians may take it easy down here in 'Nawlins, but not politicians. A congressional runoff campaign has been going on here since I arrived and it's not for the squeamish. The two candidates, Charlie Melancon and Billy Tauzin III, went after each other like Desperate Housewives, with Tauzin narrowly prevailing. Louisiana is known for its cutthroat backroom politics, famously captured in Robert Penn Warren's 1946 classic All the King's Men. As it happens, a film adaptation of that novel began shooting this week in New Orleans. Or, I should say, was supposed to begin. The first day of principal photography was canceled due to one of the actors being, according to rumor, incapacitated. I think the non-scientific term is drunk. Ah, the curse of Bourbon Street. I wouldn't want to be the publicist on that film if it becomes an ongoing occurrence. I've worked with a few actors who "got into character" by alcohol or other means. It's tough to procure the cooperation of certain actors with even simple publicity requests. Such as speaking. One actor I know smoked so much weed the production assistant would get a contact high just from knocking on his trailer door. (Naturally, the underpaid and overworked PA found a lot of reasons why he needed to knock on that door.) My very first set-publicity job was on a forgettable horror film starring a legendary actor in the twilight of his career. Being my first gig, I had to ask the legend all about his "motivation" and a host of other silly James Lipton-esque questions. After all, this was "cinema." "My motivation," the legendary thespian told me, "is a paycheck. Somebody's gotta pay for the whiskey." Undaunted, I forged ahead, inquiring how he "researched" his character, a medical doctor. "I showed up, didn't I?" he said. "I don't care about this #$&% role. But let me tell you about the time Hank Fonda and I..." He proceeded to launch into a series of "golden age" Hollywood stories that soon had the entire room gathered around. What a job this is! But then a director showed up, mad as hell, demanding to know why everyone wasn't on set. Worst of all, I was chastised for initiating the distraction. Coming to my defense, the legend had a few choice words with said director, then draped an arm around me while walking toward the set. "They're all bastards in this business," he told me. "Learn to be a bigger bastard than them." Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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