Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will Lurie, as Andrew

Will Lurie (and just so you know, there is supposed to be a little accent over the "e", but I can't figure out how to make my computer type that) is sort of the enigma of the Smalltimore cast. That actually also suits his character, Andrew. Like Andrew, Will is a good guy, agreeable and friendly, but has a rather stealthy presence. He flies under the radar.

After the first round of auditions at Baltimore Theater Project last April, I had not found a single person that I could really see in the role of Andrew. I knew from the get-go that this might be a harder role to cast because he needs a certain range, but I hadn't found anyone who could even look the part, let alone act it. Johnny (Benson) probably could have, but I saw him more as Bentley from the beginning, the role he ended up with.

In May I attended the Stonehenge auditions, held at the Creative Alliance, and that was where I found Will. Stonehenge, by the way, goes well beyond rocking - it kicks ASS. It takes place again this year, on May 31, my birthday. I am considering having my usual birthday celebration the day before, just so I can go to Stonehenge, even though at the moment I am not even casting anything! It is just SO much valuable information crammed into one day, it is hard to resist. Last year I got to see 125 actors audition in a span of 5 or 6 hours. It is fast-paced and exhausting, but there are a lot of good people to be found there.

I devised a simple system: I had three folders, one each red, yellow, and green. Impressive actors went in the green file; actors who I thought were good but only for specific types went in the yellow; and people I would never, ever cast in anything went in the red. Out of 125 people, I only ended up with about 10 in the red folder, maybe 2 to 3 dozen in the green folder, the majority of actors went in the yellow folder. When possible, I'd write one- or two-word notes on their resumes. "Funny", "Expressive face", "can cry", stuff like that. If they were really good, I'd put a star also. Will ended up in the green folder, with a star, and the note, "v.cute."

I contacted him and he came to the call back day, the second round of auditions. He did a great job and got the part. Early in the day, though, something was jumping out at me and I gave his resume a second look - no film experience, only stage. That explained it. In just a sentence or two, I explained the difference to Will - you are no longer, "playing to the back row," no need to project so much. That camera is going to be right up in your face, even if the camera is 20 feet away from you. Dial it down. Will did, and I rarely had to remind him after that.

Between takes on the set, usually I would see Will laughing with Johnny or playing pool with Phil Calvert. He always seemed to be having a good time, but he was never what I would call boisterous, never needed to be the center of attention. It was only in retrospect that I realized he was one of the youngest members of the cast. I never thought about it during filming because he always handled himself with such maturity.

Will had to drive about an hour from D.C. to be on the set, so he showed up when I needed him and skated as soon as I could let him go, so he didn't get to fraternize as much as the others did. It worked for his character, Andrew, though, because Andrew is the outsider, the guy who just moved here from New York. Almost everything on the set was art imitating life. Will was the theater guy from D.C. among all these Baltimore film actors, but they always made him feel welcome. As far as I can tell, there was never any discord between them, and I know sometimes that can be the case between theater and film actors.

Will was also very flexible, never complained about the drive. The real pain for him was that though he only had a medium-sized role, every scene he was in took place in a different setting. If I was able to just shoot Will's scenes all in a row, I probably could have shot him out in two days. But he had scenes in The Wind-Up Space, Dougherty's, Fin Art Gallery, Federal Hill Park, Mrs. Talford's Mansion, and Minato Sushi restaurant - all of which were shot on different days. Poor thing. And what really sucked was that there is a continuous part where he meets Gracie at the gallery, they later go to Federal Hill Park, and then after that go to Minato, but we had to shoot all three on different days and out of order. We shot the middle part, on Federal Hill, first. On a later date, we shot the first part, in the gallery - and Will forgot to bring the outfit he had worn in the park. We managed to salvage that just by adding a line at the gallery. After Gracie tells Andrew she can meet up with him after work, he says, "Good, that will give me time to change." Problem solved.

But when we were ready to film the last part at Minato, Will forgot his Federal Hill outfit again. He was already in Baltimore the day before that scheduled day, to shoot another scene, and was going to stay in town and shoot the Minato scene the next day. But he didn't have the outfit. He gave me the puppy-dog-please-don't-make-me-drive-back-to-D.C. eyes but there was no way around it this time. "I can't do it, Will," I told him. "You can't change clothes three times in back-to-back scenes. You're not Elizabeth Taylor." He knew it was what had to be done, and he drove home and came back the next day with the right outfit, without complaint.

Another good thing about Will is his "look". I think his cast mate, Tiffany Ariany, who plays Angela (predator to Will's prey) put it best. I heard her say to him one day, "You look really cute on screen. But you don't look like anyone else." It is absolutely true, and for casting, that is a very good thing to find. I swear, most of these under-25-pale-effeminate-white-boys that are all the rage now all look exactly the same to me, I don't know any of their names and I can't tell them apart.

I do have some funny stories about Will, but they mostly have to do with his character and things that happen in the movie that I can't tell you about. So you'll just have to see for yourself!

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