Writers and Actors

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Writers and Actors

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot for KCRW.

Recently, I spent a few hours arguing with an actor friend of mine over who has it worse in Hollywood, actors or writers. He told this story: He is on an audition for a small part on a top-rated comedy series. He is, by way of background, a nice-looking guy and not untalented. He has, as we say around here, -comedy chops,- which means, as we say around here, -that he knows his way around a joke.- He can be funny, in other words. Halfway through his audition, while he is still speaking, the producer of the show turns to the casting director and says, in a loud voice, -I told you to bring me some good looking people!-

The audition is over; my friend slinks out.

What could I do after hearing a story like his but mumble a few supportive comments and pick up the check?

But generally, in the War for Industry Respect, it-s the writer who loses.

No paparazzi stop the writer, as he saunters along the red carpet on his way into the Golden Globes, or the Oscars, to ask who designed his clothes. Jewelers do not compete to bling-blingify the guy up for the Best Screenplay Adaptation.

It-s unnerving, believe me, to walk into one of those ceremonies directly behind a famous face and suddenly to bring everything to a halt - the flashbulbs stop flashing, the reporters stop calling out questions, the buzz and the noise and the excitement just stop dead - until the sad, anonymous writer passes through and the electricity starts right up again as the famous person right behind him comes into view.

On the other hand, writers don-t have to go on auditions.

Still, actors ask for that kind of abuse, and for all of their pretensions to -the work- or -the craft,- or, even more ludicrously, -the art,- let-s face it - it-s still about -everybody pay attention to me.- Writers, on the other hand, linger in the shadows and corrode quietly. I have seen actors waiting to audition for the same role genuinely wish each other well. -Break a leg, man,- they-ll say to each other, and you know they mean it because they-re wearing that mentally-exhausted expression actors wear when they-ve said something unscripted.

Writers, of course, loathe each other. Writers are enemies-list makers and gossip-spreaders, score-settlers and secret drinkers. Sure, the business makes us angry and bitter. But we-re writers. We were angry and bitter before we got into this business. In one case I could mention, anger and bitterness were the primary inspiration for a particular writer to saddle up and move to Los Angeles. I know one guy who became a television writer simply because it afforded him the opportunity to write on a cop show and name all the strippers, whores, and girl junkies after his mother.

In the end, I guess, the guy who wields the pen ultimately gets his revenge.

A screenwriter I know once wrote a script about a screenwriter who cheats on his wife. In the script, the screenwriter-s wife is fat, shrewish, and is hit by a bus on page 97.

In real life, the screenwriter-s wife is nice-looking, pleasant, and because she lives in Los Angeles, hasn-t been near a bus in fifteen years. Still, she was deeply upset by her husband-s script.

-Is that supposed to be me?- she wanted to know.

-No, no,- he assured her.

-Then who is it?- she demanded tearfully.

-It-s my first wife,- he said.

-And who-s this slut your character meets at a Starbuck-s and sleeps with in the back of the Mercedes SUV?- she wailed.

-That-s you,- he answered. Then added, helpfully, -Don-t you remember how we got together?-

She still wanted to know about the bus accident. In real life, his first wife was alive and well and collecting eleven-thousand court-ordered dollars every month from him. So what-s the deal, she wanted to know, with the fatal bus accident?

-That, darling,- he said, -is where I did some writing.-

Next week, we-ll get old together.

For KCRW, I-m Rob Long. This has been Martini Shot.



Rob Long