PEAKS AND VALLEYS

PEAKS AND VALLEYS

The recent passing of Dino De Lorentiis, one of the great film moguls of his time reminded me of a truth learned years ago: Life generally proceeds in fits and starts; it is cyclic, “one day you’re the windshield, next day you’re the bug”. Perhaps a rare few individuals enjoy “Burger King” lives (having it their way;) but most men lead lives of quiet desperation, interrupted by brief, ecstatic periods of synchronicity.

I never met Mr. De Laurentiis yet he played a pivotal role in my life. Back in 1984, I was filming TURK 182, which starred Tim Hutton. Kim Cattrall and Robert Urich, directed by Bob Clark It was the story of a tagger (Tim) who staged a media protest about the treatment of his injured, hero fireman brother (Urich). My role was that of a TV reporter who broadcasts live at the protest scene. Towards the end of the schedule, the producers had added an additional day of filming on City Island, hiring several hundred extras, just to create added footage of my character.

As I sat in the make-up trailer, Tim, Kim and Robert all stopped by to let me know how much they’d enjoyed my scenes and were delighted my role was being enhanced. I was feeling pretty good about myself (not quite over the moon;) but life had been going rather well for me, of late. My make-up artist was Carl Fullerton (who’s became Denzel’s key make-up man) and he asked how I’d been doing.

I confided that earlier that very day, I’d accepted a new film offer and was pretty excited. It was a brutal, ugly story that took place in Vietnam and I had a feeling it might become a rather important film. My character would die on page 45 of a sucking chest wound and I’d be handling all the Vietnamese dialogue. After several meetings with the film maker, Oliver Stone, I’d succeeded in winning his approval. The film, of course was PLATOON.

I noticed a brief flicker in Carl’s eyes and asked, “What…?” He hesitated and I pressed him for more information. Carl told me that they’d approached him to head the make-up department for the shoot, that he’d tentatively agreed…but earlier that day, the foreign underwriting deal had fallen apart; Dino De Laurentiis had withdrawn his funding. The film had apparently gone into that Hollywood limbo called “turnaround”. I was a bit taken aback but had work to do and we agreed to stay in touch.

I walked out to the pasture below the City Island bridge and we shot late into the night. We improvised, it was fun and I wrapped, receiving the congratulations of cast and crew.

Now here’s the interesting part;) I arrived at the location that night on top of the world, full of purpose and possibility, in play, “the windshield”. None of the footage that night was used in the final print of Turk 182. PLATOON came out of turnaround, a year or so later (Stone went on to make SALVADOR during that time, one of his most resonant films!) When funding for PLATOON was again in place, I was recovering from a broken jaw and extensive oral surgery and could not fly…and so was not involved. It’s impossible to know how my life might have changed had I been part of the film and in any case, I was by then accelerating into my own disintegration of PTSD.

We can generally remember periods when life sucked and when life worked but not always that specific turning point. In this case, clearly that night was the crest of my wave…and its subsequent trough was brutally enduring.

17 Nov 2010