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Gore and Loathing in Phoenix IV: The Uncasting of "One Bloody Night"
Part of a series of essays related to the on-going production of an Arizona-based indie horror film, One Bloody Night.
I had assembled a cast and was spending a beautiful Saturday listening to them read my screenplay. I had also assembled some of the other production crew to have a listen and share with me their options (a good move, because I was distracted often with the words of the screenplay and not as much the acting and the body language of the cast). There's nothing like hearing your screenplay read for the first time; it's embarrassing, depressing, and at times enjoyable, but most of all you are wrapped up in it. There were so many things I wanted to make better in the screenplay that I really didn't concentrate on the actors as much. But when I did, I could see several things - some good, some bad, but nothing to prepare me for the next 36 hours or so.
I had wanted this flick to be an opportunity for inexperienced actors to cut their teeth on like I was using it to experiment with direction, editing and the whole process of making a movie. But this doesn't work when you want to give your movie a chance to succeed. Of the actors in the flick both of my female leads and my male lead were relatively inexperienced. The best actor in the bunch I had cast in a supporting role. This came out when we did the reading and was proving to be a problem.
My male lead was a natural for the role. Though inexperienced, he hit his performance right on the money and I was very impressed, even though he thought he wasn't doing it very well.
My other female lead wasn't bad, nor was she great, but she was cute and would get naked (big pluses when you're trying to sell a flick).
The lady I had playing a supporting role, though, was by far and away the best actor there and made the acting of the others stand out as not up to par. The only reason I didn't have her playing one of the leads was that she didn't have the look I wanted for the lead (mind you, this lady is very attractive, but great looks and an awesome body don't necessarily make you right for every part.) and as far as playing the other lead, she was tied with the other lady who, again, would get naked; that's a tie breaker.
But still, I was happy with the cast. I was still in a euphoric state, making my dream come true of making a movie.
On this day of the first reading of the screenplay, I was happy to hear it, but I also had several decisions to make regarding the cast. The lady playing the lead had little experience, and this showed. It was not her fault but mine in thinking that I could use an inexperienced actress to pull off the lead; the role was just too much. She simply had to go. It was a very tough decision, but it would be the first of many.
I had started that Saturday happy and ended it depressed at having to let my lead actress go. The next day we had to have rehearsals and when the lead actor showed up with a long face I knew this day was going to be a long one. He informed me that though he really wanted to work on the flick he was having personal problems and financial problems that would mean he wouldn't be that available for the shoot. Since we were 2 weeks away from shooting, this was a problem. I decided to let him go; one thing you need on low budget flicks are reliable people.
That left us with only my one lead actress left at this first day of rehearsal, being that I just let my lead actor and one of my lead actresses go. That same day I would meet a lady who would be my makeup artist, who would do the hair and glamour makeup for the cast. I and my newly hired makeup artist would be treated to a horror show a few hours later when we would have to look at my remaining lead actress's legs.
Now for a bit of back-story, my remaining lead actress was coming in from out of town for the role as the sexy vampire in the flick. She stayed that Saturday night with my casting director and would fly out later on Sunday after the first rehearsals. Saturday night after I went home for the night, and depressed that I just had to let one of my actors go, I got a phone call from my casting director who informed me that my sexy lead vampire lady who was supposed to get naked had lots of "scabs and stuff" on her legs. Many things ran through my mind, but I thought I would see them the next day.
Since I had just hired my makeup lady I thought we could both see the lady's legs and get to the bottom of this, and see what makeup would be necessary if any. When she revealed her legs to my makeup lady and I we were (and there is no other way to say this) aghast. I don't believe I have ever used that word before in a sentence, but there is no other way to describe what we saw. Her legs were covered with dozens of scabs, scars, and worst of all open sores. Me and the makeup lady exchanged glances and put on a good face. We asked her what they were and where they came from and her answer was "I really don't want to get into that."
My makeup lady called me later and said she wouldn't work on someone with a skin condition she didn't explain, and I didn't want anyone touching her or even to have her on the set. And besides, how can I have a movie with a sexy vampire with legs that look like a three month dead zombie.
By Monday, I had no lead actors.