I spent a few hours today with the costume designer for Scream at the Devil. I’ve worked with Vicki before on many plays, and she actually designed and made my wedding dress for me. She’s an extremely talented lady who will be ‘building’ me several pieces for the movie, but today we came up with a master plan, colors, how my look will degenerate along with my sanity, and the overall look of the character.
My character Miriam is an artist, and that will be reflected in what she wears. Whenever I work with someone of Vicki’s caliber, I am reminded again of how much help I receive as an actress from the incredibly hard working teams around me. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for these crew members on films. Often, they are the ones who are, literally, in your face while you are so emotionally raw, frazzled and stressed. To have a makeup artist who knows when to keep his or her mouth shut or sometimes offer the pressure of a hand on the shoulder, can mean a good day or a bad one.
In fact, I’ve seen people fired, many of them, for something as simple as moving around in the actor’s eye line. Now, I’m not one to pitch a fit on set, usually, though I do remember one time, when I was also playing someone losing their mind, and the crew was changing the set up. I was sitting off to one side, rocking, with my fingers in my ears, trying to maintain the level of emotional instability while lights and camera were moved, and I heard one of the grips say sarcastically, “What do we have here, method acting?”
I unleashed on him. I don’t remember what I said exactly, something along the line of “Shut the fu**” up!” But I do remember the look on his face. He was both shocked and really, really sorry. He had no idea I could hear him, or that he had distracted me, which is a huge no-no. We got through the day, and then he made a special point of coming to apologize to me. I did the same. I would never have spoken to him that way if I hadn’t been in character, already sobbing and vulnerable to the point of breaking. We became friends, both understanding the other, and finished out the film with great mutual respect.
I’m not a ‘method’ actress. Hell I’m a mom. Can you see me bringing my schizophrenic character home with me? That would be fun while I’m making dinner or helping with homework. “Finish your math or I will kill you! Satan told me to.”
Doesn’t really work, not for me. I’ve always found that kind of immersion to be indulgent. Besides, movies aren’t shot in order, so what at what level of insanity would I live? Slightly hysterical or full blown delusional? So many choices, so many dishes to smash.
Characters do, however, have a way of infiltrating your soul. When I finished the last shot of “Immortal Sins,” in which I play a deeply evil spirit called back to life to claim revenge on the ancestor of some one who burned me at the stake in a previous life, I remember going to my trailer and sitting down. As I sighed it out, a heavy, thick layer of emotion lifted off of me, so strong that I sobbed and collapsed back, exhausted. I hadn’t even known I was carrying that much of a pain body until it left me.
Part of that may have been because the director had been insecure and consequently very difficult to work with. Which brings me back to the crew, on whom I so often rely for my day to day support and sanity on a difficult shoot.
The costumer on that set was Spanish, were shooting in Galecia, Spain, and she did not speak a word of English, I knew almost no Spanish. Her assistant spoke English, and translated for us, but we often understood each other. We had been shooting in castles in winter and believe me, it’s cold in those stone edifices. So she had found me a sweater, hand knit and super thick, that I would wear between scenes. When the ladies came to pull my wardrobe that last day. I made to hand her the sweater, but I had fallen in love with it, it had been such a comfort in a strange, hard world on a difficult shoot. Our eyes met, and I said, in English, “I think, that this sweater was destroyed in the fire.”
Her assistant looked up from where she was gathering my wardrobe, confused and started to ask what I meant, but the costumer was already nodding and smiling. “Si,” she said, “el fuego.” And she pushed the sweater back into my arms.
I still have that sweater, and though I can’t remember that costumer’s name, I think of her with great affection every time I see it in my closet.
So here we go again. I know I will become closer to these people for a few weeks than I am with some of my best friends, and then it will be over, and those people will fade away.
But I’ll keep the moments, and their support close to my heart, to draw upon, like a warm, hand-knit sweater when I need the comfort. And I will be forever grateful for it, for them, for this.
Shari February 10, 2013