Freudian Slips: All Greek to Me!

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

February 11, 2007

All Greek to Me!

The upstairs holding tank for waiting-to-be-called background extras had spiritless iron bars overlooking the first floor. It offered not even a whiff of the actual movie set for The Greek American, a full-length dramatic motion picture encompassing thirty years in the life of a tragic man. Our miniscule roles as patrons in a Greek nightclub figured to offer only a glance of the camera while holding iced tea filled beer bottles.
The assistant director greeted the background extras shortly after our call time. When he asked for volunteers to be stand-ins and read for the principal actors, my hand shot upward for reasons I cannot explain other than gaining immediate access to the movie set. On the walk onto the prepared set, my volunteerism sounded painful just thinking about it. Reading a co-star’s part from a cold script could get me kicked off the set faster than if I lit a match with a villainous smirk. Low and behold, I memorized my scripted lines after the second take. About an hour of rehearsal later, the assistant director escorted me over to the director of the movie.
“This is Joseph Tornatore, he has been helping us out reading the part of Spiro this morning. He did a good job with that and he has played a bartender before in a movie.”
The eloquent looking director looked up from her handheld pages for the first time. She daintily folded her hands as if expecting more information.
The assistant director expounded, “I told him we have two other options for bartender but he brought wardrobe with him just in case.”
Her ears bent. It was speak now or forever hold my peace. I explained, “I played a bit bartender in Bazookas, a movie that is in post production and has not been released yet. I only had one line in one scene but it felt natural. I would like to test myself.”
The director smiled, “You are no longer the stand-in for Spiro or an extra, you are our Gus the Bartender. Get in wardrobe and meet back down here on the set.”
One bartender coming right up I mused to myself. I not only had bartender formal wear from my last movie, but I packed wardrobe threads for almost every fathomable part in a nightclub scene. I came prepared with everything from a Pampered Chef outfit for kitchen help to a referee shirt in case a fight broke out on the dance floor.
While tending bar for the first time in my personal wardrobe, I thought that trying to act like I belonged on the movie set would be a bigger part than my bartender part. Then the second assistant director handed me parchment foreign to my dubious acting career. I stared down at a computer generated call sheet that had my name in a credited role next to Gus, the bartender. A couple of lines next to mine on the call sheet was the star of the film, Kenneth McGregor, he of a hundred film credits and movies such as X-Men, Cocktail, The Hurricane. I stared at the call sheet trying to figure out how to read it to see what tiny scene they needed a hand to serve shots of imposter whiskey.
“You’re in a few scenes on each of the next three days.” he informed. “Some of your lines are in Greek.”
My acting started before the camera rolled because I tried not to act dumbfounded at what my ears let in. He just said the plural of scene, multiple lines, consecutive days, and something about Greek dialogue. I just started to get hip with the call sheet when the script sides were given to me. My look down at the dialogue on the bar confirmed my worst fear. It was all Greek to me! So practicing lines with accomplished actors in Greek when I never touched a live script before in English more than hinted that I had a lot of catching up to do or this was going to get real ugly real fast.
No fault of my own, the ten scenes with me in them took almost 30 hours to shoot. For what it was worth, I delivered five lines as the trusted bartender. I had scripted dialogue with the star of the film, Kenneth McGregor, who played a troubled nightclub owner to perfection. Other people’s scripted dialogue mentioned my character by name. Depending on the camera frame, I may be seen with the gorgeous Andrea Langi who played Shane on Sex and the City. I learned how to make a fine looking fake merlot with one ounce grape juice and four ounces cranberry juice then doctored Greek uzzo from milk and water. I knew my own acting skills held limitations, however, when I watched two skilled co-stars bring themselves to tears to pull off their riveting scenes barside. I admired the immensely talented Kenneth McGregor work himself up to a volatile character.
The assistant director came over to me late Saturday night. “Joe, your scenes are wrapped!” I thanked him for giving me the opportunity then took a few steps heading off the set of cast, crew, and extras. I never imagined that I was turning my back on one of the greatest moments of my life.
“May I have everyone’s attention. Quiet on the set.” Conditioned to hearing a director’s commanding voice, everyone obeyed. “Gus, the bartender has wrapped for the Greek American. This was Joseph Tornatore’s first principle role. Applause for Gus, the bartender.”
I waited for the rousing applause to settle before I gave them a fitting curtain call. I shouted, “The next round of drinks is on the house.”
I heard chuckles as I left the stage. Then the tears that I knew I could not summon for a camera naturally trickled down the powder puffed cheek of this actor.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

your future is bright babe

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joe, just remember your tennis pal when you become famous

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Marcus said...

Way to go!Looks like fun......Maybe I'll look for you at the table during next years Oscars.

10:14 PM  
Blogger E said...

Rock on, Joe! Way to go!

11:49 PM  
Blogger rfvgardens said...

Great post Joe,Congrats,I'm sure the movie will be a favorite of all who know you. You certainly conveyed the feeling of the newbie actor and seasoned actor perfectly. I can't wait till the movie comes out. Although...my favorite line in a movie still is: ACTION!!!... "Your friend here,he's finished"... CUT!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

anonymous,
Nah, I ain't gotta wear shades.

anonymous,
I am in a different racquet now. lol

Marcus,
maybe bussing tables. lol

E,
Maybe it will play in the DC area too. lol

Rfv,
Sorry you weren't there for this one. They limited my entourage. lol

8:36 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Wow, Joe. Good for you! Hopefully the trip back home paid off! lol

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Crimp said...

Nicely done Joe - very proud of you. Hope that in the not too distant future, my friends and I can be playing a soon to be popular bar game ...
"Six Degress Of Joseph Tornatore!"

All the best.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JOE,YOU ARE DA MAN! Obviously, you have new career callings, turning (grape-)water into wine and hangin' with the celebs!
Hopefully we will get to see more of you, presumably with your name in lights.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, up until now the only Gus I came to know was a ground hog hawking PA lottery tickets. Way to go!

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey if you get the call for: "Match Point, 2nd Serve" can you put a good word in for me to be the ball boy. I am sure I could beat out kramer, now that his career is over.
Your other Tennis Pal

12:23 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Jessica,
Tis. Tis. That was suppose to be a private joke between us.

Crimp,
that is when I am bringing home the Bacon.

anonymous #1,
i was walking on water. lol

anonymous #2
this once is a little above board.

anonymous #3
Kramer ran pretty fast, are you sure?

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Pax Romano said...

Joe,
Wow! Where does this wild ride in showbiz end???

Oh that's right, on the red carpet, Oscar Night 2008 when you insult Joan Rivers after she asks you "Who are you wearing?"

Man, I cant wait to see your IMDB page!

5:02 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

pax,
Let's hope the movie gets sold. Your Joan Rivers comment made me laugh. I guess you can write even from semi-supine position.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous the vault said...

great blog story joe! i'm really happy for you and proud to be your friend! good luck in your new career!

6:42 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

the vault,
look at me opening up to the vault. lol

7:51 PM  

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