Freudian Slips: Nick at Night

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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.

June 28, 2009

Nick at Night

Joseph Tornatore on the set of The Warrior.

The cruelest truism about acting is that it promotes a safety net of self-confidence until proven otherwise. While nobody reports to a movie set without entertaining the notion of being upgraded to a bigger part, be careful what you dream about.
I was hired to film as a background extra for an establishing scene in the mixed martial arts drama called The Warrior. From a hovering helicopter, an eye in the sky camera films extras along the Atlantic City boardwalk. I imagine looking like a dubious raisin on planks if I make the final cut at all.
While minding my own business, I get plucked from the throng of 250 background actors for reasons I do not understand. Whisked to the director, he looks me up and down before giving his nod of approval. I am taken off the set by a crewmember who escorts me to a parked trailer.
A Mary Poppins of a wardrobe lady swinging a measuring tape greets us. “Well, who do we have here?”
The crewmember replies, “He’s the guy we spied for Nick Nolte’s stand-in.”
From this point forward, it becomes surreal and my personal experiences seem to be somehow placed inexplicably into a vault the moment they happen. The sun has set long ago. I’m wearing another man’s clothes. I’m sitting in a golf cart waiting to be taken to set. Somebody congratulates me on making the A-team. An army of crewmembers work around a yellow cab like it is in a NASCAR pit stop. Eventually, I’m placed inside the backseat of the cab that is raised on a trailer and attached to a process truck that will pull it though city streets behind the swirling cherry topped police car of a pace vehicle. The cab driver, who will do no actual driving in this scene, is an actor from Pittsburgh. He relaxes in the front seat. He and I chat about Atlantic City's schizophrenic divide between the Rich Man, Poor Man while Hollywood's best camera lenses, microphones, wires, lights, and measurements occur both inside and outside the car all around us. I run scripted lines for a sound check of the microphone hard mounted between my legs. A voice over my walkie-talkie instructs me to exit the no meter running cab. The left rear passenger door swings open and I am helped down from my perch. Nick Nolte brushes by me, nods then climbs aboard the raised cab with equal awkwardness. The first thing that really strikes me is that I am identical in physical dimensions to Nick Nolte.
Nick and I constantly switch spots throughout the night like alter egos. It is either he or I sitting on an apple box on the sidewalk. It is my warm water bottle in the cab next to his cool perspiring one. Since piped air conditioning interferes with recorded sound quality, it is Nick’s hand towel for perspiration, my napkin for sweat. After filming multiple point of view angles, the scene concludes halfway through the night. I’m eating shrimp fajita wraps next to Nick Nolte amongst undesirable riff raff just off set. The crew does there best to conceal Nick’s identity by posing as human shields while people pass by but I am left hanging by the wind. Seeing a stationed film crew, drunken vacationers venturing from the boardwalk or leaving the casinos demand me to pose for pictures with them. Nick has the night off from paparazzi.
Wranglers escort background actors to the set to film another scene. I workout the blocking and the timing as the camera and light crews make fine tuned adjustments. We move to rehearsal. If not for being the stand-in actor, it would be an ego boost to have numerous extras following your lead then performing synchronized motions around you. Alas, the director gives me humbling grades as a stand-in. Faster here, slower there, more stoop as you move, hail the cab driver earlier, wait two beats not one at the hotel door before leaving, etc. I try to shelter myself from the recesses of my mind but it is only a matter of time before the inevitable occurs. So I watch with microscopic eyes as Oscar and Emmy nominated actor Nick Nolte absolutely nails down the scene overtop the skeleton one I struggled to create in flawed rehearsal takes.
Shortly after dawn, Nick Nolte’s scenes wrap. A glorious and inglorious twelve-hour Nick at Night ends in a saltwater trail. I realize that I have spent an entire night trying to convince both Nick Nolte and high-heeled hookers exiting the casino that I am working.



Blogger Pax Romano said...

Well, it's not like you ever got busted for drunk driving...

Study that picture, I think you have your Halloween costume for this year!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

no I haven't but filming two movies in three days with a long commute, I was driving sleep deprived and a lot like I was drunk...

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, nick nolte must have gained a lot of weight if they picked you for his stand in.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I only had three shrimp fajita wraps on set. lol

12:18 PM  
Anonymous et said...

Joe, by the sounds of it, you worked dang hard for your money!

After reading your blog, I remembered one of my favorite movies of Nick Nolte. If you get a chance, get a copy of 'Cannery Row' a film from the early 1980's

1:53 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I don't even remember the drive home...

4:21 PM  
Anonymous marcus said...

Great job Joe. It looks like you continue to have the experiences that you wanted when you began this venture. Tell et therte really were no hookers.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...


12:02 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Marcus, this is similar to a text message of recent weeks. I had my doubts then, and certainly don't believe you now! lol

7:55 AM  
Blogger mommanator said...

congrats, thats impressive, hope ya get a salary commensurate with the stand in position!

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go Joe. I don't think they picked you at random, maybe they saw your cameo in 'Bazookas the Movie' was that Nick Nolte asleep at the bar? waiting to be a stand in for Joe the bartender, u da man RV

7:35 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Don't get me started.

as long as they aren't falling asleep because of my

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Tirrone said...

Wait, when I met you for the first time you told me you were Nick Nolte? That Joe Tornatore was your birth name and Nick Nolte was your stage name? I'm so confused. Please help.


6:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I would remember working with Streisand....It was Nolte...

6:42 PM  

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