Friday, February 06, 2009

The Time I Played an Omen in a Movie

Probably the statutes of limitations has run out. It's safe to tell this anecdote.

I once taught lit and comp at a compass point university in Louisiana--a south east something university.

I got to know a few female students out of the classroom, off campus. They were Heathers and Tiffanies, and Brittanies, not Lolitas. Same difference. I was in my early 30s. They were just legal teens. What's done is done.

A few years later, once I became an ex-pat (and didn't have to quote Byron to impress just-legal paramours, when later, oveseas, a twenty dollar bill was all it took to seal the deal), I was mooching couch space from friends, waiting for a visa or a plane ticket, something like that.
I was back in New Orleans, between gigs. I and kind friends went out for some Meskin food, and next door to the restaurant in a casting office casting people were taking polaroids of faces searching for extras for "Interview with a Vampire", soon to be filmed in New Orleans. My friends really hoped to get parts extras. I was more in the mood for the Numero Tres at the restaurant next door, but also in the spirit of the moment, I went along and got Polaroided. End of story. I thought. The Polaroid must have gone into a file.

A few years later, I was staying with the same friends, between jobs again, this time flying from Japan to Germany then onto Kuwait. One night, the phone rang. It was the casting agency and they wanted to know if I was interested in three days work, at scale, as an extra--three meals provided and beer at the end of the day. I wasn't interested in being an extra, but free food and beer? and a couple hundreds bucks for wearing a suit and getting a 1940s haircut? I also thought it would be cool to sit around a movie set and watch the process of major film making. A major studio adaptation of one of my most often re-read novels.

Glibly I asked the casting peson, "So what part will I have?"

"You'll be playing a priest."
"Ah, so that's my motivation. I'm to play guilt" The casting person paused, either didn't get "it" or got "it" and thought it not funny at all. "If you want the part, just be at such and such place tomorrow for wardrobe fitting and a hair cut"
I remembered the novel well and how Humbert Humbert took Lolita for their first tryst to the Enchanted Huntress Lodge. There was an Anglican priest convention at the lodge going on. Kubricks's version made it a state police convention.
Redemption was never too far from Humbert's mind. He would later kill Quilty at the end of the book, the movie, claiming that Quilty had robbed him of his chance at redemption. So Nabokov used the priest convention as a portend, and I had a tiny moment on screen texturing the forboding murder scene.

I arrived in the set at 4 in the morning. The person who drove me there was a former student, a Lolita from my past. She was more grown-up. Had a boyfriend. Was now a senior in college, but still let me sleep on her couch and offered to drive me to the set before dawn. The movie was being filmed in Hammond, Louisiana, home of the compass point university where I taught lit but knew nothing about ethics. The shoot took place in a park nearby, in a building called Zeemurray's Garden.
Baby--life is strange.

So when Humbert first drives Lolita to the lodge, as my former Lolita had driven me to the set, sometime just after dawn, I and a group of senior citizen extras all dresed as vicars walked across the scene way in the background as the car pulls up. We made that walk about a dozen times from different angles.

Today Youtube was in the news, again. I can't remember why, but one thought led to another and I wondered...if...and lo and behold after some searching--took about ten minutes--I found the freaking scene.

I had a few other milli-second scenes roaming around the hotel, but I'm to lazy to dig them up.

Anyway--we, the priests, were all supposed to wear hats, but at the last minute the scene setting person decided she liked my hair and made me take off the hat. We all had to put our watches and rings in our pockets. But I stood out in the distant background scene hatless young priest.

Me--I'm still waiting on my redemption, but I promise not to gun down a playwright if I don't ever earn it.