The Bentfootes, day 1

Mr. Urbaniak relaxes during the shoot with an admirer.

The crew was ready, the cast members were in place, the atmosphere was electric.  It was our first day, shooting a brand new movie!  Somehow, news of our humble location had shot across the world on the internet, and scores of the teen girls I like to call “Jimmers” were already camped out outside the doors of the studio.  Why don’t these fresh-faced, nubile young ladies have boyfriends?  Or school?  Or parents?

Everyone was riding a high that only months of preparation and keen understanding of the script can bring.  The only thing missing was our star.

His call time was seven am.  Seven came and went, and then seven-thirty, eight and nine, then ten.  I paced the floor of the studio and worked out the camera moves for the umpteenth time.  Squid, our DP, and his crew were starting to get testy with me.  They were champing at the bit, ready to shoot.

At 10:30, a roar went up from outside.  The cast and crew rushed to the windows to see a huge crush of humanity swarming over the hood and roof of Mr. Urbaniak’s custom-built Hummer, 32 feet long and featuring a wet bar, a sauna and a hot tub.  Mr. Urbaniak had tried to get me to go “cruising” with him one night in this vehicle, but I had just seen Al Gore’s movie the night before and could not bring myself to get into this behemoth.  It was a lucky thing, as that was the evening that a twelve-year-old girl almost drowned in the hot-tub (she was not the only one in hot water that night).

Studio security, using cattle-prods and machine guns (rubber bullets only!  My contract insists upon no fatalities to fans!) cleared a path through the Jimmers from the Hummer to the studio doors.  After that, of course, he had to make it through the studio itself and all the hangers-on and sycophants that naturally cling to a star in the middle of a meteoric rise.

He got up to our studio around 11:00am.  His subdued demeanor and unwillingness to take off his dark glasses made me fear the worst: he had shown up drunk once again, if not worse.

He staggered over to the craft services table and collapsed.  A melon ball, lodged in his ear, had to be extracted with a plastic spoon.

This was an inauspicious beginning indeed to our seven-day shoot.

The scene was a simple one.  Mr. Urbaniak (we named hischaracter “Jim” to make it less confusing for our lead) had to simply watch a pair of dancers run through a routine.  No acting required.  We found a chair for Mr. U to sit in and blocked out the rehearsal.  Barely able to keep his head upright, and certainly unable to discern the dancers, who were over ten feet away, a PA held a stick with bright day-glow orange tape attached to guide the star as to where to direct his attention (the PA will need to be removed digitally later).

Now we were running over six hours late and we didn’t yet have a take in the can.  Mr. Urbaniak was incapable of remaining upright, even when harnessed to the chair, and insisted on holding a huge prop “martini glass” because he thought it was “funny.”  (“It’s a comedy, right?  Then LET’S BE FUNNY!” is his motto.)

We ran through a total of sixty takes as the sun set and Mr. Urbaniak slumped further and further down in his seat.  When a large rope of drool began to make its way to the floor, I knew it was time for medical intervention.  A couple of shots later and our star’s arms starting moving again without the aid of what I call “Muppet sticks”.

That’s when the trouble really began.  Although the script merely calls for “Jim” to sit and watch the dance, Mr. U could not restrain himself.  Pacino-like, he ignored his blocking and text (or lack of it) and launched himself into the scene.  Normally I encourage ideas from my actors, but this was utterly contradictory to the intent of the scene.  First he started pestering the actress playing the choreographer, then he started “giving notes” on the dancer’s performance.  This wouldn’t have been so bad, but for some reason his “notes” all revolved around whether or not the dancer’s nipples were “visible” enough for his liking in the cold room.

Everyone was getting a little testy, but I kept the camera rolling, hoping that something, anything, might be salvaged from the day’s shoot.

Mr. U then grabbed the dancer and, well, let’s say he “did something inappropriate” that involved touching what I like to call “her breasts.”

The choreographer, outraged by this breach of etiquette, had had enough.  Star or no star, she would not stand idly by and chuckle at the brutish antics of Mr. U.  She took him aside, where an argument quickly developed.  I caught the whole screaming match on film, and it’s good that I did, as that was it for Mr. Urbaniak today.  He stomped off the set and headed off into the night with a Jimmer.

So, Day 1 was exciting, but of course now I’m going to have to stay up all night to revise the script.  Mr. Urbaniak is the star and lead, and now the story must be changed to keep up with his destructive whims.

Of course I could fight him, but then someone else would be directing this turkey.
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6 Responses to “The Bentfootes, day 1”
  1. God, you’re giving me flashbacks. It’s as if you cribbed an entry about a Venture Bros. voice recording session from my PRIVATE production diary. But what can you do? He IS the star (so he keeps reminding us) and if HE says “Doc Venture wouldn’t say that” and “let me just try something different” you just have to roll with it. Tell me, though, does he high five himself after every take on your set, too?

  2. urbaniak says:


  3. monica_black says:

    scores of the teen girls I like to call “Jimmers” were already camped out outside the doors of the studio

    I just can’t believe that. At least, I can’t due to my current location.