Somebody wants me to do something, and I don’t want to do it.
(Story of a huge, absent portion of my life. I bet some of it would have been fun. Oh, well. Some of it probably wouldn’t have.)
Anyway, in the course of the futile cajoling, I was reminded by my cajoler of a movie I had been in I believed had never been completed but it turns out it was.
(An intriguing tidbit, but still “No.”)
I have, in my career, appeared in two major motion pictures, “major” only because I appeared in them, and since that is not a recognized criterion, “major” only to me.
I was featured in Ivan (Ghostbusters, etc.) Reitman’s Cannibal Girls, a steppingstone to loftier accomplishments for Ivan, though less significant for me. My “Feature Follow-up” – and fizzling finale to my film-acting career – was the aborted, though apparently resuscitated, The Merry Wives of Tobias Rouke. (“Now appearing… nowhere.” Destitute airlines have said “No.”)
I forget how I originally got the job. Though I know why I wanted it. The prescribed “Actor’s Minimum” back then – the early 70’s – was a hundred dollars a day, and I worked two days. That’s two hundred bucks. Okay, “Canadian.” But I believe at the time I was making… oh, yeah. Nothing.
I recall very little about my experience on The Merry Wives of Tobias Rouke beyond two things, which I shall recount in the reverse order of my experiencing them.
First, the second thing was this:
The Merry Wives of Tobias Rouke contained nudity.
In which they wanted me to participate.
And I insistently said “No.”
(You see? Some “No’s” are appropriate.)
As we drew closer to filming the scene, the producer’s pleading beseechments for me to doff my enveloping “Long-John’s” became extended and borderline hostile. My “punishment” for refusing to go “El-Buffo” was to leave me standing waist-deep in a minnow-infested pond for forty-five minutes while the director “adjusted the camera.” A transparent euphemism for, “Let the minnows nibble his ‘lower parts’ till he says, ‘Yes.’”
I never did. Which only pleased me.
And the carnivorous minnows.
The other thing I remember was my culminating “Funny Moment” in the movie.
Which did not come off funny.
A running motif in Tobias Rouke was the dunking of certain characters’ heads in a filled, westerns-style rain barrel. Someone must have thought this was hilarious, as the “bit” was repeated three times throughout the movie, involving three different submersible victims.
The first two elicited peals of laughter from cast and crew watching the scene from the sidelines, all of them admonished to bite their lips so their raucous reaction would not be “picked up” on the soundtrack.
The third "victim" was me.
There I stood in front of the rain barrel, a guillotine victim, heading helplessly to “The Block.” I took a deep breath, and a meaty hand pushed my head under the water… and then, eventually, pulled it back out. The action was then repeated. My head went under… and then out. And finally, a third time, my submerged head held (concerningly) under for a longer period than the first two.
And you know what?
There was nary a titter through the entire sequence.
The reaction was a huge disappointment to me. And a perplexing one. They had gone nuts for the othertwo, but not for me. I wondered. Why didn’t they laugh?
The foregoing should more accurately be, “Why didn’t they laugh?”, with surrounding quotation marks, because I actually said it out loud, though, I thought, only to myself.
As it turns out, a nearby female crew member, whom I subsequently realized was “interested” – I’ve had a number of those in my day, not “interested females”, but interested females I did not realize were “interested” until after – anyway, the kind lady explained to me why my serial dunkings had received such a stone-faced response.
“It’s because they know you don’t like it.”
Her conclusion was right on the money. The two earlier “dunk-ees” were demonstrably, as they say in the business, “having fun with it.” I behaved like I was “this close” to drowning. There is a reason for that. I felt I was “that close” to drowning.
A vital lesson in comedy had been learned. “Fake danger” – signaled by the participant – is hilarious. Terminal drowning…?
Here’s the thing.
You can laugh, or you can feel pity.
You cannot simultaneously do both.
Y’know, my behavior on Tobias Rouke may have ended my movie career shortly after it began. My reputation got around…
“He is not a ‘team player.’ He refused to get naked, and took the dunkings too seriously.”
Then and there, I was probably blackballed as “Difficult.”