A Day in the Life of an Actor
8:00 A.M. The alarm pounds my hung-over temples. I reach by the nightstand and slam my fist in the general direction of the snooze button. Eight more minutes.
Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I had a massive audition and the douche-bag casting director barely looked me in the eye. I had nothing to work with — nothing. It’s as if she decided I was wrong for the part the second I walked into the room. It was over before it began. And rather than let that fuel me, I let it get to me. Went up on my lines, three times, mumbled my way through the audition, then had the stupidity to ask if I could do it again. “That won’t be necessary,” she snarled, and the next thing I remember, I was walking through the waiting area, past all of the other actors. One looked at me with an evil twinkle in his eye, “You didn’t get it, huh? Better luck next time.” “Fuck you,” I beamed back at him.
Just twenty-four hours earlier, I was so ecstatic that I got the audition in the first place. I got the email from Deb, my agent, and couldn’t believe what I read. An audition for an outstanding scene in a film by my all time favorite director, David Fincher! I spent the next several hours deluding myself into thinking that this was it — the big break I’d been waiting for. All the years of suffering would finally pay off. On the outside, I kept a nonchalant demeanor, but inside, my heart was doing triple-time. I even shelled out a hundred bucks of hard earned tips for a private coach.
But like bad sex, it was over before it started. In and out in less than four minutes.
I left the audition feeling hopeless. The pain in my being was excruciating. I couldn’t remember why I got into this business in the first place. Why do I put myself through this? You’d have to be a masochist to love auditioning, and I was always a wimp when it came to pain. A paper cut is enough to ruin my week, and here I am asking to be kicked in the balls on a daily basis. Maybe I should move back to Santa Rosa.
My girlfriend, Beth, called and asked the obligatory “supportive girlfriend” question: “How’d it go, babe?” At first I gave her the usual bullshit about it being okay, and that it’s hard to tell, blah, blah, blah. But ten seconds later, I vomited all of my neurosis on her. “It was horrible. I can’t act. The worst audition of my life! I’m a terrible auditioner — I’ll never work in this business. I blew the best chance I’ve had in years. I don’t want to do it any more!” “Well, you probably should quit,” she responded. Beth always knew how to shut me up. She was stingy when it came to sympathy. I had no choice but to wallow in my own misery.
So, I drank some of the inventory at my job — I drank a lot of it. It helped for about two seconds.
The alarm jars me awake again. 8:08 A.M. Why did I agree to this meeting? Some student director wants to have breakfast, undoubtedly, to pitch his stupid thesis film, and ask me if I would do it for free, cause he really admires my work, yada, yada. Fuck him. Doesn’t he know I suck? He should ask me to pay him to do his worthless film. That’s what I deserve. For some inexplicable reason, I drag myself out of bed and into the shower. “I wonder if anyone ever drowned in a shower,” I think to myself.
Deb texts me: “How did the audition go?” I key in several responses: “Okay.” “It sucked.” “I quit.” “You’re fired.” “I’m fired.” None seemed right, so I don’t respond.
The director turns out to be a nice guy — delusional — but nice. He still has that idealistic gleam in his eye. Just wait until the little shit graduates. I’ll give him six months before he offs himself. I tell him I’ll read his script, but I’m secretly planning to brush him off with some bullshit about another engagement the week of the shoot. I certainly wasn’t going to waste any brain cells reading the damn thing. From the sound of it, it’s another depressing student film — a father-son story with lots of abuse and alcohol. Why do film students make depressing films? It must make them feel deep, or maybe it impresses their professors. You’ll never see the next A Fish Called Wanda as a student thesis film, that’s for sure.
I throw the script on my back seat and head over to my apartment. I don’t want to go home really but I have nowhere else to go. For ten seconds, I consider driving all the way to Tijuana. I have no logical reason to do it, other than it would be dramatic. Ultimately, I chicken out. I wish I had the balls of some of my characters. I really do.
The phone rings — since I ignored her text, Deb has resorted to calling me. I send it to voicemail. I don’t want to hear a pep talk from anyone.
When I get to the apartment, I decide to take a pen and paper and write down all of my options other than acting. I make a long list. The least depressing is to apply for a job as a drama teacher at my old high school. I figure I could call my cousin Ben — he teaches History at my alma mater. Maybe he could put a word in for me. I call mom and ask for Ben’s number and she tells me his daughter just got in a major car wreck and was in the intensive care unit at Saint Mary’s Hospital. I consider calling anyway, then I decide that the, “I’m so sorry about your daughter — could you call the school for me,” pitch won’t fly. Mom surprises me though. When I tell her I am quitting, she says something along the lines that only losers quit just before the finish line, and I wasn’t a loser. What does she know? But it makes me feel a tiny bit better anyway. Hell, I always thought she secretly wanted me to quit and move into a house with a white picket fence and the 2.5 kids. Who knew?
Option two on my list is a car salesman. I have mixed feelings about that one. I happen to love and know all there is to know about cars. But I hate sales — absolutely detest it. You’d never guess, right? I move on to option three: travel around the world. The problem with that one is you need money. I decide to hit the bookstore to buy one of those dumb “Africa on a Buck-a-Day,” books or something. The best I can find is a series of five-bucks-a-day books — inflation, I guess. I buy them all.
I was supposed to see Beth that night — I’m embarrassed to say we’ve resorted to scheduling our sex lately. Sure, it’s not spontaneous, but it’s better than nothing. But tonight, I am definitely not in the mood. Actually, I decide I am going to break up with her. Believe me, I am doing her a favor. She deserves a successful guy. I eat a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and rehearse my break-up lines. “I’m sorry babe, but this is not working… I’m going to hitchhike all over the world… I’ve moved on.” I decide to wing it.
She comes over and I tell her we don’t belong together because she is so positive and I am a dark cloud, etc. Her response is to ask me if I wanted to order some Chinese. I figure she didn’t hear me, so I start all over again. She cuts me off and tells me she heard me the first time, and asks what I want to eat. This girl has some serious issues — who the hell ignores you when you’re trying to break up with them?! A normal person would have been pissed.
I finally give up on getting through to her and we order Chinese and put on The Godfather. I’ve seen it like seventy-five times, but it’s my favorite film of all time. We were at the part when Sonny gets machine-gunned when Deb calls again. She usually doesn’t call this late, so I figured she must be really annoyed that I’ve been ignoring her all day. Beth pauses the film right on the frame where Sonny’s bullet-ridden body is about to collapse, and makes me pick up.
I start to apologize to Deb and tell her how shitty the audition went, etc., when she interrupts me with: “You got a callback.” For a second, I think I heard her wrong. Or it must be that stupid Gillette commercial I auditioned for two weeks ago. Then she lays this on me: “David Fincher wants to meet with you in person.”
I go numb. My mind immediately flashes back to the past two days, the email with the audition, the genius choices I made with the coach, the Brando'esque, under-stated, audition, the coy, “That won’t be necessary,” from the casting director, the terror in the actor’s eye that knew I got the part!
A warm elation fills my body. I scream into the phone. Between laughs, Deb tries to put things in perspective, “You don’t have the part yet. It’s between you and one other guy.” Bullshit!“ I yell back. "This role is mine, baby!”
All of the hard work was worth it! My big break is here! Oh my God, a one-on-one with David Fincher! I’m amazing! I’m brilliant! I’m the best actor in the world!
I finally hang up and Beth doesn’t even have the decency to ask me what all of the screaming was about. I’m sure she got the picture, but a courteous person would give me a chance to relive the entire phone call all over again. I give her the blow-by-blow anyway and all she does is flash me a huge smile, then press play on the remote. What is wrong with this woman? I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.
— Isa Totah