Sunday, April 3, 2011

Adventures In The Final Frontier

I was in Star Trek.  That big movie from a couple of years ago?  Yeah, that one.


Now I'm not saying it to brag.  I'm just saying that there was a Star Trek movie fairly recently, and I was in it -- there's no bragging involved because it is certainly not the thing that works with the ladies.  Trust me on that one.  I have the statistics to prove it, and all the possible math ends with a sum of zero.

I spent the better part of ten years working for J.J. Abrams.  Again, not a bragging thing -- just a fact that is relevant to the story.

I started on Felicity, which no one watched.  Then Alias, which more people watched.  Then Mission: Impossible 3, which a lot of people should have watched, but a certain star's trampoline act on Oprah's couch was only the beginning of an avalanche of bad press and sentiment that was tantamount to a kick in the balls for the success of the film.  Well, fuck me, I guess I'm being glib.  Matt Lauer and I -- party of two.

And then And then there was Star Trek.

Now I performed a number of jobs throughout the years with J.J. -- from office p.a., to set p.a., to writers' assistant, to second assistant.

On Star Trek, I was asked to be the researcher on the film, which means I was possibly the first person in history who got paid to become a Trekkie.

Again, very sexy.

So I watched every episode of the original series.  I read a bunch of books.  And then I stood by at the ready via Instant Messenger, waiting for the moment when one of the writers would call upon me to do some researching.

Now I'm not going to lie, that was pretty fucking cool.  When Damon Lindelof, one of the the brains behind LOST, asks you to write a report on the Romulans, you...well, after you get over feeling kind of silly for what you were asked to do...I mean, I went to college for this, which sure seems like a great investment now, huh?  Mom and dad must be sooooooo fucking thrilled.  After all that, you realize that it is Damon Lindelof who is asking you to do this -- and let's be honest here -- he's a fucking god.  And a Stephen King fan.  Now that's a separate sentence -- but not really a separate thing -- ultimately it's all a part of his godness.  I know that if I was a Stephen King fan (which I am), and I wrote a show that Stephen King said was his favorite thing in the world (which I didn't, and fuck you very much for bringing that up), it would pretty much be evidence of greatness.

Cool sidebar (as if this wasn't already too fucking long): Entertainment Weekly did this story where J.J., Damon, and Carlton Cuse all went down to Maine to meet with Stephen King, ostensibly about a story about great storytelling.  When they got back, Damon had a present for me -- a copy of Stephen King's book, On Writing.  Written on the inside cover was To Sean --  Best, Stephen King.

I just about fucking died.  Is that not the coolest thing you've ever heard?

Which is why, when I read these hatemongers on Ain't It Cool News, or Deadline, or any of the movie sites talking shit about Damon, I just want to tell each and every one of them to be grateful that I don't know where they lived, or I would be getting all George Stark from The Dark Half on their fucking asses.  Get me off my chain and I can be the ultimate high-toned son of a bitch.

Anyway...

Star Trek.  Researcher.  Not exactly something I would be eager to mention on my Match.com profile, but a cool job nonetheless.

I also got to work closely with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the writers of the film, and you would be hard-pressed to find a nicer pair of guys.  Oh, and they're amazing writers.  If you doubt that, and feel compelled to spout some jealous shit on hatefilmsite.com, fucking kill yourself.  Or I will.

Um, Sean?  Hi, sorry to interrupt another one of your perilously on the edge of defining mental instability with a penchant for violence tangents, but I'm pretty clear you said this blog story was about you actually being in Star Trek.  Not that we're not highly entertained by your fantasies of rending some Terrence Stamp The Limey-style justice (and you wonder why your dating life is so sad and empty), but I just wanted to make sure you still had the plot.

Quite right you are.  Thanks.

So once the movie was written and greenlit by the studio, my job segued over to handling the script.  See, the internet can be a bitch, specifically how high-profile films can get leaked to it.  So my job became the guardian at the gate for the script.  We had a dozen scripts locked in a safe, literally.  A safe.  And when the show was in pre-production, I would take out one of the scripts, and bring it to the person who had to read it.  Then, after they signed a shitload of non-disclosure agreements, I would hand them the script to read -- while I sat there, and waited for them to finish.

Yeah.  Another thing for mom and dad to be proud of.

One day I had to bring a script to casting.  Now, I've known the folks in the casting department since Felicity.  Good people, one and all.  I walk in, and sign them out a script.  I'm ready to go when April Webster, the head of casting, says, "Hey, would you read something real quick?".  I say, "Sure.  Why not?".

Here's where it gets strange...

(too late)

Shut up!

When April asked me to read, I honestly thought it was part of an elaborate crew joke that was being played.  See, at that point in time they hadn't found Chris Pine, who would become our Kirk.  As a bit of a funny ha-ha, casting was taping members of the crew giving their best Shatneresque Kirk reading.  So I thought that's what this was.

I was wrong.

So they fired up the videocamera, and I read the lines, which was a bunch of yelling and screaming.

Yes, I know -- typecasting.  Thank you again for that.  Your confidence and kindness is what gets me through the day.

I finished my reading, and went about my day.

Later that night, I received an mail from J.J.  It simply said, Dude, you rocked the audition!

I'm sorry -- what audition?

And, somehow, I got the part.  Which is still, to this day, just fucking crazy.

And then...

One day I went to wardrobe -- again to drop off a script.  One of the costumers asked me if I was the one who was actually going to be in the movie.  Proudly, I said yes.  He asked me which ship I was on.  I said The Kelvin.  He smiled, winked, and said "Oh, the flattering costumes".

He points to a sketch on the wall of the costume in question.  It is sausage-casing tight.  Just the human body dipped in spandex.

Holy shit.  What have I gotten myself into?

Now I was in pretty good shape. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only reason I even got the part was due less to my acting chops than the fact that I would fit in the costume.  But even being at my fighting weight, the next three months because a revolving lazy susan of steamed fish and vegetables and grilled chicken.

A couple of months later, they needed to do a camera test -- at which time they decided it would also be a perfect time to have a costume test.  And guess who they picked to wear the costume for said test?  Oh, you betcha.  Lucky me.

First, I had to go get measured.  That was actually kind of cool.  You go to this fancy costume warehouse, where three or four people flutter around like hummingbirds with tape-measures, covering every square inch of my body.  I can only imagine it's how the insanely rich men of the world get their tailored suits made.

Two weeks later, I had the initial fitting.

I go into a room at the costume shop.  There, on a hanger, is the costume.  It's blue-green.  Okay.  There are some boots.  Black.  Okay.  And then there's a...well, I didn't know what it was.  What it looked like, was a tan...coin purse...with a couple of string on it.  For some reason, this has captured my attention, undoubtedly because it was the only thing that seemed really foreign to me.

A moment later, one of the costume ladies knocked softly on the door, and poked her head in.  She asked me if everything was okay, and if I had any questions.

Funny she should ask.

"As a matter of fact," I said, "I do."  I picked up the hanger with the tan mini-purse on it, and asked her what it was.  "Oh," she said, "that's your dance belt."

Still not quite understanding (or admittedly in the throes of fiercely screaming denial), I asked her to explain what that meant.

Basically, it's a jock strap.  A padded jockstrap.

See, she explained to me that when a one wears a costume as flattering (again the cursed word) as that one, it is important to minimize unsightly lines that would occur by sporting underwear, or cockandballs, under the costume.

I immediately turned a shade of green only a tad paler than the costume.

So basically, I had to wear a piece of attire that rendered me a Ken doll -- and as an added bonus, it is held in place by a g-string that crawled uncomfortably up my ass.

Ladies, I have soooooo much respect for you right now.

You laugh.  I assure you that I wasn't.

A couple days after that initial fitting, which for some reason I have blocked from my memory, there was the camera test.

Weeping, I donned the dance belt -- and then the rest of the costume.

I walked onto the stage.  A stage filled with grips and electricians.  Many of them I know from Mission: Impossible 3.  They are trying, and failing, not to laugh.  Quite a few of them turn away, staring at something...anything...that is not in the direction of the turquoise bratwurst ambling across the stage.

I.  Want.  To.  Die.

I want to shoot it, and get the fuck out of there.  But before I can, the stage door opens, and in comes the Paramount brass -- all the heads of the studio.  They head over to J.J. -- shake hands and exchange pleasantries.  Love your work.  Thank you.  No, thank you.

J.J. introduces them to our costume designer.  He is a genius.  He also designed the costumes for Blade Runner, and Se7en, Panic Room, Fight Club.  At the moment, all I can wonder is how far I could twist his genius head around until I hear something pop.

Our costume designer turns...and leads the Paramount brass toward me.  I freeze, thinking, if I don't move, maybe they won't see me.


Yes, I know -- sooooooo fucking sad.

I stand there like some weird performance art mannequin, as the designer explains the costume to them.

Then it happens.  All of the Paramount brass converge in front of me, and their eyes drop, down past the neckline, over the chest, over the abdominals, until their united gaze stops right on my crotch.  Over three hundred million dollars worth of studio executives are scrutinizing my junk.

See, considering that Star Trek would be released on IMAX, what they don't want is a thirteen foot high dickprint scaring the children.  As a result, I must endure the discomfort of their stare.  I lock my hands behind my back, and try not to cry.  Again.

Months later, in November of 2007, I donned the costume for a full week.  First at an old electrical plant in Long Beach, and then on a stage at Paramount.  I yelled.  I screamed.  Shit was on fire.

It was awesome.

4 comments:

  1. At least you look better than the guy sitting next to you :D

    Glad to see your blog. I've often thought you should write one. I've blogged for a while now but haven't told a lot of folks.

    Stop on over if you want...I don't swear nearly as much as you do :D

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  2. The swearing is my favorite part...kidding, you're a good storyteller. Question: This is the second time you've mentioned Ain't It Cool--my impression is they're giant movie geeks, albeit with lousy grammar and too many !!!! What about that site brings out the passion for you?

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  3. Eileen,

    AICN irks me for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is their running theme of ruining every imaginable secret for an upcoming film.

    I understand enthusiasm, I do -- hell, I'm a huge movie geek as well -- but the site seems to provide itself on leaking information; and that reputation has stirred too many of the public to desire a nuance of celebrity by being someone who brings a big story, or behind-the-scenes picture, or a scipt or unfinished cut of a film to the site.

    But mainly it's the opinion of the talkbackers that I loathe. If you're an established filmmaker, and you feel that some other director or writer is a hack, well then I guess you've earned the right to have an opinion. But if you've done absolutely nothing, then what right do any of these douchebags have to verbally slam someone who's actually doing it?

    Look, there are plenty of films that I hate -- but I would rarely, if ever (unless the director is a hazard to his crew) say anything bad about a filmmaker. Again, they are actually doing it, not just talking about it.

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  4. Well-stated, and I agree about both the leaking of information and the talkbackers. I usually read certain people's reviews or interviews only after seeing a film, but I'm not really the target audience. I think your respect for filmmakers is encouraging and strangely optimistic. Always easier for most people to criticize!

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