R.I.P Tony Scott
There is an influx of actors that move into New York City each year. For many of my friends, one of the first steps was to register with a background casting office. I did the exact same thing. I was 17, had limited experience beyond high school theatre, and I was eager to get the opportunity to be on a professional set. Within a couple of weeks of registering, I hadn't been called in for anything. I was working 3 different jobs and disheartened not to be spending more time getting to experience what I had moved there to do.
One day, I got a call that a production entitled "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" was doing a last minute replacement. They asked me if I was available to head over to Silvercup Studios. I was already scheduled to work that evening but I was so excited to finally hear from the casting office that I didn't want to lose the chance by not going.
I got to the production office and they sent me off to hair and makeup. This film was about a subway car being hijacked. Most of the action took place in the train cars and they consistently had to match the passengers in each and every shot. It required a 3-4 week commitment of production. The girl that had been cast before in one of the train cars was no longer available. They had already captured her in shots and didn't want to re-shoot to match the background passengers. There were about a dozen of us total with blonde hair, blue eyes, and all about the same height. They were hoping to match someone close enough for the rest of the shoot.
We got dressed in the double clothes, had our hair trimmed and styled to look like hers and got on set spray tans. Then, we all lined up and waited for the director. Much to my dismay, in bounded Mr. Tony Scott. He was a burst of energy, welcomed us all, and thanked us profusely for showing up. He debated over who would make the closest match. He chatted with all of us and then went off to consult with the producers.
With a stroke of luck, they concluded that I was the closest match to the actress. He welcomed me to the production and told me how happy they were that I could join the set. For legal reasons, all cast and crew members were required to take an MTA track and safety course before filming on the subway tracks. I was scheduled for the 6 hour class the following day. When I got home, I called my brother and exclaimed how excited I was to be working with the director of "Top Gun" and "True Romance."
My first day on set, Tony was extremely personable. He remembered my name and asked how the track and safety course had gone. The director sets the tone for the production. Their energy levels and enthusiasm seeps into the crew's attitude and directly affects all the actors. I was unbelievably impressed by how nice he was. By all means, it should have been a nightmare shoot. We were mostly filming through the night because it was the only time they could shut down certain subway lines to shoot. We would board the train, leave the train, and walk along the tracks to get the shots needed. There were constantly rats skittering across our feet. Multiple nights we got golden time pay because it was such a challenge to shoot in the underground world of Manhattan. It was an exhausting and grueling production but Tony always dictated the energy with bursts of excitement. He would shout, "Let's make a movie!"
Although I became a part of the production through a background casting agency, it never felt like that. Many times, extras come onto a set for a day or two and then they're done. The plot was central to the train cars. A whole life was formed around the passengers and their reactions to the action unfolding around them. We all felt like an equally integral addition to the action and it's because Tony worked with us in a way that many directors fail to do.
I was devastated when I heard the news this morning of his passing. His humor and good natured persona made a remarkable impression on me. I looked up to him with admiration for his immense talent in working with actors. He had an innate ability to make set as fun as possible, even at 6AM when you've already worked for 16 hours. He holds a special place in my heart as one of the kindest, funniest, and most talented directors I've ever worked with. I am especially grateful that he made my first experience on a movie set such a wonderful, fulfilling time in my life. My deepest condolences go out to his family and everyone that was close to him. He will greatly be missed.
Photo: Getty Images