Monday, March 13, 2006

At The Threshold of Cinematic History

“I am fed up with this perpetual auditioning business! If they are so fucking dissatisfied with me why don’t they just show me the door?”

Sonny sat there in the studio with a glum face. Jaw line hardened, he exhaled smoke. He felt his ribs burn as he exhaled. The studio was deserted. Only one bulb shone. He could see his shadow fall across the floor, ending where Francis’s shoes were. This was turning out to be a harrowing experience. He could cope with poverty. Often he had to borrow money to reach an audition venue. But that was fine. It didn’t deter him because he believed in his ability as an actor and was certain that one day he’d get both recognition and money. The dream kept everything alive. However, this was not remotely close to what he envisaged about his life as an actor.

He was very young when Dad divorced Mom. Mom moved in with Granny and since then it has been a tale of survival and subsistence. Mom had to do odd jobs to keep the family together. Sonny found school boring and sought pleasure in school plays and theatre. Finally, he dropped out of school and took up acting as a career. He had early disappointments but an entry into Actors Studio affirmed his faith in his abilities. His tutor there was supportive of him, believed in his dream and taught him finer aspects of Method Acting. The apprenticeship at the Studio fructified into two award winning stage performances and a contract for a movie. This was followed by another movie, though it wasn’t a box office success, it got him critical acclaim. Perhaps, that acclaim got this audition for him.

But now it was heading nowhere. He has already been auditioned five times for this role. He would have welcomed this rigor otherwise. But they were screen-testing him with scenes where he couldn’t really showcase his talent. They were deliberately offering him meek portions: scenes where his role was marginal. The grapevine was abuzz that nobody – right from the producer, the studio heads to the fellow cast – wanted him. The other day when he finished the audition someone quipped from behind the camera,

“Hey midget! You’d be better off as a prop on a stage!”

He wished he could spit on that person’s face. And then the other day he had a fellow cast patronizing him.

“Sonny! A rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad actor. Maybe you don’t fit the bill!”

They all thought he was meek for the role. They thought only an established actor could do justice to this role. The only person who believed in him was the director, Francis, who stood in front of him right now consoling him and encouraging him to not give this up in a huff.

“This is ridiculous. These people don't want me, and I don't want to be around when they feel this way. Besides, I think they might be right. I think they want a movie star which I am absolutely not!”

“Sonny! I am aware of all this! But I am the director. It’s my vision in the end. And I assert that you’re the best suited for this role. Leave this to me!”

“But how long can you hold fort? Everyone is against me! Right from the producer to the fucking clap-boy! They snigger and sneer at me and to make things worse, I screen-tested on a scene that didn't really allow me to show my chops! I beg you, Francis! No more auditions, no more screen tests. I can live without this part!”

Francis leaned forward and patted Sonny’s shoulder.

“Cool your heels Sonny Boy! Just do your bit and leave the rest to me!”

Five days later Alfredo James Pacino got the role of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie “The Godfather”. The rest is history.

© Dan Husain
March 7, 2006

PS: Excerpts taken from Pacino’s interviews and articles written on his struggle to get this role.


Blue Athena said...

Absolutely absolutely loved reading this! :D

The Individualist said...

Wow! Never did I expect that it would end the way it did. Beautiful. The victory of human spirit is always something to be hailed about. *want to hug somebody now*

Shilpa said...

Very nice:)

sophie said...

ohh..that was facsinating....

Ajay said...

Wow. This was fantastic.
It takes a lot of courage to believe in your dreams.
Thanks. I am in a depressed state of mind right now. This post did a lot of good for me :)

sivaramamenonroad said...

reminded me of O Hnery stories. thanks.

John said...

Hey Dan,

This is great, man. You have a sense of history. Did this really happen?