I stared at the spot on the wall with all the focus and intensity of a young actor about to transcend his art. I had created and wallowed in my back story. I had sharpened my intentions until they cut my soul. I was about to burst onto the indy-action-film-direct-to-video scene… And I was gonna get paid $60!
I was 22 and had booked my first film role. A non-union flick listed in DramaLogue. I was to play “Billy,” a paraplegic who lived in a computer fallout shelter in a post-apocalyptic world. My only connection to the outside was my benefactor, David Carradine. That’s right! I was starring in a film with David Carradine! I was on my way!
The shoot was for two days in Riverside during the summer of 1988. I packed my bag, loaded it into my trunk and kissed my girlfriend goodbye as people covered their cars in preparation for the evening helicopter fly-overs. It was the year Medflies found citrus fruit in Southern California.
It was also the year I found out that being paid $60 bucks to act and sharing a Motel 6 room with the DP was not exactly my acting dream manifested.
Back to that spot on the wall. That spot was David Carradine to me. He was seeing me on a tv screen. I was seeing him in a dirt smudge on the back wall of a video store in Riverside. Sadly, I wasn’t going to ever meet David during the shoot.
I knew I had to be good so my performance would cut well with his. I was now Young Grasshopper.
The director yelled “Action!”
Then there was silence as I waited for the script supervisor to say David’s first line. It never came. So I would say my line and then pretend to hear him, react, then speak my line… For every scene. Walk on hot coals? Sure. Act with a wall? Young Grasshopper was not so sure.
Had he been in the room, though, I fear my performance would’ve been the same as he seemed to be heavily medicated on camera.
When I finally got my factory-sealed VHS copy of the film I invited several friends come over to watch my acting debut. I was so excited I even invited Jason over. He was an acting school friend I admired. He was a talented actor with a James Dean vibe who had already been on TV and in major studio films. I valued his opinion.
About ten minutes into the film I realized how awful it was… and how truly awful I was!
“I seem kinda gay!” I said. There was some laughter, then a beat of silence.
Jason quietly asked, “Seriously? It wasn’t a choice?”
… Yup, I was that bad. Apparently the combination of an insanely high-stakes back story with overwrought character intentions and only a grungy wall to act with results in D.C. looking effete and bitchy. Who knew?
Fifteen years later I ended up in an editing bay with David Carradine. I relished turning to him and saying, “You know, you and I have never met before, but we starred in a movie together.”
It took me ten more minutes to jog his memory of even doing that film. When he finally remembered, he laughed. “I was a bad boy in those days so I don’t remember much.” He turned out to be quite funny and kind (yes, and reportedly kinky – part of his charm).
In my ongoing effort to YouTube-ify my acting and voiceover careers, I came across my Razzie-quality performance and thought I should inflict it upon you.
Things to look for:
• My sudden homo-eroticization of computer hacking.
• David’s morphine delivery.
• The water sound effect when the car goes through a puddle.
• How I am suddenly healed of my paralysis the instant I’m shot.
• My dirty fingernails (proof I was “Method acting”).
If you’re thinking, “Damn, spoiler warning, dude!” then you probably need to lower your expectations.
Am I really sharing one of my worst performances with you? Why?! Because, Virginia, this one is just too damn funny not to share.
Shot in 1988, released in 1990… Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Future Force!
The full film includes Robert Tessier, a flying robot hand and bullets that never hit anything. Intrigued? Amazon, baby.