Hey Harry here with young Quint who went off on a rascally wundertrip where he saw labias, famous tits and all sorts of fun! Unfortunately he was stuck with the ass-sore of all buddies to take on a trip, Massawyrm... So was it really worth it? Well, that's the question he asks himself everyday since, was it worth $226? Was it worth the secondhand smoke damage to his lungs? Was it worth the banal mumblings from a cadaver of rotting human flesh encrusted with a day and a night's worth of maggots? Well, given that it was a set visit to Roger Avary's film RULES OF ATTRACTION, a film that you folks will all be worshipping this time next March.... Um, yeah, I'd say it was worth it. Now here's Quint...
Ahoy there, squirt. 'Tis I, the crusty and psycho seaman, Quint, here to give you folks the first look into Roger Avary's THE RULES OF ATTRACTION. That title might strike a bell or two with you landlubbers. THE RULES OF ATTRACTION is adapted from Bret Easton Ellis's sequel to American Psycho, following Patrick Bateman's younger brother, Sean, through college.
Now, I've been extremely vocal about my dislike of the film adaptation of AMERICAN PSYCHO. What I hated about that movie is they had cast the perfect actor, Christian Bale, who hit the perfect, eerie chord, but they took any impact, comedic or serious, out of his daydreams and actions. I don't mind movies that cover one or more genres at one time, but I felt they dropped the ball completely in AMERICAN PSYCHO. When I wanted it to be creepy, they did something so cheesy it ruined the build up. When I wanted it to be funny, they tried to be creepy. I'm a very giving audience member. Most of my reviews on this site are positive. A film really has to piss me off to make me dislike it as much as I do AMERICAN PSYCHO.
So when I heard that Roger Avary was working on a "sequel" to AMERICAN PSYCHO, I immediately questioned his choice in adapting another story from that universe. I love what Avary has given us so far. KILLING ZOE rocks, MR. STITCH was surprisingly not a piece of shit (given its subject matter and the fact that it was a TV movie) and of course his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino in PULP FICTION gave us a modern day classic.
It wasn't until Harry read the script for RULES OF ATTRACTION(which you can read here I mean here) did I see some hope in the film. Harry also hated AMERICAN PSYCHO with a passion, yet he creamed all over Roger's script. Fast forward 6 or so months and I find out FlixMix is flying me out to LA to cover the junket for their Boogeymen DVD (which you can also read about here or actually here ). The junket/party was only going to be one night of the trip and they had Massawyrm and myself out there for the whole weekend. Before I left, I checked in with Avary, who I've known in a limited capacity for the last 2 years. I found out I was welcome to come and hang out whenever. I also found out that James Van Der Beek was cast in the leading role of Sean Bateman... Oooooookkkkkaaaayyyyy... and Eric Stoltz was in the movie! Awesome! And he was shooting when I was there! Too cool! With that knowledge, I set out to LA with my faithful mongrel, Massawyrm, by my side.
We ended up cabbing it to set that Saturday morning as I found out all PAs were occupied and couldn't pick us up until, like, mid-afternoon. We said, "Fuck that noise," and called a cab. Now... we took a cab from West Hollywood to Downey, a small town outside LA where Roger was shooting. Anybody who has ever taken a cab in LA can tell you that was not a cheap ride. After handing the cabbie way too much money, completely out of my own pocket mind you because that fucking slacker/hanger-onner Massawyrm wouldn't cough up a dime to take a piss, we stepped out into the pleasant Southern California fall weather to the visage of light stands, extras, gaffer tape galore and the number one tell tale sign of a film crew, big white trucks.
Now the trick was to get to Avary before some PA kicked us off set or at least be able to spin a yarn of bullshit so thick to said PA that we got his/her head spinning fast enough so we could escape their clutches. There was movement everywhere... where to go? "Hey! You two!" came the voice from behind us. Damn! I saw Massawyrm had already popped a cyanide capsule into his mouth, much to my delight. I was a little more level-headed... I was ready to scream like a bitch and run around in circles, flapping my arms about... Maybe they'd think we were funny in the head and leave us alone... Fuck yeah!
With that in mind, I slowly turned around to face my captor. I came face to face with a strikingly non-intimidating guy, about a head shorter than myself with curly hair. Just as I was about to release my banshee cry, my captor did the unthinkable. He smiled. Then stuck out his hand. "Hi, my name's Mike. I'm the unit publicist. Roger told me you were coming down and I'm very excited to meet you guys." There was a moment of stunned silence. Massawyrm gulped and pissed his pants. I looked Mike daringly in the eye, struck a Monkey style fighting posture and said, "With karate I'll kick your ass... into Tiananmen Square! Oh yeah, mother fucker! I'll kick your fuckin' derriÃ¨re!" Oh wait... I didn't say that. The D said that. What I said was, "Pleasure to meet you. Is Roger around?"
Mike led us onto the set. I noticed Massawyrm's eyes were dodging around wildly and he was sweating profusely while breaking into hives. Strange... Anyway, the set was a cafeteria, with circular tables spread out evenly. The tables all had food or other props on them, but were empty as all the attention was focused on one table in the corner. Mike pointed and said Roger was over in the corner giving direction to Jessica Biel (in a role a far cry from her 7th Heaven innocence) and the other girls at the table, which included the beautiful Shannyn Sossamon who you might remember as Jocelyn in A Knight's Tale.
We stood by the playback monitors, trying to stay out of the way of the scampering crew members. Roger finished talking to the actors and wandered back our way. He moseyed up and greeted us warmly. I introduced him to Massawyrm... he did a spit take at the name. "Massa what?" Roger and I caught up a bit, but he was shortly hailed by one of the crew who needed Roger to OK something. When Roger returned a few moments later, he wasn't alone. Trailing behind him, wearing brown wool slacks, a brown tie, a white button down shirt with the sleeves unbuttoned and rolled up, was Eric Stoltz. Roger introduced us.
I wasn't really star struck, but I got a little weirded out. I've met a lot of celebrities before, people I grew up watching on TV or in movies, but there's always something off... they're never exactly what I had pictured them. They're either shorter than I thought they'd be, taller, fatter, skinnier, hairier, etc. Shaking Stoltz's hand awed me a bit because he looked exactly like he does on screen. It helped that he was sporting his most used look, that of shoulder length red hair and a clean-shaven face. He was very gracious and easy to talk to, but not much was said before the shot was set up and ready.
Before Roger left us, he sat us down at one of the empty tables, which was out of everybody's way and allowed us to have a good view of the shot. The scene was of Jessica Biel and another girl talking as Shannon walks up with a tray of food. As she sat down, they tell her about a mutual friend that apparently had just gotten pregnant. I couldn't hear much of what was being said, but that was the general gist of the beginning conversation. During the shot, Stoltz walks through, tray in hand and flirts with the girls as he walks by the table. He was improvising. He said something different every time he walked up. "How're my beautiful lolitas today?" "What are my sultry vixens up to today?" Stuff like that. Funny shit given he's playing one of their professors in the film.
Let me pause a bit and set up the whole scene for you guys. I think it'll make it easier to understand what's going on if you know the whole picture. This scene serves as an introduction piece to the film. All the main characters are there, in their various cliques. Try to imagine it as a more complicated version of the diner sequence in Pulp Fiction. During Shannyn's part of the intro, you see Van Der Beek walking behind her on his way to his table or you'll see Ian Somerhalder, who plays Paul, a bi-sexual who has the hots for Sean Bateman, walk by in the background on his way to his group, etc. Then when we focus on Van Der Beek, we see the reverse of that. Shannyn's now in the background making her way to her table. It was a little difficult to discern what was happening while sitting there on set knowing very little about what was going on, but after I read the script everything made perfect sense. It's a really well crafted and well written scene.
Roger got his shot, then set up the next one, a reverse that showcased Shannyn's performance and reaction. We ended up having to move to another table that was out of the shot. On this new table was a strip of masking tape on the top of the table labeled "Fag Table." I noticed there were other labels on the other tables, such as "Jock Table", "Nerd Table", etc. Stoltz popped up and pointed to our table and said, "You guys know you're sitting at the fag table, right? Just making sure..."
Roger shoots the scene. It's the same scene as before, but like I said above it's a reverse showcasing Shannyn. Stoltz walks in, says his flirty greeting, then sits down at the Faculty table, directly behind Shannyn. I've seen this play out about 5 times already... but then something happens that I didn't expect. Stoltz looks at me, raises his hand and tries to wave me into the shot. I look around. "Me?" I mouth. "Yeah!" he mouths back. I shake my head "No!" He shrugs in a "Well, OK. I tried" kinda way. Roger calls cut and Stoltz comes immediately up to me.
"What's the matter, man? I was trying to get you in the movie," Stoltz said.
"Are you crazy? Roger would kick my ass out of here if I walked into his shot!" I said back.
"Naw, he wouldn't kick you out just for doing that."
Roger comes over and I tell him about Stoltz's evil plot. "Why would I get mad if you walked into the shot? I don't care." So next take Stoltz does his thing, but doesn't wave me in. What does happen though is Ian Somerhalder (who you might remember as Hayden Christensen's bad influence friend in Life As A House), comes over to the table I'm sitting at, sets the tray down, sits down, leans back, closes his eyes and starts rubbing his nipples. I wasn't quite sure how to react to this situation. I was seriously flabbergasted. Roger yells cut and Stoltz comes up to the table, head cocked like a confused puppy. Apparently he didn't quite understand what was going on either.
Stoltz then looks me in eye with a "What the hell is up with this?" expression. I lean back, close my eyes and dramatically rub my nipples. I hear Stoltz laughing and I open my eyes, smile on my face, to see Ian staring at me... He didn't look very happy. I quickly composed myself. Stoltz was having a fit. He quickly came to my rescue, though, and started a nipple twisting war with Ian that lasted for the majority of the morning. In Ian's defense, I think it was one of Roger's ideas to have him do this shot with erect nipples pokin' through his tight shirt. He was, afterall, making his way to the flaming gay table in this sequence.
Next take. Stoltz waves me in. I walk in and sit down, my back to the camera and got to act with Eric Stoltz for a few seconds. It was the coolest! Roger wants another take, so Stoltz tells me to bring in some food next time. The next shot is underway and again Stoltz waves me in. Ian had just come in from his action and set his tray down on the table. I pick up one of his plates from that tray and take it with me to the Faculty table. Stoltz motioned to my plate, which had only a piece of very hard and stale bread on it. Good thing for him and everybody else on set that I'm a brilliant improv actor and I instinctually knew what to do... I started to eat the prop. Lucky for me Roger yelled cut just as it got to my lips. Stoltz burst out, "Oh! I so wanted to see you eat that!"
I sat out the last few takes and boy am I glad I did! For the last take Roger wanted a surprised reaction from Shannyn... so naturally he asked Jessica Biel to flash her. Due to its placement, the camera didn't see Biel's surprise... But I did. Good God almighty I love this job!
Ahem... It was around this time they finished the shot and started preparing for the next one. I looked around for Massawyrm and found him under the "Fag table," his mouth surrounded with white foam. Apparently he had swallowed that cyanide capsule he popped into his mouth when the publicist surprised us. I mourned for a minute, but then Roger came over and told me about this great shot he got the other day. He said it was one of those shots directors hope for, that just happen and look great. "I've had it happen for me once on Killing Zoe and I didn't think it'd happen again... but it happened the other day! Hey... Where's Mephistopheles?"
Avary told me about this shot of Biel rocking down a hallway clad only in her undergarments, wine bottle in one hand. Apparently she's looking for a party. As she's rocking down the hallway, banging on doors, the camera floats over to reveal a huge, black hand gripping a football. The camera pulls back, revealing a few huge black football players watching Biel dancing down the hallway in her skivvies. She sees them, approaches with a shit-eating smile on her face and is led into their room where, through the doorway, we see even more huge jocks smiling at the new arrival. As the door is closing on the camera, we catch one last image which is Biel getting picked up and put on the bed. All this plays to Earth, Wind and Fire... at least on the temp track. Roger told me about this scene and then showed me the dailies of the scene during lunch. But that's jumping ahead a bit.
Before lunch we got a visit from one of the supporting players, the great character actor Clifton Collins Jr., formerly Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez, who you might remember as the assassin picked up by Benicio Del Toro (with the condom in the cigarette pack) in Traffic or from the recent The Last Castle. He plays a drug dealer in The Rules of Attraction, but he wasn't shooting that day. He just came down to hang out.
That's a great testament to how cool and laid back this set was. I've visited quite a few sets and while I haven't yet found one that had a terrible atmosphere, none of them, from Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars set to Coscarelli's Bubba Ho-Tep set, had the intimate sense of warmth, comfort and family that this one did. Not to put down Coscarelli's or Carpenter's sets... They were a blast and great fun, especially Bubba Ho-Tep, but there was never the level of comfort that I felt on this set. I don't know how Avary did it, but I guess it's a mixture of having the right budget (not too small to be uncomfortable, but not big enough to have the constant pressure of the studio hanging over everything), right actors that like having fun on the set, the right crew that get things done, but like to have a laugh as well and Avary himself, a crazy-haired madman with a wicked sense of humor at the helm of it all.
Anyway, Cliff ended up giving Massawyrm's corpse and myself a ride from set to lunch. We got there late and found the only empty seats to be at the actor's table, so we sat with Cliff and his buddies... not to mention Shannyn, Van Der Beek, Stoltz and the lovely, beautiful Kate... Who is a blonde goddess sent from the clouds above to bless us mortal men with her beauty... You'll see what I'm talking about once the flick comes out. This is where I met James Van Der Beek for the first time and he's surprisingly a very cool, down to earth guy. I don't know what I was expecting, but he was very easy to talk to... he's a bit of a film illiterate, but that's OK. He makes up for it with a great misdemeanor and personality.
Van Der Beek is playing Sean Bateman, American Psycho's Patrick Bateman's little brother. In other words, a different role for Van Der Beek. And I think he's going to surprise you. I can hear you snickering now, but I've seen footage of him from the flick and have even seen him perform in person and let me tell you... He's taking his current image and shattering it beyond recognition.
I, like most of you, was a little resistant to the idea of Dawson getting cast in this role. Even after meeting him, I could tell he was a cool guy, but that doesn't mean he was right for the part. I had faith in Avary, but I still didn't see what he saw... At least not until Avary welcomed me into his trailer to watch some dailies. That's when I saw a rough cut of the trailer that had been assembled. In that trailer was a shot of Van Der Beek that took me by surprise... Thanks to Mr. Avary and Lion's Gate Films you get to see that shot:
Isn't he creepy as fuck in that pic?!? My faith was restored then and cemented permanently the next day when I actually saw Van Der Beek perform. He's playing a role we've never seen him in before and from what I've seen he's rising to the challenge with great ease. Like I said above, I think he's going to change a lot of people's preconceptions about him when this movie's released.
During this viewing of dailies and other video from the film, Roger showed us the above-mentioned scene that he said came down from heaven and imprinted directly on the film, the one with the football players and Jessica Biel. Not only that, but there were multiple takes, so I got to see the difference perfect, accidental timing makes. It's a great scene and funny as all hell. I also saw a scene with Shannyn Sossamon as she's talking to an ex-lover who doesn't remember who she is... all the while with a near nude hotty jumping up and down on his bed shouting hilarious sexual phrases and come-ons. There was also a short burst of Cliff going loco.
When we returned from lunch, they were beginning to shoot the "Fag Table" scene with Ian Somerhalder's character and a table full of recognizable faces. There were two people in particular who were ringing bells, but I just couldn't place them. One a thin, pale wild haired tweaky kinda guy, the other a more beefy, darker skinned well composed guy. I ended up approaching both of them later as we were all standing about outside in the late afternoon while the crew was reorganizing the set. I introduce myself and ask the thin guy, "Were you in Almost Famous by any chance?" And I was correct. The actor's name is Jay Baruchel. He was the Led Zeppelin fan in Almost Famous and one of the main characters on the TV Show, Undeclared. Not to mention a really cool guy.
I ended up talking with the other actor I couldn't quite place for a long while before inquiring about his past films. It was then that he revealed himself to be the Retainer Geek from Can't Hardly Wait. You know... this is one of my favorite parts about visiting sets. Talking to the character actors, those faces that you might recognize, but have never appeared on a poster. Actors that have never really headlined a film, but add a rich personality to one of the supporting characters. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise being that I'm such a whore for character actors... Dan Hedaya, Dick Miller, Ewen Bremner... love them all.
It was about this time that there was a bit of a commotion. In the distance, by the catering truck, I saw producer Greg Shapiro talking to two obviously important people, both dressed completely in black with black trenchcoats and both had their hair slicked back. The first guy I didn't recognize. The second guy however was somebody I did know... What the hell was Nick Nolte doing here?!?! He's not in this movie!, I thought. On screen Nick Nolte creeps me the fuck out, I don't mind telling you, and he's even more intimidating in person. Apparently he's partners with one of the producers of the film. How odd... I mean, what a day! From Stoltz joking around to Nick Nolte just appearing out of thin air. What a day... and it's not over yet.
Avary was still shooting pieces of the "Fag Table" conversation inside, so I wandered around outside a bit. I saw a group of pretty extras poking Massawyrm's corpse with a stick and giggling. I chatted with them a bit before wandering back up to the set. I approached cautiously as I didn't want to fuck up the shot. Most of the cast wasn't in this scene, but a good deal of them were standing next to Avary behind the playback monitors watching the filming. The flaming homosexuals at the table were making a list of people they hated at school when Paul, Ian's character, approaches and has his introductory conversation. In between takes I'd end up chatting with Avary or Van Der Beek. Many potshots were taken at Texas Rangers during these breaks, let me tell you. Van Der Beek was cool about it, though, joking along, not afraid to laugh at himself.
The shot was soon got and the set cleared out a bit during the next setup. I was sitting by myself at one of the empty tables when I was approached by a PA who asked me if I'd seen Donnie Darko yet. I told him I hadn't, but that I was dying to do so. It turned out he was a close relative of the director of Donnie Darko. We bullshitted for a bit until Avary ran in (literally, he sped onto the set), skidded to a stop in front of me and was so excited he blurted out "Come quick!!! YOGA WITH NOLTE! YOGA WITH NOLTE!!!!"
I had to see this. There was a small circle on the grass as we left the building. In the middle of the circle was Nick Nolte doing stretches with one of the extras, a young, limber (not to mention a bit loopy) girl who was a self proclaimed yoga expert. She wanted to get the director's attention so she offered to do a few yoga exercises. She then asked Avary the greatest question of the day: "Do you want me to do it with my dress on or off?" Without a moment's hesitation, from behind her Nolte gruffly belched, "Without!" So she took off her dress and started the show clad only in panties and a bra. The main part of the exercise involved her lifting her right leg above her head and as she did so... how do I say this in a non-graphic manner? Um... Well... I can't... In crude terms one of her lips popped out.
Everybody was entranced by this revealing exercise, standing around with their mouths hanging open in disbelief. Avary was near tears. He was in love. "You MUST be in my movie! You have to do that at the Dress To Get Screwed Party scene!" Dress in hand, she reluctantly accepted, but under the agreement that she would get to keep her clothes on. Avary just wanted her in the scene, clothed or not, so he got her on the list of extras for that day.
The day came to a close and Massawyrm's corpse and I hitched a ride with the publicist, Mike, back to our hotel in West Hollywood where we slept like the dead... Well, at least Massawyrm's corpse did. I slept well, too. The next morning I awoke bright and early as to have enough time to stuff Massawyrm's putrid corpse into the hotel's mattress, all Four Rooms style, before Mike arrived. I had just finished putting the pillows back on the bed when Mike rang up. I had to be at LAX by 5-ish, so I packed all my belongings and took my bags with me down to meet Mike. We were soon off to set again.
They were shooting in the same building, finishing up the scenes. This time there was a big crane with a camera mounted on it that always started on the cafeteria clock and then swooped down, over the heads of eating students, to track with each of the three main characters separately. They also had to finish up the "Fag Table" dialogue and get Van Der Beek's introductory conversation. After greeting a good majority of the cast and crew (Stoltz: "What? You're back?") I stood back by the sound guy as the crane was taking up the rest of the space. Then something happened that had never happened to me while on a movie set... The sound guy dug around in his bag and pulled out a pair of wireless headphones for me. When turned on I heard everything the microphone picked up! So, I could hear all the dialogue as it was being said!!!
The coolest thing about the headphones is that even when sound isn't rolling we still hear what the mic picks up, so the first thing I heard when I put the headphones on was Jay Baruchel and the other members of the "Fag Table" talking about fishing. Well, I thought it was cool anyway. Soon up was Van Der Beek and boy did he sound eerie. His voice had a gruffness to it I've never heard from him before. The dialogue didn't seem rehearsed, but felt natural every single take. I can't wait for you guys to see him in this film.
I spent most of the rest of my time on set talking to people I hadn't met the day before. I introduced myself to Thomas Ian Nicholas, clad in green army fatigues and with a healthy beard on his face, who was a really nice guy. As we were talking a cute blonde who I knew was playing his girlfriend in the film approached us. She introduced herself as Clare Kramer. I had no idea who she was, but as we were talking crew members would walk by and go "Oh, Courtney. Mreooowwww" and claw the air. After the second person did that in a span of about 30 seconds, she told me what it was all about. She was in Bring it On and played "the bitch, Courtney," and the crew adopted a line from the film as her tag. She also told me she was on Buffy and played Glory, the demon thingy that killed Buffy last season. I don't follow the show, so I think that's right...
Anyway, she was a cool enough person. I also got to talk to Ian Somerhalder a bit. I had kinda been avoiding him because of the nipple rubbing incident... well, I was afraid he was pissed at me. He was very gracious, though. A really super guy, actually. He was telling me how proud he was to be in Rules of Attraction. He viewed it as a streak as he had just come off another film he was proud of, Life as A House.
As the day went on and my departure time grew nearer and nearer I couldn't help but feel a little sad. I had met some great people on this set and I knew I'd miss the excitement of watching people work on a project they totally believed in. I didn't realize how many people I had met until I went around to say my goodbyes. One of the coolest and most talented people on the set, the cinematographer, Robert Brinkmann, promised to keep in touch and he has. His work on this film, from what I've seen, is second to none.
As I waited outside for my ride to the airport I ended up having a half-hour conversation with Thomas Ian Nicholas. I found out he just got off of Halloween 8. I gasped. "Oh, my God. I'm sorry," I said. He tried to tell me that I'd be surprised, that the movie was actually good. I told him he was wrong. "I've read the script, dude. It wasn't good." While he never backed down, he did confess it was a huge geek dream of his to get killed by Michael Myers onscreen. "I wanted to die in a movie and I figured who better to kill me than Michael Myers." I can understand that.
My ride arrived and off we went to the hell that was dealing with LAX less than a month after the WTC Attack. I have to say... If Avary was able to capture even half of the fun and excitement that surrounded the set in the finished film, The Rules of Attraction will be one to remember. After having read the script and matching that with what I saw both in the dailies and in person, this movie is going to kick a lot of your asses. It's a great read and has the potential to be the best dark comedy we've seen in a very long time. That's saying a lot, especially since I haven't seen any of the Fred Savage junkie footage. hehe
I highly recommend you folks checking out Roger's personal website, www.avary.com Click Here , where you can read about the process of shooting this film directly from him in his semi-daily journal. It's a great site... But if you want to go into the film spoiler-free... bewarned! Tread lightly. What are you waiting for? Go check it out! Keep yer eyes on the horizon, squirts. I'll be back soon with a treasure chest full of coolness. 'Til I see you next time this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.