Posted by amybou on:
Wherein like a blustering, bumbling, putting-a-foot-in-her-mouth character in a romantic comedy, I manage to both accidentally proposition one star of "Darling Companion," and fail to recognize another star who I struck up a conversation with at the after party...
After a mishap with the SBIFF press pass paperwork (viz: in all my excitement, I failed to follow directions), I was refused entry to the opening of "Darling Companion" at the Arlington despite my protest that I was supposed to write something about the film, and how could I write about if they didn't let me in? But, alas, I was turned away, both disappointed and slightly relieved to get a head start covering the after party, so I headed to the Contemporary Arts Forum as they were setting up the VIP gala space to meet my friend Nicole Biergiel, CAF’s Gallery Manager, and witness a bevy of interns and assistants putting the finishing touches on the bubble wrap and orchid heavy motif, as the body-painted models adjusted their wigs and someone in-the-know told me it was A Clockwork Orange theme with a "pink and purple 1990s Nirvana twist" meant to evoke the first time you smoked pot in your friend's backyard. (And did he mention something about a trampoline? As a fiction writer, I am used to making this stuff up, and wasn’t yet taking notes.)
Which brings me to a bit later when the party is in full swing and we head outside to the suddenly packed veranda where photos are being taken, interviews conducted, and after boasting about my celebrity-spotting talent, I notice that we are standing just a few feet away from Kevin Kline, who is making animated gestures and carrying on about god knows what, I can't even begin to guess, since I was banished from seeing “Darling Companion.” So of course right as my friend Meg heads inside to refresh her champagne and Nicole becomes engrossed in another conversation, I see Kevin Kline wrap up the interview and start heading my way so I run up to him while I have my chance.
"You were so great in ‘The Ice Storm,’" I tell him, racking my brain for what to say.
"Why thank you," he says, sort of bowing to graciously make eye contact and accept my rather banal compliment.
"And also, that Ashton Kutcher movie--what was it called—‘No Strings Attached’?-- (not wanting the conversation to end—after all, I need to find something to write about since I failed to see the opening night film, and “The Ice Storm” was a while ago.) "You were really great in 'No Strings Attached' too."
"Oh good GOD--" he says, looking away in mock-horror (or actual horror?) and drawing out the last syllable, clearly on the verge of a groan.
"I can't believe you mentioned ‘No Strings Attached’ in the same sentence as ‘The Ice Storm.’"
"I was just trying to come up with something more recent," I confess with a shrug, as if in agreement that the character he played was groan-inducing, then I start to blabber something about “A Fish Called Wanda” to make up for this idiotic comment--
When suddenly I hear a throaty female voice behind me slightly to my right intone, "No Strings Attached? Are you propositioning him?"
I whisk around and see a very attractive, tall forty-ish brunette wearing a smirk on her face, then I turn back around to Kevin Kline in actual horror to clarify the innocent intent of my comment, as he then leans forward again and looks me in the eye, as if to punctuate what he's about to say, and says to me, but in response to the scary brunette:
"In a very [pauses for dramatic effect] round-a-bout way..."
"OH NO!" I gasp. "I was just trying to make conversation!" Mortified but a little slow on the uptake, as it takes me a second to put it together that in “No Strings Attached” he plays a slightly bafoonish ageing actor who hooks up with a much younger woman, so suddenly (delayed reaction) I get the quick-witted brunette's joke and turn bright red, horrified but also delighted by the exchange, my eyes widening in disbelief as they do in rom coms.
Then Kevin Kline gallantly leans toward me again, reaches for my inner right elbow, and says kindly, as if taking pity on the deer-caught-in-headlights expression on my beet red, scrunched-up-in-consternation face--
"And you are doing a very nice job of it," he proclaims graciously (making conversation, that is), while also putting an end to the rather muddled exchange.
Then he is whisked away by the scary brunette whose identity I am determined to uncover after I hightail it inside the tripped-out Contemporary Arts Forum to write down everything that has just transpired.
But the scary brunette is engrossed in important-seeming conversations with important-looking men the entire night, and I get the sense that she is someone who knows Kevin Kline well. A publicist? my friend Nicole suggests, then proceeds to double-dog dare me to go up and talk to her to find out, but I am too frightened to approach her. So after milling about for some time to try to observe this terrifying force of a person, I notice a tall, dark, handsome, and approachable-seeming man in a nice suit with artfully tosseled hair standing just a few feet away at the table next to me, not far from the scary brunette, whose identity will help me complete the blog post I'm already composing in my mind.
"Excuse me," I say, as the tossled hair man takes a break from chatting with a well-dressed friend who also appears to be around my age.
"Do you happen to know who that woman is in black, talking to that man?"
"That's Christine,” he says in a British accent, as I realize how rather dashing he is. “She's a producer of the film."
"Great, thanks so much. Are you a producer as well?"
"No, I'm actually in the film.”
"Oh! I'm sorry--I had no idea!”
“I play Diane Keaton's son-in-law, Elizabeth Moss's husband."
He tells me that his name is Jay. Later I will find out that he is Jay Ali.
“I’m SO sorry--I did try to go to the film, but they wouldn’t let me in," I tell him, dangling my press pass, "because I forgot to send in the paperwork, I’m really more of a fiction writer so writing about things that actually happen is a bit new to me” (going into way too much detail), "but I really did try to see it!"
"That's a shame you weren't able to see it, you should've told me,” he says, lightly touching my arm the way they must teach you in dealing-with-the-press school (or British how-to-charm women school?). “I had two extra tickets and could've gotten you in."
"I can't believe I didn't recognize you--I'm sure I'll go home tonight and google you and feel terribly embarrassed."
"Not to worry, it's my first film and nobody's recognized me yet."
"Well, I'm sure that's because you're even better looking in person."
So then he introduces me to his also-handsome friend, Christopher, who I proceed to talk to for well over an hour as Jay Ali makes the mingling rounds and proceeds to refresh my glass of champagne (such a gentleman, so humble, this London-born sure-to-be-a-star man!). His friend Christopher, a loquacious Southerner from Jackson, Missisisipi, is a Vanderbilt-trained radiation oncologist by day, and aspiring actor and filmmaker by night, who chats with me about Southern Literature, the LA art scene, and our mutual love of New Orleans, where his short film called "Hold Your Breath" is set. Later in the evening, he tells a wickely funny story about an aging French Bulldog named Tinkerbell who is prone to vaginal infections, who Jay apparently took care of during a subletting/housesitting experience, only the story is so traumatic that Jay has to excuse himself from the conversation so I won't go into too much detail lest Jay should ever come across this post after googling himself (although surely that will be the work of his publicist soon, if it isn't already). And oh dear, now the scary Christine has suddenly joined the conversation and is looking at me in a scarily penetrating way. "And who are YOU?" she asks me pointblank, appearing never to blink.
"I'm a fiction writer, I live here, I'm, like, a member of the press," (flitting my press pass about) "and I'll be writing something about the film although they didn't let me see it."
She doesn't ask for clarification--why should she--and I don't reveal the source I'm blogging for, as I am so intimidated by her and have become so inarticulate, although I told Jay and Christopher about blogging for City2 earlier in the conversation when they asked. Christine, the producer who divides her time between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, has clearly determined that I am a star-f*cking tart who has wiggled her way into this conversation with some sleazy and/or nefarious ulterior motive, when really the entire purpose of this now hour-and-fifteen-minute long exchange with Christopher and Jay was to uncover her identity (without having to risk speaking to her) for this blog post.
So there you have it--accidentally propositioning one star, failing to recognize another. I actually sort of recommend not getting it together to complete the paperwork to see the film you're supposed to be covering, as it leaves more time to get a head start drinking champagne, avoid lines to enter the post-film gala, and because you aren't star-struck from seeing the actors on the red carpet, because you don't even know who all of them are, this dramatically increases the chances of accidentally starting a conversation with one star, then spending an evening having stimulating conversations about Southern writers with a charming Mississippi-reared physician (who auditioned for the role of Skeeter's boyfriend in "The Help," as it happens, and filled me in on how the novel differs from the film--he went to the same high school as the author, Kathryn Stockett, although she's several years older).
"Darling Companion" is coming out in April. I will clearly go see it, and will no doubt develop a crush on this very nice and handsome man, Jay Ali, who according to his friend several women were vying to accompany to the opening last night. (Christopher, who met Jay in an acting class, clearly won out.) And surely in the not-too-distant future I will say, why, I remember when Jay Ali was just an emerging star bringing me champagne and assuring me not to feel bad that I had no idea who he was, when he and his now-also-famous physican/actor friend Christopher were my darling companions for the night...
(Photos of Jay Ali courtesy of Robert Redfield.)