“Ladies & Gentlemen….Mr. Bob Harris.”
Do we call it a love story? Usually
love stories are sort of sappy.
I think of people dying in the end.
You know I’ve always wanted
to shoot our movie. I always felt I could perform
well in it, given the kind of person that I am—
a man who’s neither sentimental nor a schmaltz,
but loves romance. I think it’s the greatest thing
in the world.
For years, I’ve thought, I really wish I could
do that—be part of a reel of film in someone’s life
that makes you laugh & cry with each viewing. I see
others project their silvery dreams onto the screen,
but I always think it’s sort of like how one perceives
one’s self in one’s underwear—making oneself into some
sort of terribly hot person. But isn’t it great to just fall in love?
I really thought I could do this, I’ve thought
about it for a long time, because every good romance
has comedy in it. Ask anyone: he’s got to be able to make
you laugh. You need that. We may never agree on Arnold
taking office, but we can agree on what’s funny. You make me
laugh, & we are the same, we’re not alone anymore, really.
& it shouldn’t be painful, it shouldn’t end in death
or disease; it’s possible to be a romantic without being either
dead or sad or unfaithful. There is a way to live such a life
without hurting a single person.
Because a man gets in a situation
where he either apologizes for his life,
or uses it to challenge what he wants
from the situation he finds himself in.
Because I’ve been there, & I’m familiar
with that scene where your character’s on the horns
of a major dilemma, & the automatic thing is to
decide that this scene is more important than
any of the previous:
“I would rather be with you here
than with anyone else in the world.”
I’m really stoked by that
because it really is the opposite of what
you usually hear.
Usually you hear how his wife’s a bitch,
or that his kids are a fucking nightmare, or how
they hate his guts. You know—people lying
to get through an uncomfortable moment.
Not to make it sound melodramatic,
but when you’re in that scene & you don’t
take the easy way out, you always feel
so much better & so much more whole.
In the communal darkness of the cinema,
you listen to the person sitting next to you
think out loud about your performance:
“Holy shit, I just didn’t hear
the same old crap from that guy.”
Or like that moment you finally ask a friend
to respond to a reading given by your favorite poet, &
you take it as a given that her ensuing silence is
more the result of her lack of interest in it, rather than
her wonder over her exposure to poetry’s radiation,
when all of a sudden she mentions:
“That is one nutty hospital.”
Because I think when you’re not feeling great
you want to make a grand gesture. I’ve been
a grand-gesture guy in the past. & in all likelihood,
I will continue to be one in the future. However,
I don’t feel as grand gesture-ish as I once did.
Probably a good sign, don’t you think?
It would have been a great night, an incredible night.
But it also would have made the rest of our characters’ lives
unsatisfying. I think that my character probably knew this,
but didn’t understand it completely. In order to circumvent
one thing from taking place, you do another thing that keeps it
from happening—I’m going to show you my warts, or
my tightey-whiteys with a huge rip in the center, so that
in-between our final scenes together, neither one of us ends up
shooting too many close-ups.
Because you would have had to lead the rest of your life after,
& I could ruin your image of me now rather than do this other thing.
Because you’re going to lead the rest of your life after,
& I could ruin the rest of your life now if you’ll let me.
But I don’t want that.
Oh my character was really in shape when he showed up.
He was really in shape. He was twenty pounds less than I will be
a month from now.
He was Nic Cage. No, he was Rosanna Arquette.
Actually, he was much lighter than that. But he was really quite fit,
lean, & hungry, really hungry to work hard. Let us go to another world,
let us conduct our scenes in another country where neither one of us speaks
the language. & I thought, well, shit, you know, I’ve been in that situation.
I know how valuable it is to erase your regular stuff & just work,
not take anything more than you need.
It’s very gratifying.
For once, I just wanted to play the romantic lead.
& this time, he came through. Right up until the credits,
my character comes through. He turns out to be a romantic guy
who can sing, who can write books, who can even play golf.
Before I go, let me lead you back to that scene
where my character walks onto the austere course
with Mt. Fuji looming in the distance. You know what—
he really crushes the ball. Two-ninety-five it was.
& I swear to you, his swagger, as he walks off the tee
is absolutely real.