I did some acting in high school. I was pretty good. In fact, I’m certain to this day they’re still talking about my Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost. Yes, I’m quite certain of it.
In my final year, a casting call went out for a film being produced locally about growing up in Cape Breton, and the director, Daniel Petrie, wanted an authentic Nova Scotian for the lead. I took a shot.
The audition went well. I felt I captured the pathos, emotional range and exaggerated accent of growing up poor in a coal-mining town.
“Great job. We’re really interested. We’ll be in touch,” said the casting director. “Just one more thing; we need to take a photo of you, just a head shot for our files.”
“Oh,” I said, as his assistant pointed the lens at me,”I’m really not very comfortable in front of a camera…”
Kids, if you’re planning a career in film, there are many things you shouldn’t say, and that’s pretty close to the top. That and, “Is there gratuitous nudity? Because I’ll only do it if there’s gratuitous nudity.”
In the end, the lead in The Bay Boy went to a young non-Nova Scotian named… Kiefer Sutherland.
From time to time I think of this road-not-taken-because-I-effed-up, and I imagine that, just maybe, in some kind of alternate universe… I am Jack Bauer. And I totally would have made things work with Julia Roberts!
I mention this because this past weekend I participated in a book reading in Georgeville, Quebec, where Kiefer’s dad Donald Sutherland has a home. One of my readings even referred to noted Canadian socialist and founder of the New Democratic Party Tommy Douglas, who was Kiefer’s grandfather. No one noticed the reference. And Donald wasn’t there (although I did sit behind him once at a town council meeting where they were discussing the chronic problem of municipal sewage leaking onto his property; oddly this fact does not appear on his Wikipedia page).
Want more obscure Canadian political references? (Seriously, does anyone even remember John Turner…?) Here’s my latest radio piece from CBC “Breakaway,” in which I discuss what you might want to consider in applying to become Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate — a real job, by the way. Oh, and I sing in this one. Talk about roads not taken and effing up…
Just a few more days to enter my book giveaway contest. Also: what rhymes with “contest”?
Oh it should so be you! That new anthem’s a keeper. Hahahaha!
The poet laureate? Or Jack Bauer? Or why not both! What rhymes with “torture”?
Definitely both. A singing Jack Bauer… why not?
What a great story! And I second the motion nominating you as the Poet Laureate. Very funny!
Thanks, Michelle. I expect the phone call any day now.
I always thought you reminded me of Jack Bauer! Now I know why!
If Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon had a love child, I think it would look like me.
I was in 21 Jump Street, my big chance to shine. Me and Johnny Depp? No. I picked Richard Grieco.
What do you mean “in”?
You’re basically famous. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection that you were the Ross Murray from your high school production of Love’s Labours Lost. I am in awe.
I also can’t believe you were almost Kiefer Sutherland.
Wait there’s more: surely you remember Algernon, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” 1984?
A masterpiece, really. Your talent astounds me.
I swear I’m not making this up, but I actually tried out for the part of “Ace” in Stand By Me. Sat in a room and read for the part in front of Rob Reiner. Keifer Sutherlin got the part, obviously, but only because he was more talented. And willing to say things I felt uncomfortable with as a kid. I’ve made up for it since then.
No way! We should start a club. Or a reality show. “Kiefer? Barely Knew Her!”
Lol! or “Brushes with Kieferness.”
“Touched by a Kiefer?”
Ha! Good one.
HaHa! Even better!
Here’s a question for you: have you ever been recognized?
On occasion. Since the column runs in other newspapers, including here in Oregon, I’ve been on trips up the coast with my family and had people recognize my mug from the newspaper.
Sorry, that last response got cut off. Apparently, not enough coffee in my blood yet. Anyway, it’s sort of surreal when it happens. A few months ago, while I was waiting for my wife at lunch, an old guy asked to have his photo with me. That was a first. It’s probably on some gay seniors website right now.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It’s the “senior” part I have a problem with…
They’d probably have you in the “up and coming” section. Hmmm… poor choice of words. Or perfect. I’m conflicted.
I’d say you nailed it… wait, that’s probably a different board…
Last week, I got a free AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) magazine in the mail. I’m not sure why. I’ll be 47 next month. But if it means discounts at Red Lobster, I’m in.
I just read that again. Rob Reiner! Did you call him Meathead? Because I hear he loves that.
I stepped into the room, shook his hand firmly and in my best Carroll O’Connor (at age 15) said, “Aw Jeeeez, would you look at this Meathead!” He looked at me, smiled and replied, “Next.”
OK, not really, but he was there in the room but just sat quietly and watched the reading. I didn’t realize until it was over that it was him. I had actually heard about the movie being filmed and had written a letter to the production assistant about wanting to help behind the scenes. I wanted to be a director. Instead, she called my school and had me come to Eugene to try out.
In an unrelated “brush with greatness,” while living in Texas, Oliver Stone picked me out of a line-up to be part of a crowd scene in Born on the Fourth of July.
“The Ned Hickson Story: Close, bit no cigar since he’s a non-smoker.”
It’s the stuff of dreams, I tell you!
In Montreal, I once shared an elevator with Don Rickles. He was with two other guys, one of whom made some kind of wisecrack. “Knock it off, wouldya?” Rickles complained. The grumpiness, apparently, isn’t an act.
And that’s pretty much it for my encounters with celebrity, other than the fact that Angelina Jolie shot a film in my town and I saw her from afar.
I wonder how different the elevator trip would’ve been if Angelina had been there with Rickles?
How soon after did you realize your mistake…was it soon enough to say, “Just kidding!” and play it off like an ironic joke? ‘Just Kidding’ can get you out of a lot of trouble…
Sadly, irony hadn’t yet been invented in 1983.
oof, tough break then