Saturday, 17 August 2013

Learning Mandarin in 90 lessons - lesson #47: "I'm going all Kim and Aggie on that ..."

Auditions are like the proverbial buses: nothing for a while and then several come along at once. The phone rang; it was my agent. My face lit up like a Martha Stewart Christmas tree not just because my agent is super lovely but because I guessed they were calling to tell me that I'd landed the crazy lady part from the other day.

They weren't.

Which just goes to prove either that life is unfair, or that actors have an inordinate sense of optimism.

Me: Hi!
Lovely agent: Hi Isabelle, did you get my email?
Me: No! Did I get the part?
Lovely agent: I don't know (agents are pragmatic types and cut to the chase) I'm calling you about another audition.
Me: Oh, cool!
Lovely agent: Are you online?
Me: Hang on, I'm logged into my other hotmail at the moment. (I've been using it since 1996 so have earned the right to carry on calling it that. I'm not calling it Outlook. It's my one woman private protest against the Microsoft corps.)
Me: Sorry, I can't seem to log in right now. (Microsoft!!)
Lovely agent: It's for tomorrow afternoon. Thing is, let me read you the casting description...
Me: Ok. Why do they feel the need to check with me, is it another nude part? Do I need to cluck like a hen or bark like a dog? Do I have to kiss a girl...
Lovely agent: It says needs to look like she has a lot of money.
Me: ??
Lovely agent (reading): She needs to be dressed like she has cash in the bank.
Me: I'm an actor, I can pretend I'm loaded!
Lovely agent: (laugh) Just go looking French, that always impresses the English!

The next morning, I checked my email (Problem resolved. Thank you Microsoft.) and read the casting description for extra intel. "She needs to be quite striking with red hair if possible and glamorous looking - she needs to look like she’s got money!" Well darn it if I didn't wear my hair bright red for the past year and have only just grown it out back to its natural colour (in anticipation of dyeing it platinum blonde but that's another story). 

Luckily I still had my trusted red bob wig and emailed agent accordingly (with reference picture) to ask which incarnation should attend the audition. 

"No, stick with your normal chic!" 

I'm telling you, just lovely. 

I slapped on the face paint (I've been going au naturel since Shanghai so I felt like I'd awaken my inner drag queen) put on all of my jewelry (and I mean all of it), and took my most prized purse out of storage (it's a pastel pink Daisy bag from Tanner Kroller circa 2004 and cost so much money that I still wince when I think about it).

The casting studio was in the basement of a crumbling Clerkenwell warehouse. (A proper run down ruin of a thing that would make Shoreditch desperate hipsters tremble in their too tight and ill fitting trousers. Ha!) A trio of Balkan pirates lurked in the courtyard puffing on their cigarettes and glared at me. I spared a thought for the hipsters as I hurried inside. 

So imagine my surprise then when I found myself walking into a... salon.

Well, I looked like a salon! It had a black glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling, a huge gilded mirror, statement wall paper on one wall, designer upholstered vintage chairs and a cutie on the front desk with a bleached under cut, a tight black leather t-shirt and a strong European accent. And a lisp.

Me: Hi!
Cutie: Bonjour! What ith your nombre?
Me: I'm Isabelle.
Cutie: I'm tho thorry. We've jutht had a bit of an akthident here and I need to print out thome more formth.
Me: Is everything ok?
Cutie: It wath jutht a cup of coffee but it went all over the dethk!
Me: Sorry to hear that. I'll just sit over here. There's no rush.
Cutie: (grabbing paper towels and giving the desk an energetic rub down) I'm going all Kim and Aggie on thith one...

The young casting director popped her head around the corner. 

Casting director: Hi!
Me: Hi!
Casting director: We'll be with you in a minute. I spilt my coffee all over the desk just now, it went all over the forms...
Me: Ah.
Casting director: Jose, I'm so so sorry.
Jose the cutie: (with a big smile)  It'th OK. You didn't do it on purpoth.
Casting director: You know Jose, I don't know what you were on about. Your teeth look great, I should have put you up for that part last week. Why didn't you want to do it?
Jose the cutie: Well, latht Dethember I wath doing The X Factor and even on thothe big showth they don't pay you till three month after. Tho I thought I'm going to take a break from being a danther!

Yeah, me neither.

After a while, I was called into the audition room with a kind looking and smiling fellow auditionee named Jonathan.

Director: Hi! So the ethos of this film... Ethos. Did he really say ethos? Is about the moment when you discover the piece of furniture of your dreams.
Me and Jonathan: Ok.
Director: Good. We're going to start with you Isabelle.
Me: Shall I use my bag as a prop?
Director: No, just put it down over there. But it's a Tanner Krolle! I want you to imagine that this (pointing at the couch) is a bed and I want you to sit on the edge demurely at first, then lie back, and exhale.
Me: Ok.
Director: And I want to hear you go 'phhhhh'...

I refrained from cracking an off colour joke about the actress, the director and the casting couch and instead did as I was told.

Director: And cut! That was great... Oh dear... but you didn't say 'perfect'. Oh, he meant 'perfect' not 'phhhhh'! I'm so glad I skipped the casting couch joke.
Me: Oh, right! Sorry.

So I did it again and made sure to say 'perfect'.

Director: Good. Now Jonathan, you stand here. Isabelle you sit on the chair over here and pretend you are sitting at a dining room table. It's the dining room table of your dreams and you love it. And Jonathan here is your husband and I want you to get more and more excited about the table and catch his eye and say "I love it!!!"
Me and Jonathan: Ok.
Director: Roll the tape. Action!

So we did the scene a few times. And a few times more for good measure.  I started to feel slightly demented after the 10th "I love it!!!!!" "I love it!!!" but also indulged in a nice bit of miming as I checked the edges of the imaginary glass table of my dreams.

I thought Jonathan did great. I was sure he'd get the part.

Stepping back out into the waiting room, I found Jose the Cutie helping a very buff very beautiful model who was struggling with the zipper on his bag. He looked like Seal.

Seal: do you have some safety pins? I've got to ride home on my bike and this bag won't close.
Jose the Cutie (disappearing behind a door) I don't have thafety pinth but we have a thtappler. We'll go all retro punk!
Seal: (zipping up the bag) Got it!!!
Jose the Cutie (coming back in with the stappler): Here!
Seal: Thanks but I fixed it.
Jose the Cutie: Oh!
Seal: Thanks anyway.

And with that, Seal took himself out of our lives and back into the glossy pages of whatever high end fashion magazine he'd temporarily stepped out of. Jose the Cutie looked heart broken.

If Jonathan's up against Seal for the part, he doesn't stand a chance.


MuMuGB said...

Well, Isabelle, your life is a lot more interesting than mine. I am just preparing my daughters to go back to school. Shall we swap? And did you get the part?

Isabelle Gregson said...

Hi Muriel! Thanks for the lovely comment. Given that you've got a publishing deal maybe trading places isn't such a bad idea! No sadly... I didn't get the part...