The Wrong Kiiid Died

By on Feb 21, 2021 in Essays, Featured

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Abstract painting with pointilism. Background is bluish, with red, purple, yellow, orange and red shapes.

“Infinity” by Raymond J. Barry

Four o’clock in the morning before the world wakes up; freshness in the air, the light beginning to peek through the darkness of night, headlights on, radio off. Mumbling my lines, I drive reasonably fast. Sixty miles per hour is reasonably fast; no tickets for me. Wind tossing my hair, gray by now, slight elevation of spirit, a sense of purpose in the air, driving to work; not any kind of work. Film work, the movie business, so different from the usual notion of work, offers a certain degree of adventure that most jobs do not. Meanwhile, plenty of time; nerves aren’t frazzled, and that’s a good thing; no worries on that front, not a chance of caving in on this one. No, sir, when it comes to the movie business, I’m good under pressure; always come through in a pinch.

The drive a bit long, all the way to San Pedro, a drive to remember at four in the morning; a certain calm with being on time, an important part of the creative team; nice to belong. Never was one to rebel, except when it came to this acting thing; insisted upon a profession that guaranteed personal freedom. That took strength; lots of part-time jobs and bouts of self-doubt along the way; oh, yes, plenty of strength. Drilling these words early this morning just to be sure. Won’t be much to this day, just look John C. Reilly smack in the eye, as the character would, say the lines and smile once in a while; shoot the scene and go home, nothing out of the ordinary. A good time will be had by all.

“All right, I’ll bite. Whatchawanna talk about?”

Mumbling words as I drive with the rural accent of the character I’ll play. I know the words, but that’s my way, the endless drilling; useful to a point; always know my words.

How did this happen? How did I, of all people, become confident in the face of movie work? Patience with the world is the answer, patience with the world and forgetting about Marlon Brando. All actors imitated Brando when they were young, myself included. Would Marlon do this? Would Marlon do that? But no more Marlon Brando for me; living in my own skin is enough.

Zipping by cars, following trucks, watching for signs — the bridge, the bridge, must turn at the bridge, still hammering away at my lines, lines I’ll never forget, and finally arrive at the Los Angeles waterfront, where we’ll shoot. People greeting me warmly, nice people, including the director, Jake Kasdan, a nice guy. I respect him — nothing I wouldn’t do for this guy. We’ll make a great film, working as a team. It was different when I shot “Born on the Fourth of July.” Worry controlled me then, of not being up to the task, of not having the goods, too much doubt about pleasing Oliver Stone and wanting so damned much to do everything right. Probably the best work I ever did in a film, when I think about it, played Tom Cruise’s father and did a good job. What a miracle, considering the struggle I went through.

Today things have changed. My own man today, stable and balanced. I actually feel good about myself. Oliver Stone was tough. But Jake Kasdan is comfortable, and by luck, this waterfront reminds me of Manhattan’s Pier twenty-eight years ago, when for a day’s pay, I unloaded boxes of fruit off barges on the Hudson River; a longshoreman then and tough to the ways of New York City survival. Made it out of that situation, too, unloading fruit from boxcars with black men built strong as hell for the work. White guys, too, guys like me, hippies trying to find their way. I found my way. Here I am, playing a great role in a John C. Reilly film, “Walk Hard,” wind blowing my gray hair — made it out of the docks, raising four kids with money in the bank, money in my pocket. Two of them graduated from college so far with two more to go. Yeah, I’m my own man today, my own man. I was my own man when I worked on the docks, too, had a dream then that actually came true.

~~~

Sitting on a pillowed couch in my Winnebago next  — about to act in a scene with John C. Reilly, just the two of us, tired but in pretty good shape, a day like any other. No, nothing different here. Simply do the work and have done with it. Yup, a working actor, well-prepared and fully balanced in a business riddled with insecurity, but nothing to fear today. I know the scene inside-out, having studied it with an acting coach. Confided everything in that kind woman, nervousness, fears and the whole nine yards; took a load off my mind. My wardrobe finally arrives, while chomping a delicious ham, cheese and egg sandwich on an English muffin, still going over lines by rote, loudly practicing the rural accent of the character with hints of emotion. Seems unnecessary to drill the lines when I know them so well, but no, drilling is my way, and my way works up to a point. I’m even skilled at times, not like the greats, of course, but fairly relaxed when I do a role, yup, absolute professionalism and always sure of my lines. The complexity of the characters I play is usually a crap shoot, but that’s all right with me. “Do the best I can” is my motto nowadays.

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About

Raymond J. Barry’s career began during the Sixties and Seventies when he became a member of three of New York City’s major, avant-garde theater companies: The Living Theater, The Open Theater and The Wooster Group. He also performed in numerous productions both Off Broadway and Broadway, including two dozen productions at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. After twenty-three years of New York Theater, he embarked upon his film career, performing in approximately fifty major films and dozens of television roles, including Michael Cimino’s "Year of the Dragon"; Oliver Stone’s "Born on the Fourth of July"; Neil Burger’s “Interview with the Assassin”; "Falling Down"; “Flubber”, and, of course “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," directed by Jake Kasden, among many others. He also played roles in dozens of television series, highlighted by the role of Arlo on the FX Series "Justified," which he did for six seasons. Raymond J. Barry is also a painter and a playwright. His anthology of plays, “Mother’s Son and Other Plays,” can be found on Amazon. His paintings can be view on his website, raymondjbarry.org.

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