The Wrong Kiiid Died

By on Feb 21, 2021 in Essays, Featured

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Abstract painting with spray painted fields and brush stroke shapes. The background is filled with yellow, orange, red, black, dark blue and light blue spray-painted color fields. In the foreground are painted zig-zag shapes in light green. In the upper right corner is a wide, painted red arch on a white background.

“Joy” by Raymond J. Barry

Lunch is finished, and it’s time to shoot my end of the scene. Giving it everything I have, everything at stake here, my career, my life, my heart, my soul, my kids and my wife all expect the best from me. I really want to come through for them, for me, too, but mostly for them. We’ve already been directed, so I have some idea about what to do during my first take, after which, Jake says, “Great!” as he always does, supportive guy, encouraging me to feel good about myself as a man, not just as an actor, but as a man with thoughts and feelings that count. I do everything possible to make him happy. The wind is blowing my hair every which way but can’t worry about that. I’m a movie star for a brief moment, not Burt Lancaster, but plain old me, attempting my best under these circumstances with the sun beating down on my bald spot. I don’t make a fuss about it. Creating a fuss over my sunburned bald spot wouldn’t do much good anyway. Doing the work well is what counts, and not my bald spot, to make a good movie, which would benefit all of us. That’s enough, isn’t it? I’m not asking for more than that. The wind is tossing my locks and the vast space out there of sea, miles of sea, an enclave of harbor where the water is deep enough to accommodate huge cargo ships that I don’t have to unload, as I did in my youth. The sun on my bald head, sunburned; energy draining out of me, half-cooked by the hot sun, half-cooked and still fighting for my career, still fighting to fulfill the best of who I am, still fighting to say the words the way Jake Kasdan thinks they should be said.

Struggle slowly turns to joy, as John and I work in unison, focusing intently to create a brilliant scene between father and son under the hot sun. Energy is draining out of me.

“I love you, Dewey!!!”

Now that I’m on camera, I say the words with all my heart and soul. What a cliché. Nonetheless, it’s true, and yes, indeed, I really do love John C. Reilly at this moment, while we’re performing our father and son scene. I do love him as a father would love his son, more than anyone in the world, at least for the moment. Love has become a major part of our work together, a solid bond of love based upon our mutual wish to create a dynamic that is beautiful, to make something glorious that holds together in the public eye as viable art. We are unified, John and I, in a mutual endeavor of creating a relationship, the universal father and son, for every audience to share. We are the clay from which our director will mold a beautiful metaphor of family relationships, while the hot sun beats down on my bald spot, sapping energy out of me, but who cares about that? We actors are fulfilled as we create. Freedom of spirit abounds. Life runs fully through our veins. We are truly alive.

“The wrong kiiiiiiiiid died!”

My southern accent rehearsed hundreds of times, letter perfect, and then a moment to notice how tired I am and how the wind is blowing the unruly ends of my gray hair. I’m completely drained, but the scene isn’t finished yet. I’ll still be cut in half by some freak accident involving the sailboat’s boom or a line of cable or something. My body will be severed, leaving my upper torso separated from my lower torso, and then deliver another speech about how my son shouldn’t feel guilty about having killed three relatives. “Don’t go beating yourself up because you killed three relatives!!!” It’s a comedy, so the audience will laugh at that line.

I’m weak from the sun, while the special effects man builds an apparatus for my lower half to be hidden beneath the deck of the sailboat, giving the impression that my body is cut in half. The apparatus is simple enough, a hole cut through a wooden board that resembles the floor of the boat. Only my upper half will be seen, bordered by fake blood. Next to me, my severed legs stand upright on the deck, as if the cutting was clean and crisp, severed like a lean slice of baloney. The position of my legs is uncomfortable beneath the deck, forcing all of my weight to lean heavily against the edge of the wooden board. I don’t let on, though, as long as we get this “cutting me in half” business over with quickly.

God, what an adventure this acting profession is!!!

The relentless heat of the sun really getting to me, after ten hours of shooting. John is generous, as he has been all day, making sure drinking water and an umbrella are available. Our work stops again. Another freighter passing through the harbor, and I wonder where it’s going; a tourist cruiser, a gigantic ship, designed for pleasure — ship cruises always a bore to me and I prefer to be in this hole, pretending I’ve been cut in half. It’s more fun, and when it’s over, I’ll be visible to the public, a little bit famous, just a little bit; but now my body and mind are exhausted from shooting for ten and a half hours and show no signs of weakness, although my bald spot is completely red, according to John. Too late, the makeup artist sprays more sun block on the patch of bare skin to prevent more severe sunburn. I recite my death speech over and over, ten times, twenty times, the sun having taken its toll; the effects of dehydration showing, energy waning, but I’m determined to do the damn scene well.

Meanwhile, back to the scene again; I mumble my words over and over again before we begin.

“Don’t you feel guilty about this, Dewey. I still love you…”

And I do love you, John C. Reilly, just as I loved Tom Cruise when creating the homecoming scene in “Born on the Fourth of July,” seeing him for the first time paralyzed, and Ashton Kutcher for our father-son scene in “Just Married.” I’m Hollywood’s father of movie stars, the paradigm of fatherhood for middle America, the man who fulfills the image of a model male parent, according to all the directors in Hollywood. Well, maybe not all, but three or four or maybe even seven or eight; Tim Olaphant’s father in the TV series “Justified.” Brad Pitt and I worked well together. I was his fathr-in-law, which is almost like being his father. Charlie Sheen, Mickey Rourke, Robert Duvall. He’s a great one, although I wasn’t his father. I forget the rest. The wind is blowing what is left of my hair and observing this expanse of waterfront that empties into a vast sea that extends all the way to China. Maybe I’ll shoot a movie in China someday with John C. Reilly and Oliver Stone, who will pull my best work out of my by telling me I’m “not doing enough,” whatever that means. Oliver Stone, John C. Reilly and I have chemistry and mutual respect enough to create a great film in China.

~~~

“I still love you, Dewey!!!”

The line finishes the scene, and I climb off the boat that feels like a freaking trampoline, start talking to a sharp-looking girl for a few minutes, lovely girl, but too young for me. John C. Reilley cries out, “That was awesome,” a bit of an exaggeration, but he’s a kind and generous man. Hope we did something good together for both of our sakes. Maybe we’re both perfectionists, after all. I’ll probably be recognized from this picture in the gym or somewhere. Maybe this will be my last movie. Maybe I’m not so good in this one. I gave it my best shot, but maybe that’s not good enough. To know what I’m doing is the real issue, to be a professional. Sometimes I’m too eager, too enthusiastic, and I lose the forest for the trees. Mustn’t lose sight of what I’m doing. Must be truthful in my work, must be truthful.

I wonder what “truthful” means.

 

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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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