12-17-2011, 10:57 PM
"Beautiful!" Dave Mifflin, the director, exclaimed after Criss gave his reading of his part in the movie. "Great job, Criss! This is gonna be the best holiday movie ever!"
"Thanks," Criss said simply. "So, when do we get started?"
"Gimme two weeks to complete the casting call, and I'll get back with you," Mifflin told him. "Your manager says you want to do your own special effects. Think you can handle it?"
"Think I can handle it?" Criss repeated sarcastically. "Of course I can handle it! Just let me go over the script and I'll come up with something spectacular."
"Ah, that'd be great, Criss!" Mifflin gushed. "If you can pull this off, we'll have a movie no one will ever forget!"
Criss smiled a little, then rose to his feet. "Love to stay and talk, but I gotta get back to the Luxor. I got a live show to do in a few hours. You have my number if you need to reach me?
Mifflin nodded. "Good," Criss said. "Just contact my assistant, Eliza, if you need to leave a message or whatever."
Mifflin nodded again. "Got it," he said.
They shook hands, agreeing to keep in touch. Criss walked out of the director's office with the script under his arm, glad that the reading was over. Everything went fine, just as he told Baram. That movie was practically tailor-made for him--why would they choose anyone else for the part? He planned to read the script more carefully when he had the time, try to create the appropriate illusions for the particular scenes they called for. Nothing too complicated, just awesome enough to make the story a little more magical.
For the moment, however, he didn't have the time. First things first, he had to do a live show at the Luxor, and he needed to focus on the evening's performance. Tomorrow, for sure, he would go over the script. By next week, he was confident that he would have his ideas for the movie firmly in place. And he was going to wow them.
Two weeks went by. The shooting for Angel Unaware began five AM Monday morning in the Luxor atrium itself. Felix Rappaport, the president of the hotel, gave the producers permission to shoot in the atrium, provided they did not take up too much time in filming so as not to disrupt the usual business of the hotel--or Criss' performance schedule, for that matter. The Luxor's biggest star may be in Mifflin's movie, but he was still under contract with Rappaport and his investors. "Don't wear him out," Felix told the film's producers. "He's worth a hundred million dollars to us."
The producers agreed. The lights and cameras were set up by the shops which had agreed to serve as setting for the film, the actors got into costume and make-up, while the hotel staff steered clear of the set per Mr. Rappaport's orders. Other cameras, more discreetly concealed on the ceiling, oversaw the whole production, viewing it on monitors in the security office, just to make sure there was no trouble.
Criss sat in the make-up chair of his own dressing room, covered up to his neck with a plastic sheet, submitting to the powdering, brushing, painting and primping of the make-up artist, Marjorie Houghton. With delicate skill and light touches of her vast array of cosmetics, she transformed Criss' handsome features into a craggy-faced wretch of the streets. His costume, consisting of a dirty, ragged tweed jacket, faded cotton trousers and worn-out penny loafers, topped off with a dark-blue knit ski cap, completed the picture. Criss could not help but be amazed at the transformation when he looked in the mirror in the dressing room.
"Wow!" he gasped. "That's awesome!"
Marjorie smiled. Criss rose from the make-up chair and crossed over to a small sofa by the far wall to go over the script again. He had only one speaking part in his first scene, but mostly he just had to stand there, looking grim, staring at Denise Harwood, the self-centered wealthy heiress played by Nomi Porter, the newest Playmate to grace Hugh Hefner's mansion. Slim, blond, glowing with a California tan, Nomi's reading of the part had been described by Mifflin as "sugar and spice with a touch of arsenic", perfect for the snobby socialite in the film. Criss, on the other hand, found her more affable in real life, even funny at times, but very professional when it came to acting. She's gonna go far in Hollywood someday, he thought. I can't wait to work with her.
But wait he did, for almost an hour and a half before he was called onto the set. "Hurry up and wait" went the old Hollywood adage. An actor would be told to be on the set at a given time and not one minute later, only to be stuck in the dressing trailer for hours on end, fully made up, waiting for the call to do the scene. Criss whiled away the time going over the script again, making notes on the pages for whatever illusion he planned to use for this scene or that. His face began to itch, but he dared not scratch it for fear of ruining the look Marjorie created. When the hell are they gonna call me? he wondered irritably. C'mon, people! I got a life to live here! I can't sit here all (bleeping) day!
A knock on the door caught his attention. "Criss! You're wanted on the set!"
Finally! Criss set aside his script, rose from his seat and left the dressing room. As he entered the atrium, he was stunned by the amount of camera equipment, nearly twice that of his own series, their lenses pointing in every direction. All this for a TV movie? he wondered. What do they use for a real one?
He crossed the atrium to where the director, Dave Mifflin, was sitting. Upon seeing Criss, Dave happily leaped out of his chair, lavishing praise upon his make-up and costume. Criss brushed it all aside. "Let's just get on with this," he said impatiently. "I've been waiting over an hour in my dressing room."
"Okay, okay," Mifflin said just as impatiently. "Now, in this scene, Denise is leaving the building. You're standing there--" he pointed to a spot farther away down the service corridor "--and you're just as still as can be, staring at her. She sees you, and she freaks out. When she turns around, you're gone. Got it?"
"Got it," Criss said. "You got the lighting like I told you?"
"All in place," Mifflin said.
Criss nodded. "Good."
"Okay, places everyone!" Mifflin called out.
Nomi/Denise picked up her shopping bags and took her position by one of the shops. Criss the homeless bum/angel in disguise took his by the service corridor, right where he could be seen. "Ready?" Mifflin shouted. "Aaaaaaannnnnd action!"
Nomi/Denise juggled her shopping bags and her cell phone as she walked out of the shop. "No, no, no!" she shouted angrily into the phone. "I said I wanted a Douglas fir, not a spruce! Can't you get a simple order like that right? Okay, good! Make sure it's an eight-footer, and be sure it's fresh--I don't want any needles in the carpeting. And did the holly garlands come in yet? Do they have the red berries on them? Good!"
She caught a glimpse of Criss standing near the darkened service corridor, his eyes fixed upon her, magnetic, hypnotic, yet frightening all the same. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he faded into the darkness. Nomi/Denise paused, nearly dropping her bags, her blue eyes wide with fear. An insect voice over the cell phone kept calling her name. "I-I-I'll call you back," she stammered into the phone, then closed it with a trembling hand.
"And cut!" Mifflin shouted. "Did you get all that, guys?"
The camera crew nodded. Criss emerged from the shadows while Nomi set down her packages. "That was fantastic!" Mifflin gushed. "Criss, you really blew me away with that disappearing act! And Nomi! You were a natural! A few more takes like that, and we've got it!"
Criss was stunned. "A few more? I thought we nailed it in one take!"
"Criss, we got to get different camera angles, close-ups, things like that before we get a completed scene," Mifflin explained. "It all gets put together in the editing room, just like your show, remember? You want this to be perfect, don't you?"
Criss sighed. "Okay, fine," he aquiesed. "Just remember I got my shows to do, too, you know. I'm on a tight schedule as it is."
"You'll be fine," Mifflin assured him. "Just do what you did before, and you're out of here." He turned to the stage hands. "Reset the corridor lights! Get that light over there! Places, everybody!"
Criss sighed. "This is gonna take longer than I thought," he said to himself.
Nomi came over and laid a hand on Criss' shoulder. "It's okay, Criss," she said. "You're doing fine, really." She laughed a little. "I gotta admit you really scared the hell out of me over there."
"Thanks," Criss muttered. "I think."
Nomi smiled. "Now, let's do this," she said encouragingly.
Criss smiled back at her and returned to his spot in the corridor. Two stage hands stepped away quickly after readjusting the lighting to make room for him. He took his position and waited, setting his features the way he had rehersed. It was going to be a long morning's shooting for just a few minutes of film, but with Nomi, he felt it was worth it.