Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Zombies & Sunshine

Me & my deadbeat friends.

             I am covered in blood.  I am supporting the head of a young man who lies on the floor, bloodier than I.  We are in the middle of a subterranean hallway in some dilapidated hospital. Pandemonium explodes around me as people run, screaming. There is blood everywhere.  I lean over the man in my arms.  He looks dead.   I lean closer.  I sink my teeth into his shoulder.


            It’s day two of shooting the film “Zombie Strippers” where I am playing one of the non-stripping zombies.  I had driven out to this abandoned hospital to have some truly genius special effects make-up artists turn me into one of the undead.  My face appears to be falling off and my skin is a ghastly pale greenish-grey.  One of my eyes is solid black as a result of  giant contact lens.  I am quite an unpleasant sight.  But at least my jaw is still intact.  One of my compadres actually has his lower mandible jutting out at a grisly angle and, while I envy the “cool factor” of the severity of his make-up, I am quietly thankful I don’t have to sip my meals through a straw.  If I cut my food up into very small pieces, I can slip the tidbits through my tattered, festering lips; Jaw Man can barely suck pretzel sticks into the slit of his bloody, gaping yaw.

            We were made up in a few hours and then sat around in the cold remains of a reception area, waiting for our call.  Before going on set, we had to be bloodied up.  In a room with plastic sheets on the walls and floor, two chaps with hoses attached to tanks sprayed and dripped two different shades of ice-cold, crimson-colored corn syrup all over us.  I suddenly found myself empathizing with Sissy Spacek and will never watch the prom scene from “Carrie” again without thinking of the disgusting, sticky sensation she and I now have shared.   So now I wasn’t just cold. I was cold and wet.  Which, basically just meant I was colder than before.  If they were trying to use method acting techniques to make me a cranky zombie, it was working.  And on top of it all, they still weren’t ready for us.  So we sat there like a decaying rehab meeting.    

            As is usually the case when you do work with a small enough group, you get to know some of the crew and/or actors.  There was the sweet young thing fresh from the midwest who, after a year of New York, decided sunny California and the movie industry looked way better than Broadway; there was the odd lady who kept reptiles and just did extra work for fun (taking a job away from some poor kid trying to actually make a living at it, thank you very much); there was the letch who made inappropriate comments to all the younger, more attractive females;  and there was the guy who had done “Six Degrees of Separation” with me the year before.  Who knew such a challenging, classic piece of modern theater was a stepping stone to “Zombie Strippers”?

            And then there was Sunshine.  What crack addict parents would name their kid Sunshine?  Especially a boy.  In L.A., we are all used to people having unusual names, but this one threw us all for a bit of a loop.  He was a nice looking, masculine guy who looked like a Bill or John.  Not a Sunshine.  And, by the time most folks met him, he had prosthetic bumps in his face and looked like he’d been slaughtered and dead for days.  So having this bulky, rotted corpse smile wide and say “Hi, I’m Sunshine” was just surreal enough to make the most jaded of us double-take. 

            The odd thing was, after I got to know him a bit, the name seemed surprisingly appropriate.  He had a strange energy about him: enervating and buoyant; like a child, almost.  He smiled more than most and, even when his lips weren’t curling upward, his eyes had a smile in them.  It was as if he really was a piece of sunshine, with a light always lifting around him and—if you listened closely—you could here birds chirping.  If that sounds a little creepy, it was.  Only crazy people are that happy.  So when he asked to hitch a ride home I said “Forget it” just in case. 

            (Okay.  I wasn’t going his way, anyway.)

            At last we were called to partake in a scene and I found myself on the floor in the aforementioned hallway, pretending to eat the shoulder of this lanky piece of white meat who said his name was Nick.  We did this several times until the director was satisfied.  Then we filmed a few more scenes where I ambled around like a mentally-challenged moron;  I shuffled about dopily and moaned and slobbered on windows as my clothes cracked with dried corn syrup and my face began to fall off more and more.

            Several hours and scenes later, it was a wrap.  I returned to the make-up department to become human again.  I popped out my black cornea, peeled off my decaying flesh and wiped away as much of the dried blood and residual make-up as I could; at least enough so I wouldn’t scare people on the freeway or get pulled over by the police.

            Though that would have been killer.  Yuck, yuck.


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