Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Was a Teenage Production Assistant: Super Mario Bros Part Two!

Here's part two - wherein you might be wishing I'd broken this into three parts.

After basically doing the job of extra wrangler for Stefania Goodwin for several days, I moved over to "day playing" as a production assistant, with "day playing" meaning being hired on a day to day basis, not for the run of the show. I continued just as I had, working with Stefania in Dinohattan until that sequence was finished. Stefania was moving on to be first assistant director for the Visual Effects unit, and for their prep period she was not going to be allowed any production assistants. So, I cast around, and lucked out - second unit was about to start shooting downtown in Wilmington, and Cyndie Williams was one of the AD's for that unit! A quick catchup - Cyndie and I had met on my previous film adventure Amos and Andrew, and she'd introduced me to her boyfriend there, saying I was a great guy and she'd hire me on her next show. And here we were - on her next show! Earning my eternal gratitude, Cyndie made good on her promise to hire me - and I was put on second unit as a regular working PA for two or three weeks - awesome!

"Yay! Craig's been hired on second unit! He'll be out of our hair for a week or more."
"I wish I still had hair."

I was joined by formerly mentioned Jeff Johnson - now also PA-ing. We were working for a guy named Rob Albertell, who has gone on to a lot of movies and TV shows as an assistant director - and does not apparently list SMB on his resume anymore as it's not on his IMDB page either. I guess he is not credited? (And let's address my lack of credit here - sadly, all of my bosses dropped the ball, all thinking I would be put in for credit by one of the other units - of course none did put me in for it - so I ended up with nothing. Sadly it would take 7 more years before I saw my name on the big screen on the movie Virus in 1999.

This is not my credit from SMB (since it doesn't exist.)
It is also not my credit from Virus (as I was not the 2nd 2nd AD on that one.)
This is my credit from Stephen King's Night Flier - courtesy this blog's good pal Maynard Morrissey!
Expect to see it again in that movie's post!

But I digress. We were downtown to shoot the Mario Bros with the van breakdown, the first restaurant scene (which I think was reshot later on stage?) and quite a bit with Spike and Iggy and their stunt doubles.

This tracking shot up the Scapelli Construction
van was a shot we did with second unit.

We based ourselves and the extras in a sandwich restaurant that I think wasn't doing that great - so they rented the place to the movie for the day(s). It was on Princess between Front and Second. I think it is a bar these days. We were shooting all over downtown for various bits and pieces. The stretch where the van breaks down is on Princess between 2nd and 3rd streets. We had photo doubles for everyone, but we also got Johnny Legs and Samantha and later Fisher and Richard. When Mario is working on the van while John talks to Samantha - that's a double, at least part of the time. My main function was to stand out of sight up on 3rd Street and send extras walking back and forth in different groupings.

This went on for a long time one day. At one point during a setup I was hanging up near my lockup on 3rd and my first bunch of extras were there with me. A bystander sidled up to me and asked what was going on. I advised a movie was filming. She asked if there was anyone famous in it. Without missing a beat I pointed to a well dressed older gentleman working as an extra and said "There's Paul Newman." This lady's eyes went wide. I asked "Mr. Newman" if he would say hello to the lady, and the extra totally went with it - stepped over and shook her hand, and signed an autograph! Maybe mean - but I still think pretty funny. The lady and her friend stayed and watched as we geared up for another take. I sent some of the other extras, and then said "Action Mr. Newman" and the extra took off around the corner again perfectly embodying his new role. Paul Newman really did come to Wilmington the next year for The Hudsucker Proxy - I fantasize about that woman running into the real deal and quizzing him about their previous meeting...

No madam, I do not remember meeting you last year, and no, I was not in any movie called Super Mario Bros!

After that sequence, we did a lot with Spike and Iggy and their surveillance, and we had them doubled for some stunts - I was amazed at how sloppy the stuntmen were put together - standing next to them, obvious baldcaps and wigs, etc. On camera - I guess they look okay - though I'm not even sure how much of what we did ended up in the movie - I should watch it again soon!
During this run we also shot something with a cab - they were having fits with the lights in the cab for the shooting - this was at night - it was coming up on midnight and had been an eighteen hour day. This was close to the MB apartment - which we also shot establishing shots of. The apartment was built at the cement plant, but I missed those days - think they may have shot them before I came on the show. For being shunted over to second unit, Fisher and Richard were okay - a little wild, a little rambunctious - both had an eye for the ladies - despite Fisher dating Michelle Pfeiffer at the time - she visited the set - but that was during Dinohattan! Wow she was gorgeous! I worked with Richard again three years later - he was much calmed down then I have to say.

There's actor Mark Miller in his second role - the street vendor - on the left.
That's Luigi stand-in/PA Mike C. in the middle, and on the right is the kind
of extra that 1.) got featured a lot, for obvious reasons; 2.) was lots of fun to work
with, for obvious reasons; and 3.) got downplayed in editing when Disney bought
the movie, for obvious reasons.

After second unit, I worked days with first unit again as a day player PA, then got a few days work on the blue screen unit (officially dubbed the Visual Effects unit) working for my new pal Stefania Goodwin, who was being the first AD for this unit's director, Christopher Woods.
Although it was initially interesting to see the blue screen stuff being set up - this ended up being the least interesting days on the entire movie for me - this stuff took FOREVER to set up and shoot. I worked for a few days - we did like four shots - something with Bob and John, some Koopa stuff, (not Dennis Hopper), something else, and the Scapelli devolve - though that did mean I got to work with the chimpanzee - which was cool then - and kind of scary now!

Get thee to the bluescreen unit, ape!

Makeup man Rob Burman touches up a double (not Dennis Hopper) as
Lizard Face Koopa in front of the blue screen on the visual effects unit.

Somewhere along the way I was "treated" to a viewing of my first stunt sequence. The Mario brothers jump off a high ledge into a dump truck during their escape. It was just like all stunts being filmed - hours and hours and hours of meticulous planning and rehearsing and planning and rehearsing, followed by a quick burst of filming and its over. In this case, however, it did go wrong - and because of that I gritted my teeth for every other stunt sequence I ever watched.
The guys did the jump, and they just sprang out of the back of the truck and splatted on the cement behind it. The story we heard was that the garbage bags in the truck were filled with foam and Styrofoam, and the plan was that they should ALL have large holes in them, or they should have been bagged with as little air as possible in them - but instead they were tied off, unpunctured, and full of air.

So when the guys came down into them, the bags were like a springboard of action/reaction and threw them out. Horrible. Now, I don't remember their names - and I wasn't aware of long hospital stays for the guys - the Luigi double definitely broke an arm - but Jeff Goodwin told me recently they were both hurt pretty bad, and I know they were taken away in ambulances for checkovers.

"Geez, those guys look hurt." "Wow, now I know why they use stunt doubles."

Some other memories I have of Dinohattan: the single longest setup of the entire movie took place on one side near the bar as I was running extras around the stairs up on the other side - an incredible SEVENTY TWO takes of the shot where the necklace drops into Lena's hand. (Lena was a photo double wearing the dress). There was something about the way it happened the first seventy one times that did not satisfy the director (This was either first unit near the end after R-n-A had moved on, or was on one of my other units - I worked on four different units at different times, five if you count first unit twice under R-n-A and then under director of Photography Dean Semler when he finished directing the movie.) But we were all going nuts by the time they wrapped that shot.

Jeff Goodwin touches up Lena (Fiona Shaw). You can see her "lean board," given her in place of a cast
chair due to the outfits she wore - which were so tight, constricting, and unforgiving she couldn't even
sit down in them,instead just laying back on her lean board with her feet on a shelf on the bottom.

All of the stuff with the cars was crazy - they were only there a few days with the main unit - but they were clunky old cars that never ran as well as would have been liked - one PA assigned to those cars, Teddy, was forever running around with a couple of the Teamsters trying to get or keep several of the cars running while the camera and lights were being set. Late in the shooting, we were doing something on multiple levels, with people all the way up top where Koopa's apartment was, and all the way down to the car area - that was like four levels with the walkway - and I was up top wrangling extras when the 120 degree heat hit me hard all of a sudden - I got faint and everything started swimming - I left my extras with another PA for a few minutes and went down to the relative cool in the bottom - ah, a brisk 90 degrees or so - got a drink from the craft service and took a breather for about ten minutes.

I was up at the top of those stairs when I got woozy, and the trip down them was harrowing. I continued
down one more level to the "cool" part of the factory.

One sequence that really stuck out for me was in Dinohattan - we worked for a very long time getting Big Bertha (Francesca Roberts) across in her jump boots - between the actress going up in the wire rig briefly, to the shots minus Bertha where she was added in later, to her being doubled by Jeff Johnson for a lot of the wire work - that sequence took a few days to shoot.

Not the Big Bertha sequence - but one of the thomp stomper scenes, with
Luigi sailing over the crowd on wires.

Over on the donut side opposite end was where I met Yoshi - he was set up for part of his interaction with Daisy - and unlike a lot of these creatures, he was built really well, and the puppeteers liked working him for practice, so they would have Yoshi interact with anyone who wanted to spend a moment with him. He was really amazing. The giant wad of cables coming out of his backside was the only spoiler - and they computer erased those in the movie beautifully.

Yoshi - the last great animatronic movie creature of the 20th century. CGI moved in shortly after, and things
have never been the same.

Here's Yoshi's crew. Yep, it took every single one of them to make him fully function.

It was on the Dinohattan set while back with first unit that I noticed a lady sitting off camera in Daisy's (Samantha Mathis) chair - turned out it was her mom visiting the set. Then I recognized her - it was actress Bibi Besch, who played Carol Marcus in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan! She was a very sweet lady, spending a lot of time knitting off camera. I had actually lined up to interview her for Psychotronic Video magazine, but she left before I could approach her to ask if she'd do it. It was during this time I had most of my interactions with Samantha Mathis - she was great - knowing Jeff Goodwin also helped here - as I was hanging around him when I wasn't needed to wrangle or lock up.

Bibi Besch

All during this period - there was a lot of talk among the extras and the production assistants and such - about a sequel to SMB. Well, if you read the interviews over at the SMB Movie Archive - they've spoke with people way up the ladder - and pretty much all of them say there was no talk of a sequel. Weirdly, lil ol' me - heard about it constantly in the extras tent. Now, and extras holding tent is Rumor Central - and they fly fast and heavy - as far as SMB2 went - the rumors were incredibly detailed - the story went that shortly after SMB 1 would wrap, James Cameron's Spider-Man (which was in some kind of pre-production and which did scout Wilmington) was going to come to the Ideal cement plant to begin pre-production. While that was going on, a really terrible script called The Boys of Armageddon High was supposed to shoot as a very low budget "Porky's" style movie there at the plant. The script was being shown around by someone named Hal on the crew - transpo I think - he and his cohorts had supposedly lined Dennis Hopper up to cameo or play a small role in it.
So, SMB out, Spider-Man ala Cameron in for preproduction - Boys of Armageddon High shoots on extremely low budget - then Spider-Man was to shoot, then by that time the preproduction for Super Mario Bros. 2 was to begin, followed by its production a few months later - we were looking at almost solid employment for all of 1993 and part of 1994. Of course, none of the rest of that happened. But the rumors went on for months after SMB wrapped.

Jeff Goodwin in the background enjoys listening to Dennis Hopper tell a funny story to Fisher Stevens.

The original and credited directors of Super Mario Bros. were the husband and wife team of Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel. They had created Max Headroom and were thought to be the perfect directors to bring this science fiction fantasy to the screen. But if you read interviews with anyone involved with SMB you will notice Rocky and Annabel are always singled out for abuse and derision. Well, here's my favorite Rocky and Annabel story - one day, first unit was to shoot in I think Koopa's office or apartment. The art department had been scrambling getting the set ready. On the first day to shoot there, Rocky and Annabel come in before crew call to look the set over. They both take objection to the placement of some kind of wall or something.

They yell, and point 180 degrees away from where the thing was - like it was the North wall, and they yell "That doesn't look right there! And they both turned and pointed at the South wall - "It should be over there!" And the set designer tells them that the piece was designed to be the North wall, the set only makes sense if it is the North wall and the kicker: to move that piece will require an entire day's work and nothing will be able to be shot there. R-n-A insist. The producers join the battle - trying to get the directors to let it go - they are adamant and stand fast - it must be the South wall.
So, the producers give in, the art director orders the piece moved, and the assistant directors scramble to find something else to shoot - and communicate this completely unplanned for new shoot to every department that will need to know - props, costumes, makeup, actors, etc. Okay, something else is shot for the day - the next day, R-n-A come back to the set, where the wall is now the South wall. They stand and look at it for a few minutes, then say "Oh, you know what, you were right - it should be the North wall."
And at that point - yes - seriously - they had to do the scramble for something else to shoot AGAIN so another entire day could be lost to moving this thing back to the North wall. Rocky and Annabel. They were a trip.

Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel on the set of SMB in 1992.

Photo doubles - for a lot of the wide shots, especially as the camera focused on one or two characters - other characters might be far in the background or something - so for those characters they had photo doubles suited up, with hair and makeup to match the actors so the ones not truly on camera wouldn't need to come to set to be in the deep background - or to provide a shot of a hand or a shoe.

Bob Hoskins brought a man with him who is his exact height and shape - who was his stand-in. Stand-ins do what the name says - they stand in the actor's place for lighting while the actor steps away to have hair makeup and wardrobe touched up or to get into character or whatever.

So, the process is, rehearsal, the blocking and lines are worked out - then the actors step out to get ready and the stand ins step in and get lit. So the stand-ins need to be the same general height, coloration, and wear the same color clothes (maybe not exact matches).

So Bob Hoskins brought a guy with him who was an assistant and a stand-in. He could also photo double in a pinch, but he was not an exact lookalike. Well, they found an extra who did look almost exactly like him. I can't remember his name, Neil something, but he would suit up a lot - and at a distance of 15-20 feet - it was hard to tell them apart. They got Mike C. to photo double Luigi.
I forget the young woman who photo doubled Daisy - but she had started as an extra and stand in and graduated up to photo double (each of those is a bump in pay too). She might also have been a production assistant at some point; Mike C was for sure, as was Neil.

Neil and Mike standing in for Mario and Luigi. Note they both have
walkie talkies - they were also acting as production assistants when
not standing in. Also note the fellow taking their picture. That's Zach -
the son of the first A.D. on the second unit - he was not only a production

...he was also in the movie - as the pizza guy.

Then for Koopa, they got this very interesting fellow named Fred Allen. He had started out as one of the extra cops in the police station - but he was close enough to Dennis Hopper in appearance that he was picked to be the photo double - he had dark brown hair - which got bleached blonde and would be done up Koopa style each day - and he shaved his eyebrows too - he wasn't as dead on as Mario's double - but he looked pretty good at a distance of 20-30 feet.

Fred was a lawyer here in town, and to stay in shape he would roller blade up and down College Road (a very busy road) in Wilmington - would see him out there for years after the movie wrapped. I hadn't seen him for years - and we finally recently caught up with each other at the 35mm screening of SMB here in Wilmington this past June - he was a great guy back then, and that hadn't changed.


I saw in some pics in the forum somebody talking about the pig lady - she was a good sport - forget her name - but she let them dude her up in black spandex and the pig nose thing - there were three or four of the pig ladies in the donut shop, all heavy set and in the same kind of outfits.

Here are some of the extras who I remember from the set - I don't know if these names help in tracking down more memories - but these people worked hard and were uncredited - like me! I obviously don't remember that many of the 300 - but here goes:

George Ayash (he was a very old fellow who showed up to more than one set (I mean different movies) in full Zorro gear (which was probably least inappropriate on SMB, as it was a weird movie - but he turned up on other realistic early 90's dramas in the Zorro gear!) - he was 80 if he was a day - but would hear nothing of being old from anyone. He wore a heavy black toupee/wig - real character)

The Boom Boom Bar - George Ayash on the left, my female friend from the earlier pic in part one on the right.

George Ayash. That's his Zorro
costume minus cape, mask, and
hat. Thankfully they let him keep
the toupee.

Morty and Zelda Geen (parents of my friends Jeff and David Geen - all four worked on SMB!)
Betty Grapentine (she was an older woman - had much the same self image as George: imagined herself much younger - hit on the young men - another character - she can be seen singing opera to a fading teen idol in the Wilmington-shot Empire Records).
Mike Mott (a professional extra - started out in The Towering Inferno - spottable for sure in some of the Ernest P. Worrell movies - and all over SMB - cop, blacksmith in black spandex - Dinohattan citizen - good guy).
Marc Whitehead (South African fellow - funny, great accent - Dinohattan cop and others).
Michael O'Brien (day trade investor turned extra/actor - Dinohattan cop and others).
Jeb Toms (long haired theater student - we met on the set near the Boom Boom bar early in the shoot, and he's one of my best friends to this day!)
Phoebe Dollar (moved on to fringe and exploitation filmmaking in Los Angeles after SMB - works a lot with Ron Jeremy in his (non-adult) horror movies and thrillers.)

Like the picture says - Phoebe Dollar.

Phoebe and Ron Jeremy - friends to the end.

Now let's talk about Goombas - the movie's villain is Koopa, and he's got an army of giant lizard men with tiny heads - he created them by using his de-evolving machine to de-evolve Dinohattanites into these lummoxes. When you watch the movie, eventually it seems there are dozens if not hundreds of Goombas roaming around. Truth was, we had a dozen or so - and for some shots they used visual effects to multiply their numbers. But we had main cast Goombas, stunt Goombas, and background Goombas. The outfits for them were so bulky, hot and cumbersome they actually had their own crew of PA's who strictly worked with the Goombas - getting them snacks and drinks, assisting with the costumes going on or coming off, and putting air conditioning hoses up under the coats to keep the tall men inside from melting between takes and during short lighting setups. I did one day as a Goomba wrangler - found it too constrictive in duties and moved on to other units and PA work where you weren't at the beck and call of some of the somewhat whiny actors in those lizard suits. (I'm looking at you, Wallace Merck!)

Koopa greets his newest Goomba.

Goombas standing by - the fans quickly proved inadequate, and air conditioning units were brought in.

What was going on under those coats - 6 ft.+ men wearing these rigs - with the Goomba faces worked
by off camera effects guys with remote controls.

After the police station was completed, the outer area where the car pulls up became the meteorite chamber - and the police station itself was struck and the ice slide tunnel was built in the same spot. It was pretty neat - it went up for the load in platform about forty feet or so - then it went down, with a curve, and then came out probably around the area where the desk sergeant had sat previously. I was elsewhere for the first unit shoot on this - but came on to work several days with the stunt guys and some doubles. We were mainly doing stuff with the Goombas hitting the ice wall, the Goomba sled flip, the two Goombas body surfing the rest of the way, and the inserts for the insertion of the wrench (spanner), and the Goomba boots sparking.

The man in charge of the stunt team for this sequence was Warren A. Stevens - who had cracked a rib or ribs doing some stunt previously on the show - but who still suited up as a Goomba and took the run into the ice stalactites!

Warren A. Stevens

And let me tell you something about those ice stalactites - they were made of the same kind of plastic material that breakaway bottles are made from - but breakaway bottles are paper thin and that stuff is so easy to break the bottles can barely hold their own structure sometimes - but the icicles in this scene were two and three inches in diameter and as heavy as baseball bats - and although I would have thought they would have been scored to break more easily - I don't think they were - so the stunt Goombas were slamming into these things with a fair amount of speed and whammo!

We did two or three takes of the hit - it took a long time to get the new icicles in place - it was really cool watching the effects guy make them just offset from the end of the tunnel. I'm not sure how many runs were made with cameras rolling in my time on this unit - but I would guess it was more than a hundred. I also got to take a run as well - it was not as fast as a water slide - but it was a ride!
After that sequence we moved outside to shoot the stunts with the mattress flying out of the end of the tunnel - another long couple of nights. The mattress bursting out of the tunnel was really fun when it was finally done - full size with dummies on the mattress - it landed quite a distance from the end of the tunnel. The finale of the mattress sequence was done later on the Dinohattan set - with some blue screen work with Bob and the girls in between...the stunt with the mattress coming down was scary - it did flip over one time as they came in to land - it was bad - they could have had their heads smashed when it turned over - but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I've heard stories that it was a Mario double with the real Brooklyn girls - but my memory is that the girls were doubled for this. I remember this because the stunt girls looked almost as good in the outfits as the real girls...

I hope we don't flip!

By the time the mattress lands, Rocky and Annbel had been fired and Dean Semler was directing. I saw the mattress flip - the second reason I was never comfortable around movie stunts after that. I was not present for most of the real Bob Hoskins and real Dennis Hopper's interactions on the center walkway, as they were shot mostly sans extras and we extra PAs were not needed for most of that.
However, every shot that does not involve a principal actor I was there for - from hand shots to the fireball going in the neon donut, from the larger crowd scenes to Koopa being blown up - here's a weird thing about that - one of the Jensen stunt boys - I'm thinking it was Ethan - was in the Koopa suit wearing the grinning lizard face mask for a few days and they actually blew him up at one point - but the main section of that sequence that you see is from above as a Koopa dummy is flung up nearly hitting camera, then tumbling back down all boneless. I always thought that looked a little silly, myself. I'm not sure why they didn't use much of Ethan taking an explosive one for the team, as on set it looked pretty amazing.

I know some of the actors weren't fond of Dean Semler's directorial style - I thought he was great. He was handed a film that had gone way over budget and over schedule and his job was to basically get the damned thing finished and provide enough connective footage to try to make the movie make sense - so there was a lot of pressure on the guy - but he was very personable and wasn't letting that pressure show. I certainly found him more agreeable than I did Rocky or Annabel.

Dean Semler on the left in the ice tunnel with a couple of camera crew members.

All through this period I should have been keeping a call sheet and a production report for every day I worked for later presentation to the Director's Guild of America - 600 days and you become eligible to be hired as a DGA 2nd or 2nd 2nd AD. However, no one thought to tell me that until late in the show, and I scrambled to grab some copies that were left around after the show had wrapped. Consequently, although I must have worked 50-60 days total - I think I only got about 20 to count for me.

With Semler directing we finished out the shoot with the Bob-omb scene. The Bob-omb sequence might have been my favorite to work on, actually. There was a sense of fun and even possibly adventure about getting these shots of this little guy walking around under the main action. I was around for every shot of the Bob-omb except for Bob Hoskins setting him down. From the first walking shot with the zoom through Koopa going up we shot all of that across a few days or a week. They tricked the little guy up to walk up walls with a rod that ran through a groove hidden in the wall piece. The upside down stuff was shot right side up of course, then flipped in post. The sequence where he falls down the fungus tunnel was basically dropping the guy down the same piece of upright tunnel six or seven times, trying hard not to catch the fungus on fire. They then edited the various drops into one sequence with three or four pieces to it.

The Bob-omb in all its glory!

You know, the Bob-ombs were surprisingly jury rigged and delicate - cobbled together wind-up toy pieces for the most part - I'm not surprised to hear they are hard to find - they were the workings from a McDonald's Happy Meal toy stuffed inside a painted ping pong ball. The wind up key was cardboard or paper painted silver, so it didn't even survive along with the Bob-omb prop - which I recently helped Jeff Goodwin sell in an auction through Profiles in History in California.

This was also where Best Boy Grip Robert Hoelen got to play the frightened crazy car driver who slams on the brakes to let the Bob-omb walk on by.

Robert Hoelen.

The only other shots of Bob-Omb were more or different climbing shots - I remember it was difficult to make the little guy look like he was doing the work, and keep the rod helping him hidden and secret. There weren't any other wide shots of interactions with Dinohattanites. Possibly a few other very tight closeups of him walking through other bits of the city. Love that Bob-omb!

During this run of production assistant work - I logged another first. The cast of a film is referred to on set as "first team." For example, when the director of photography finishes lighting a scene, the first AD will be told camera is ready. The first AD will then call for "first team," which means bring in the actors and let's shoot.

Jeff, watch me blister that newbie P.A.'s ears!

So I'm working on one of the subsidiary units - they started to blur after a while - and we were scheduled to shoot something with Bob Hoskins at the desert area - for some reason, I don't think Johnny was involved in this piece. Well, they told me, the PA, that I would be the one to greet Bob Hoskins when he arrived; and that I would let him know that he should go straight to hair and makeup as his trailer was not at the main basecamp near the building - but was instead out at the location to give him an air conditioned place to hang out between takes.
So Bob Hoskins' car arrives, and he gets out - his hand broken at this point - and he's holding a big pile of magazines. I say "Hi, Mr. Hoskins, I'm Craig, and they're ready for you in hair and makeup." He smiles and holds the magazines out. "Right you are, and would you put these in my trailer?" I reach out slowly and reply "Well, actually, they've taken your trailer out to the loca--" and I get cut off by a blistering stream of incredible British profanity "mother this and stupid GD that" which I don't immediately realize is being directed at the production staff above me. All I know if that within thirty seconds of meeting the first actor I've ever been asked to "handle" I'm in a swearstorm of Biblical proportions.
Apparently as he continued finding ever more ways to guarantee my movie biography an R rating (if not NC-17), Bob sees me starting to fold up like an overused road map. He suddenly cuts off in mid-invective and says "Oh, you know none of this is directed at you, don't you darling?" And I was able to breathe again. Satisfied that he'd done no permanent damage to me, we continued on to the makeup trailer.
As he climbed the steps inside, I heard him take off again as he provided his very salty opinion on everyone making decisions on this movie to the hair and makeup staff. When he was finished with hair and makeup - a very short time - I walked him to a waiting van and sent him out to location. Hours later, he returned, signed out with me and that was that. My first time handling 'first team.'

The movie dragged on so long past its original scheduled end that it's hard to pinpoint when it exactly did come to a stop. But somehow, sometime it did. I came away from the set with some cool swag - the picture of Dinohattan given to the crew; some Bullet Bobs; some plastic chain; a couple of Dinohattan religious pamphlets.

The Bullet Bob is real. The hand is fake.

As far as seeing Super Mario Bros. it seemed to take FOREVER to come out, so my anticipation was great. And remember that I was still living in the dream where I'd be seen all over the movie and the background scenes I'd set as a production assistant would be comedy gold that would have people ignoring the movie.

Then - it wasn't quite that way in the crew screening they gave us. But at the same time, to see all the scenes I'd worked and sweated and bled (don't ask) for playing out--in an audience consisting of all crew members--we had a really good time watching it. Seeing it again later, the movie doesn't hold together all that well. Some fun perfomances, some cool effects - but man that flick is convoluted!

Hey, we stopped Koopa, fixed the fungus, saw Lena blown into a wall and skeletonized, and got the water turned
back on in Dinohattan. We rock!

After SMB I waited in breathless anticipation for the offices for James Cameron's Spider-Man and The Boys of Armageddon High to open.

They didn't open.

 (Weird side note - for giggles I just Googled The Boys of Armageddon High - that script is still bouncing around out there as something supposedly going into production - 20 years later! The IMDB lists it for 2015, but other sites say you can watch a rip of the completed movie on their site - starring SMB actor Kevin West - WTH?)

A few months after SMB had opened and closed, I saw that a set piece had survived the end of filming - it represented the final fate of one character who messes around with a powerful energy surge - and that piece ended up downtown in Wilmington as a decoration in a dance club/bar - and that picture was taken there in the club some months after SMB wrapped.

Poor Lena.

As far as my career - well, it was back to some extra work for me - but I also brought a project together that had started percolating on Amos and Andrew, and came to full fruition on Super Mario Bros. With the new friends I'd made on those two sets - it was time to make a movie.

And what a movie we made!

But that's a story for the next post in this recurring department.

Until that post or the next post - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. I remember the Big Bertha scene Craig. I had no idea it was so hard. Great story man.

    1. Thanks Maurice! It was an intense summer - and what a way to really get introduced to Big Time Movie Making - regardless of how it turned out.

  2. It's amazing to think this much effort went into a movie this crappy. I can only imagine what it would be like to work on a big-budget movie like "Avengers." Sheer madness.

    1. Nigel - too true - Iron Man 3 is filming here in Wilmington right now - I know several people working on it. Here's one TINY detail that shows how big and sprawling these movies are now - a friend working on a different movie here (We're the Millers with Jennifer Aniston) was talking to one of the office production assistants on IM3 - and they were receiving something like 175 FedEx packages a DAY for distribution to all of the various production departments. I think they had to add an extra office person just to work on delivering all of these packages all over the studio all day long! Working on something like that makes you feel like a very small cog in a very big machine!

  3. wtf? long review is loooooong! I promise to fully read this over the weekend. I don't wanna rush through this, as it seems super-effin' interesting, like your previous "I Was A Teenage..." posts.

    1. It is a long post - a Megapost - I can be a wordy cuss! Hope you get a chance to check both parts out when you've decompressed from that SLASH film festival!