Long time ago we were in the movie Postcards From The Edge, quite the amazing moments, fancy hotel, easy work schedule. There goes Gene Hackman, there’s Shirley McLaine and rehearsing every day with Meryl Streep. Especially fun for me since the song started with piano and voice. She was exactly how one would imagine no airs, friendly to all, playful. I asked her if my brother could send her a script because he was a screenwriter, she gave me a PO box. Also asked the director Mike Nichols and he obliged, hope it helped my brother nothing as useful as eliminating the middleman.
Carrie Fischer, I didn’t know who she was but someone said that’s the author of the book that the movie is based on. I wondered if Mike Nichols was annoyed that the writer was walking around like a helicopter parent. I figured out years later they were all pals. I also figured out years later that lots of people were pinching themselves because she was Princess Leia. Star Wars wasn’t part of my life.
She played my piano one day, it was a little amazing, River from Joni Mitchell’s Blue album, note for note. I tiptoed behind her trying to watch over her shoulder – I never understood exactly what Joni Mitchell did and Carrie Fischer was nailing it.
But best lesson was Mike Nichols. Surprisingly they let us come to watch the rushes. A small screening room, Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine and some crew members. This was before computers and everything digital, it was radical to see something developed overnight. When the scene was over the lights came up and everyone waited in silence for Mike Nichols response. It was all obvious to me – there were no mistakes on the piano so it’s all good right? And any second he will say “Ok, we got that” but instead he said, “Fuck that gold curtain! Fucked it all up! Shit, should be silver!!” And then everybody on cue parroted same.
“Ya it’s horrible Mike.”
“All wrong, so wrong, damn curtain.”
“Soooooo wrong. Fuck that curtain shoulda been silver for Chrissakes.”
Felt like a Twilight Zone episode or maybe something straight out of Bugs Bunny. Big dog and a little dog and the little dog is changing his own opinions just to remain on the good side of the big dog. I couldn’t believe it, cowards all cowards. They kept us a few more days and shot the scene all over with a different curtain. But now with years of recording I’ve had weirdly similar experiences and it makes me rethink what happened in Hollywood. People I work with don’t necessarily tune into all the sounds or arrangements that are my job to catch and question or repair.
“You hear that?”
“Oh you mean that. Right, should I record it again?”
“Yes, let’s try that again.”
So maybe the colour that Mike Leigh saw as totally wrong, was actually totally wrong. And how would I know anyway? Sure was pleased about my small part with Meryl singing plus none of them noticed it was a bogus midi keyboard.