When I was the storyboard supervisor on Recess: School’s Out, we had two big names cast as our villain, Dr. Benedict, and I attended each recording session to sketch mannerisms that I could incorporate into the acting of their animated doppleganger. The first was Burt Reynolds. His performance seemed ok at first, but once we started doing thumbnails, it quickly became evident that there were not enough peaks and valleys to the track; it was either loud or soft, with not a lot of nuance inbetween. It would have been a fine live action performance, but for animation, we needed more. So we recast Benedict with James Woods. He turned in a deliciously malevolent performance with a lot of quiet menace, as well as the louder bombastic moments when needed. Lots of material for us to board to. Professionally, both were charming and really fun to work with. We were able to chat with each of them for a short time after their record, and I had this funny out of body experience while I was listening to them where I thought, “Holy crap! I’m chatting with the Bandit!” or “I cannot believe I’m talking small talk with Jake from Against All Odds!” In the end those are the best kind of conversations you can have when you meet someone like these guys. I mean, they’re like any other stranger, right? What else do you say to a stranger, even if you’ve seen them a million times on TV or in the movies? It’s all small talk and getting to know them respectfully (as long as they are open to it and aren’t trying to escape quickly to their handlers.)
One of my funniest brushes with a celebrity came on a flight from DC to LA. I was returning from a buddy’s wedding in Germany, and I was trying to sleep off all the beer I had while I was there. I vaguely noticed a black man with dreadlocks sitting a couple seats away from me in an otherwise empty plane. He had two guys helping him with his bags. And, oh yeah, he also wore shades. Well, coming from LA, that didn’t strike me as too weird. Back to sleep. It finally hit me upon our descent into LA. Holy crap. That’s Stevie Wonder. Two seats away from me. Do I say something??? What do I say??? Thank God, I didn’t say a thing. I probably would have said something stupid, like “…what happened to you in the eighties and nineties? You were so funky in the seventies? What happened to the funk? You’ve got to bring back the funk!” Again…thank God I was silent.