[SCENE 1: CONFERENCE ROOM]
Standish: Richard Ross. It’s a pleasure.
Richard: Sure. Standish, right?
Standish: Call me Dean. I have to say you’re a hard man to get. I could barely get past your agent.
Richard: Well, it was a hard decision.
Standish: It’s hard to get good actors nowadays. You’re one of the best in the industry.
Richard: I don’t know about that.
Richard: Winifred. It’s been a while.
Winifred: Winifred? A little formal, aren’t we? I guess we have some warming up to do. We haven’t worked together since, what, Letters to Romeo? I see you’ve put on weight since then.
Richard: Hehe, very funny.
Standish: We should get to our tables. The script reading starts in two minutes.
Richard: Dean, where’s the girl?
Standish: You mean little Annie? She couldn’t make it. The lady over there will be standing in for her. You’ll meet her on set.
Richard: Oh. I was—looking forward to meeting her.
Standish: Aw, let me tell you, she’s just the sweetest thing. You two will get along like two peas, I’m sure.
Richard: Yeah, I hope so.
[Standish approaches the microphone and taps on it, calling attention.]
Standish: Quiet, quiet everyone. Alright, thank you everyone for coming today, uh, I’m excited for this project, and uh, George and I have been working on this screenplay for, what is it, four years? Yeah, and I…I think it’s one of our best yet. Now I’ve always believed in authenticity on set. That’s my style. The audience knows when something isn’t real. That’s why I hold such a high standard for realism. On Third Dynasty, our CGI team did such a good job it that even Weta was fooled! Let’s give them a round of applause.
[Richard rolls eyes]
Standish: But this time around I’m putting a stress on character performances. Save Richard and Winnie, there are no big name actors on set. That’s because I want fresh performances, something raw and…and…well, authentic. Our youngest member, Annie Rose, has had no previous acting experience. But I knew she was the one. I wanted her. Thank God her parents finally let her take the part. They won’t regret it, I’m sure. I’ll let Donna take the floor now.
[SCENE 2: RICHARD'S HOUSE]
Julia: Honey, is that you? How was the reading today?
Richard: Went fine.
Julia: I hear you’re working with Winnie again.
Richard: Huh? Oh yeah, Winifred. Yeah.
Julia: Another romance comedy?
Richard: Wha? Oh no. It’s a…a drama.
Julia: I see. Good to see her again?
Richard: Well yeah. No. She’s a nuisance.
Julia: You’re not listening to me Richard.
Richard: Sorry. Thinking about something else.
Julia: Hmm. What were you thinking about?
Richard: Oh, nothing. You hear they got a kid on the project?
Julia: Annie Rose? Yes. Her parents were very reluctant about it.
Richard: That’s what Dean said. Don’t really like the guy. He talks too much.
Julia: Didn’t he make Third Dynasty?
Julia: I hated that movie.
[SCENE 3: RICHARD'S TRAILER]
Richard: Come in.
Standish: Richard. Amazing. You’ve outdone yourself today. You and Winnie always work so well together.
Richard: Thank you, Mr. Standish.
Standish: Please, please, call me Dean. But seriously, you need to loosen up a bit. You’re performance is exceptional, as usual, but just a little on the stiff side; you know what I’m sayin’? We’ll be flying into California next week. You’ll get to meet our little star.
Richard: Uh, Mr.—Dean, about that.
Standish: What, I thought you were dying to meet her.
Richard: No, it’s not that…it’s just…don’t you think it’s all a little too…intense?
Standish: I don’t understand.
Richard: She’s like what, six?
Standish: Five, and you’re overreacting. You just have to berate her a little, that’s all. All fathers get upset at their daughters sometimes.
Richard: You mean scream and curse and break a lampshade.
Standish: Richard Ross. I thought you’d be the last person to spoil a good cinematic production for a sugar-coated performance. Authenticity is the highest priority. You know my standard.
Richard: But I could frighten her. For real!
Standish: Well let’s hope we get it on camera. Authenticity comes at a price, Richard. You knew that when you chose your career. We need you ready by eight tomorrow. Goodnight.
Richard: ‘Night. [scoffing] Little star…
[SCENE 4: AIRPORT IN L.A.]
Standish: Ah, she’s finally here. Richard, allow me to introduce you to our little star. Mr. Rose, Annie, meet the one and only Richard Ross himself.
Mr. Rose: It’s an honor, Mr. Ross.
Richard: Yes—I mean, thank you. So you’re Annie?
Standish: Come on, Annie. Show us how old you are.
[Holds up fingers]
Mr. Rose: She’s a little shy.
Standish: That’s why she’s perfect. I wanted a shy girl. You won’t be disappointed Mr. Rose. Your little girl is going to be a child prodigy. We’ll be starting bright and early tomorrow.
Mr. Rose: I hope it isn’t far from the hotel. I get lost easily in new places.
Standish: Far from what?
Mr. Rose: Well, the film set, of course. I’ll need to drive her.
Standish: Ehh, I hope you read the contract Mr. Rose. You cannot be with Annie during the shooting.
Mr. Rose: Excuse me?
Standish: Now don’t worry, she’s in good hands, Mr. Rose….
Mr. Rose: [disbelief] I can’t watch my own daughter?
Standish: We can’t afford to have any spectators on the set. They are distracting for the actors. And I am a firm believer in authenticity.
[SCENE 5: FILM SET]
Standish: Alright, Annie, we’re going to play a little game, okay? We’re going to pretend that Richard over there is your daddy. Just for fun. Can you do that for me?
Standish: Okay, you just sit down on the carpet and play with the blocks, like you always do. Now when I point to you, you say your line. All you have to say is “daddy”, you got that?
Standish: Excellent. Alright, places. Roll camera. Three, two, one, [points]
Richard: I’m home.
Winifred: Honey, is that you? How was work today?
[Richard falters for a second. Dean points to the script and mouths the lines furiously]
Richard: Went fine.
Winifred: You’re late again. [Reaches up to kiss him, Richard waves her away]
Winifred: Did you go out to coffee with that Kelly woman you keep talking about?
Richard: Do me a favor, woman, get out of my hair.
[Dean points, but Annie says nothing]
Richard: [sees that Annie is missing her line, and begins improvising] Well what are you looking at?
[Dean points again, and Annie manages to stutter out the words]
Richard: [Sudden outburst] Don't call me that! I am not your daddy! And I am not your husband [throws lampshade over]
Standish: We need to run that again, Richard. You slipped up at the beginning. I think you added a couple lines too.
Standish: I’ll have you start from Winnie’s first line.
Richard: Dean! Can’t you see she’s crying?
Standish: Donna, take care of the girl, will you? Give her a lollipop or something.
Richard: Dean, I’m not doing that again.
Standish: We just need one more take.
Richard: I’m not doing it again.
Standish: Donna is taking care of her, Richard. She’ll be fine again in five minutes.
Richard: Did you see the look on her face when I screamed at her?
Standish: It was perfect. Practically perfect. The best performance I’ve seen all day, as a matter of fact.
Richard: [gasping in exasperation] Son of a…it wasn’t a performance, Dean!
Standish: It was authentic, that’s what—
Richard: To hell with authenticity! To hell with you! To hell with all of you!
Standish: Richard, calm down!
Richard: No, I won’t calm down. I’m tired of this. I am not Caesar, I am not Romeo, I am not Moses, I am not an air force pilot, or a doctor, or a circus clown, or a private detective, or a retired country singer, or a playboy, I am Richard Ross. But even that name is disgusting to me. God, I don’t know what my name is. I can’t even tell what’s real and what isn’t. You want reality? I quit.
Standish: Jesus--is he--hey! Somebody stop him. You can’t quit in the middle of shooting!
Richard: Book my flight for tomorrow morning. [Exits]
[SCENE 6: BATHROOM]
[Richard washes his face and tries to regain composure. He begins talking to himself in the mirror]
Richard: Hey, Annie? [shakes head]…Miss Rose? [shakes head again] Annie. Can we talk for a bit? I’m sorry I yelled at you. I’m not really like that in real life. I was pretending. I’m an actor. A fake. That’s all I do, I just…go around pretending to be someone I’m not. Not like I’m any good at being a daddy in real life either. You’ll never see me again, I promise. But it would be nice if you looked at me, just once.
[Walks out and sees Annie]
Richard: Excuse me, Annie? Can I—Annie!
[Annie’s face turns to horror and runs away]
Richard: Annie, please come back! I’m not like that, I’m… [sighs and gives up, and turns to soliloquy] I’m an actor. And you’re not an actor. You’re real. You’re the only real thing I’ve ever known. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be real I can’t remember what real looks like. I never thanked you for being real, Annie Rose. If the entire world is a stage and we’re all just a bunch of actors, it’s good to know there’s one person, if there’s just one person, who isn’t acting.
A Story By
The Minstrel Boy