I don’t use anyone’s name on this blog but my own. When I relate an anecdote contributed by someone else, I change their name. People in this industry are, quite understandably, afraid of the repercussions. One works long and hard against remarkable odds to succeed in any branch of the entertainment industry, and a few disparaging comments from a television producer or the film director du jour to a casting director or studio or network executive can haunt you for the rest of your career – even end it.
I particularly feel for the actors. While the top strata of acting talent in Hollywood can exercise more power when crossed than most studio heads, destroying the careers of actors below that level is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, if one is of a mind to. I have known actors who put themselves in physical danger rather than be branded a whiner or a troublemaker.
I remember the actress who jumped backwards from a moving train because Paul Haggis, the director and executive producer, asked her to. The police and station manager had warned him in clear terms that no one was to step on or off that train while it was moving or they would close down the set. The cost of such a shut-down to a production company can be astronomical. But it was a key scene and rather than rewrite it, he quietly took the actress aside and asked her to cooperate. It took no small amount of guts and she did it brilliantly. And the second she hit the platform, Haggis dashed toward her, screaming at the top of his lungs, “How could you do that without my permission?? You just shut down my set!!” The actress was shaken and humiliated but apologized and otherwise kept silent. Paul apologized profusely to the authorities on behalf of this seemingly silly actress who couldn’t follow directions. The set was not shut down. He got his shot.
I remember an actor who allowed himself to be handcuffed to a moving car rather than report Paul to the union steward. He told me that even though he felt his life was endangered he was not willing to cause a fuss.
Having been blacklisted myself (thanks in no small part to Paul’s behind-the-scenes machinations), I have had to develop my own tough shell. I know too well the price you pay personally if you look the other way. As a very wise man once said, “When you lose your integrity, you lose everything.”
To the folks who voted Paul a ”Maverick of Our Time,” if you want to know what it takes to be a true maverick, try blowing the whistle on an Oscar-winning director…who happens to be your brother.