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March 30, 2009

Viva Les Villains

Viva Les Villains

By Harley

Last week I went to Edinburg!

Not Scotland; Texas. Courtesy of The Red Queen, a film I acted in last summer that made it onto the big screen.

My expectations were not high, because the film’s budget was quite low. How low? They held a bake sale to pay the salary for me and the film’s other 2 union actors. How low? My agent wouldn’t take commission. (This is shocking.) Everyone else worked for free, for college credit.

The premier itself was fabulous, from the white limousine to the mariachi band. A beautiful sequin-studded man serenaded me with a 17-verse song, not one word of which I understood, as I stood with a mouth full of Rice Krispie treat, trying to convey pleasure without truly smiling (because there were things stuck in my teeth. Actors should not eat at film premiers.)

I loved making the film, working with students. Really talented, nice students. At least, I’m pretty sure they were nice. A lot of communication was in Spanish, Edinburg being on the Mexican border. I liked to think there were deep conversations on the works of Pedro Almodovar and Carlos Saura, but it’s possible they were saying, “If I ingest more vending machine Skittles, I shall go mad.”

I played [spoiler alert!] an undercover lay nun who turns into your standard cold-blooded killer. I got to shoot a large plastic golden gun. Who could resist that?

My friend David wrote and directed it, and my “audition” was as follows:

David: You should do this. I can shoot you out in 4 days and you could stay at our house.

Harley: Can I bring the kids?

David: Yes, but we can only pay for your ticket. Coach.

Harley: Okay. What’s the part?

David: Church Lady. She’s evil. And she speaks French.

Harley: I’m in.

David: Could you do your own French translation?

Oh, and Church Lady had a martial arts fight to the death in the film’s climax. But not to worry, David said. I’d have a stunt double.

Now, in a perfect world, a stunt double bears a passing resemblance to the actor he/she is doubling. This being Low-Budgetville, mine was 30 years younger, 6 inches shorter, Latino, and male.

But gifted! A Latin Bruce Lee. Also, he was able to fit into my blouse (which I left in Edinburg for reshoots, a reason not to wear your own clothes in a film) and someone procured for him a blond wig that started out looking like Doris Day and ended up looking like Charo, so, you know . . . roll camera!

And, as directors like to say, “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in editing.”

Which they did. I think. I’m no editor. Being an actor, all I see is me. When writers go to movies, they pay attention to the script. Directors notice shot composition. Camera guys focus on . . . focus. And lighting. Hairdressers spot bald spots. Costume people freak out over continuity--buttons that get unbuttoned in the close-up and re-buttoned in the 2-shot. So yes, all I saw during the fight sequence was that Charo wig, but that doesn’t mean you’d notice it.

The main thing was, I had a great time. It’s good to be bad. Yay for moral decay. Because who’d you rather hang with, Clarice Starling or Hannibal Lecter? Who’s a more popular Halloween costume, Obi Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader?

I could go on and on. Luca Brazzi. Heathcliff. Colonel Klink. The Bad Seed. Alexis Carrington. Count Dracula. Lord Voldemort. Cruella deVille, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Dr. No.

Who’s with me? Chime in!



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Mon Dieu, Harley, you do your own French translations???

But, wait, you? As a villain? We're gonna need filmed proof! When do the clips hit YouTube? We'll have a TLC World Premiere!

(nodding in agreement to Nancy) I'll handle the champagne!

I do have one question, though. How does one become an "undercover lay nun"? I can understand the 'nun turns assassin' thing, but a 'lay nun undercover'? Is that like a novitiate? Nun 101? Nunhood for Beginners? And why would she be undercover?

Or is this something that's explained in the script?!?!

To follow up on William's comment, what exactly is a "lay nun?" Is that something dirty?

I saw a trailer, but I don't remember where. It looked like fun.

Bad guys are more fun, but they are more likely to kill you afterwards. Keyser Soze would be more fun than Customs Officer Dave Kujan, but then he would kill you at the end, along with all of your relatives, their relatives, everyone they ever did business with, etc. That's not so much fun.

Yes, yes! The villains are always more attractive to us than the good ones (is it a perversion of our nature?). But in fiction only. Not in real life. At least for me. My favorites are Vito and Michael Corleone, Vicomte de Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons, and Heathcliff form Wuthering Heights, and Lord Voldemort and on and on…
And Harley, is it your first bad character? I thought you were destined to be always a goody two-shoes heroine.

Does The Red Queen have anything to do with the Lewis Carroll stuff? Because I Googled it, and most of what I came up with was The Red Queen Effect which has to do with evolution in some weird way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen
Wait, here's IMDB on the movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1303786/

Wow - an evil lay nun! I think I had her for history.

Love the description of the stunt double. I wonder if he still wears your blouse.

What a delicious twist on being a "holy" person. It looks like a fun role, to get to be an evil church lady. I wish the film much success, along the lines of Sideways and Juno, little indies that could, and did.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of villains, although some are charming. I'm sure your role falls into the charming category, Harley. Natch.

LOL, Laura. I had her in fifth grade! Except she was twice Harley's size in width. And she had a mustache.

We MUST see this film!

Sorry, I have to say it: Undercover Lay Nun. That's what HE said.

Don't like the villains. I'll take Atticus Finch over John Milton any day.

It would be fine with me if the stunt guy had to wear my blouse, but I'd draw the line at bra and panties so he could get into character!

Please explain "lay nun". Josh cannot be possibly be right!

I'll volunteer the chocolate and strawberries to go with the champagne William's bringing for the premiere. How can we see this?

And Harley - COACH? You're a famous movie star. You CAN"T fly coach. If not your own private jet, then first class is minimum.

If I were to play a role, give me the villain. So much more fun I'd think.

One of my soccer mom friends is a lay nun. I'd never heard of them before. I don't know if it's an honorary thing or what, but I bet you get at least 1000 extra plenary indulgences when you sign up.

I once played a neo Nazi, so no, it wasn't my first Bad Person; and certainly not my first nun, or even my first undercover nun. Gee, now I'm sounding like Jessica Tandy.

As Dear Hubby always says, "Chicks dig jerks".

I follow that up with "Yeah, I'm living proof'.

True, Pam, but there are limits. A hit man in a tuxedo, fine. A hit man with bad table manners and dandruff, not so much.

I can understand why actors prefer to play villa

ins, but I like the good guys. Sorry :)

Nancy, holler if you'd like an explanation of the Red Queen effect (as if . . .).

The clip was fun. Bad gun disarm, though. I wanna see the martial arts stuff! Especially with the Charo wig!

We need a virtual screening, yes?

And somewhere, there's bumper sticker to be had in Undercover Lay Nun. Surely . . .

Okay - in the Roman Catholic Church, I'm not sure if there is really such a thing as a "Lay Nun".

In RC speak, "lay" means a regular member of the church who has not received the sacraments of ordination or whatever they call the one the Nuns get when they take their vows.

My Mom is an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, which is teaching order of nuns. I have a call in to her for more information, and will be back with more info later (it's Lent, she's never home in the morning).

Not sure if there is a term for Nuns who leave the order to resume life 'on the outside' - more later on that as well, because I know everyone is on the edge of their seats...

It's Sister Act 4. Just kidding. That stunt double part is too funny!

In the extras with the Kung Fu Panda, Ian McShane said that the villains get all the best lines. I'm partial to the heroes.

My sister, who only did acting in high school, was asked recently by a friend to star in one of those training films banks use. She had to bring her own clothes and makeup. She played the rich wife of a deceased person. I pleaded and begged her to get a copy so I could see it, but they would not allow her to get one.

Just talked to my Mom, who was delivering the Eucharist to the hospital (Thank God I have her praying for me, just saying). She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Associates (CSJA).

She says she counts as a Lay Nun. She has not made formal vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, etc. (That chastity part would be hard with 5 kids). Instead, she made a promise "to move always toward a profound love of God and neighbor without distinction, from whom we do not separate ourselves and for whom we work to achieve unity both of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God."

Yikes. I never heard those exact words from her before. Can't even make a wisecrack.

Thanks, Kathy. I have been Catholic all my life, but never knew any of this. So Harley's character could definitely be a Lay nun. Awesome, a renegade nun is always good for playing against type.

Hijack: Annette Dashofy and Joyce Tremel both have terrific short stories on Mysterical-E today: http://www.mystericale.com/index.php?issue=current_issue&body=toc

Okay, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure my character WAS a lay nun. She might've been just a waitress with a black head scarf, on church grounds. I made these important mental distinctions while playing the part, but now it's all gone, gone, gone from my brain cells.

Kathy, that is a very interesting thing to learn about one's mother, and I for one WAS on the edge of my seat.

I just think it's funny that a town called Edinburg is on the Mexican border.

Also "Lay nun." Sounds so wrong.

Yes, and I didn't see a single bagpipe in Edinburg. And not a lot of blond people either.

Sarah, I had the same thought about Edinburg.

Holy Orders is the name of the Sacrament, but I think that only counts for priests. Which would be typical.

Once again, thanks to TLC, I have learned my One New Thing of the day. Which means I can now go back to bumbling along ignorantly, as is my preference. Though Kathy, I think that is truly fascinating about your mom - and something to which all of us should aspire. (Wording modified to fit thine own belief system, of course.)

I'll take the good guys over the bad most of the time, but I do love those heroic bad guys - the ones you know are jerks or criminals, but they're just so smooth or cute or funny that you can't help but be drawn in. Like the guys in Ocean's 11. Or Butch and Sundance.

And while I don't think she should be called my favorite villain, there are few to compare to the Wicked Witch of the West. That woman is seared into my brain for all eternity.

I'm with you on the W.W. of the W., Kris. Except that she's not sexy. I mean, not like Cat Woman, e.g. It's very hard to pull off sexy with warts and a hook nose.

Yes, Villians are always more interesting. The Wicked Witch of the West always seems to get top billing! Harley, remember Susan Piper from GL? She was a great campy villian and a realtor to boot! Cheers..

How can I forget Susan Piper? She nearly killed me. I nearly killed her. She was scary, even in real life (she's dead now). But amusing. She was very thin and taught me the concept of "drinking your lunch." (meaning, martinis.)

J.R. Ewing, now there was a villain. Love the good guys, but there’s always an exception for me with the bad guys.

I remember the posts last summer when you visited Texas for your part in the film. But I didn't know about the apparently very stressful audition. You must have been sitting by the phone all day every day to hear if you got the part. LOL Wouldn't it be awesome if all your auditions were so easy?

I'm not sure about villians. I prefer the witty heroines and suave heros. But in real life, I've dated my share of jerks. Luckily I wised up and married a suave hero.

Thank you, Becky. Most people simply do not understand the stress of an actor's life. I feel you feeling my pain.

It's certainly advisable to marry the heroes and reserve the villains for the occasional dinner party. But it truly is more fun to play the villainess than the girl next door.

Hope the red carpet was smooth and celebratory. The recent black and white 'sunglasses' picture of Harley made me think 'Ms. Terminator' on first viewing.

Dave Robichaux, the protagonist of so many of James Lee Burke's novels, is married to a lay nun.

Or he was, last time I looked. Marriage to Robichaux seems to be unhealthy in Mr. Burke's plot-generating mind.

I'll work on the new bumper sticker idea. "IOCHFTLNs." No, not quite . . . You, Margie – do you still have that costume you wore at . . . uhhhh, never mind.

Harley, there is definately a limit on how "jerky" a guy can be. Dear Hubby is the limit as far as I'm concerned, lol.

I think that a charming bad guy is fun, but not practical in real life. The good guy who turns bad for a cause...that I can get behind.

Here's to Harley - a nun with a gun.

Tom- you really wanna go there today? Because the UPS delivery is waaaaay late and I'm in a mood. I mean, Mondays are bad enough, but when a nooner doesn't happen until nearly happy hour, enough's enough.

And by the way, you guys are sick. The words Lay and Nun don't even belong in the same sentence. Don't blame me when you get hit by lightning.

Me, Margie

Ben from LOST. What a worm.

Goodness Gracious, Margie, we didn't make this stuff up. Blame the Vatican.

Tom said: The recent black and white 'sunglasses' picture of Harley made me think 'Ms. Terminator' on first viewing.

Sorry Tom. No way. That's Modesty Blaise....:)

That was my second thought, William.

Suppose there's a studio brave enough to try another film adaptation?

Tom and William -- oh, I so fervently hope so! I worship Modesty Blaise (and what red-blooded American girl wouldn't have the hots for the delicious Willie Garvin?). Surely in this age of true action heroines (think more Xena, less Laura Croft) we could have a decent adaptation.

After having read all of the books (I think) many years ago, I've been trying to find them used, but it's a real challenge.

And just for kicks - did you know that Peter O'Donnell also wrote the most amazing line of romantic suspense novels under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent? Way cool . . .

Hey, you got to play a nun again. Sweet Sister Mary gets her own back. Was the wardrobe better this time?

I love it that you watch yourself. Do you rethink every motion and inflection? Are you pretty satisfied or do you cringe?

Oh, Amy. If I look okay and I'm not doing the weird thing with my mouth, I'm fine. The thing is, i can see every tiny thought going through my head, esp. the small pauses that signify "what's that word I'm supposed to say here?" . . . not just with me, but with every actor onscreen. It's debilitating.

This is the third nun I've played, and by far the best habit.

I'm still hung up on your Jessica Tandy comment, Harley. Why would that not be a positive, I'm wondering? She was awesome.

Always a nun, never a whore. Or some such.

Yes, she was awesome. But I'm thinking of Driving Miss Daisy, so she was . . . how to put this delicately? Not young.

In the latest issue of "Entertainment Weekely," is a picture of four villians; two of the stand outs were Nurse Ratched and Alex from "A Clockwork Orange."

Yep, I've interviewed Louise Fletcher and Malcolm McDowell and they were the most gracious people. Most villians and monsters I have interviewed; Michael Berryman comes to mind, are the nicest people.

So Harley, will "the Red Queen" make it to the Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale Film Festivals? Maybe even the Delray film Festival in May ?

Tom said: That was my second thought, William. Suppose there's a studio brave enough to try another film adaptation?

I'm all for it, but only if they cast Harley as Modesty. The first farce was terrible, the second had the look of a budget of 1.98 and an Instamatic. Whether we'll even see a REAL adaptation of Modesty Blaise I don't know, but (and for once I am serious), only if they cast Harley....

...Leave it to the guys to keep this thread going.....and going.....and going.....

Oh, boys . . .

I don't know where The Red Queen will turn up, but I know that David is working industriously on that very issue.

And I shall now sign off, with all due modesty (blaise) . . .

I was born in Edinburg, but a long time ago, not during the filming of the Red Queen. The enthusiastic welcome for Harley and the film folks at the premier was undoubtedly deeply sincere and warm--that's the way things are there. Little known fact about Texas (or at least little known outside its borders): think of a world capital--Rome, Paris, Edinburg, etc., and you'll find a city in Texas by the same name (whether or not near the Mexican border). Also Bugtussle, Sulphur Springs, Paradise, and Driftwood.

Hey Harley: I watched last night one of my old GL eps of when u were in barbadoes. It was when you and Michael Woods jumped off the cliff. Boy, what a fricken hunk he was! LOL. You looked hot too!

I for one (or two or three...) would love to see the movie! I'm also looking forward to Harley's visit to Pittsburgh next week.

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So interesting it is, I like it !

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