Last week I had the joy of wrapping on a film that I first worked on two years ago, Fear Itself! Filming of the last few scenes was put on hold due to a forest fire sweeping through the filming location the night before the shoot. Scheduling conflicts and finances led to a long delay in resuming production.
Getting back into a role that I performed two years ago turned out to be pretty easy. When I get a new role, I print out the whole script and dive in with pen and highlighters. I add yellow highlighting for all my lines and green highlighting for all my actions and other character actions that impact my character.
After many read-throughs, I’ll start writing notes all over the script. First I’ll write a sort of biography of the character’s life that leads up to the start of the script. I’ll highlight events in his life that led to or contributed to his current beliefs, values, and opinions. All of this history has to be grounded in the existing character circumstances in the script.
Once I have a character history established, I’ll write out the characters thoughts for each line. For example, on a line where I say “You can take credit for this” my character is thinking something like “I’m f*cking sick of this bullshit”, or “You’re a self-serving *sshole”, or simply “I’m done” depending on my character’s motivation and intensity. I’m not just thinking “You can take credit for this” as a real person’s inner dialogue is never identical to what they are saying.
By the time I’m on set all of this history, the lines, the thoughts, and opinions are in me and I’m able to be a character that is wildly different from myself. This is where the miracle of acting comes in for me as I get to really inhabit another world for a while. I can lead a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world, try to kidnap an ass-kicking bride, or get murdered coming out of my trailer in back-woods West Virginia. In the case of Fear Itself, I’m a grieving father hunting down a serial killing clown!
So, returning to Mr Randall in Fear Itself was as simple as digging out my old script and going over my notes. There were some new scenes added but the changes were straight forward. I was able to find that character inside and bring him out once again. There was some movie magic involved in smoothing out some physical differences from the original shoot for me and some of the other actors but I think that time difference in filming the story will be seamless and the viewer will never notice. Here’s a trailer from the previous footage and I’m looking forward to seeing the new footage incorporated.
[update: Fear Itself was renamed Clowntergeist for release]