Jim Beaver's penultimate day on CRIMSON PEAK

CRIMSON PEAK, Thursday, May 15, Day 21: Back to work after 10 or 11 days off. Got plenty of rest over the break, but switching schedules meant I didn't get much sleep last night, so I'm tired today -- very tired. But in a lot of ways this turned out to be my favorite day on the film.

We were back on location in Hamilton, about 45 minutes or so west of Toronto. And we're back in the Scottish Rite building, which substituted for my house in previous scenes, and is substituting for my office's conference room today and tomorrow. The art department has done a magnificent job with the room, adding a false wall and painting a gorgeously evocative painting circling the chandelier, a painting depicting various industrial scenes. It's very much in character with the period and it resonates particularly well with my character, who is a former steelworker turned wealthy builder. The centerpiece of the room is a huge donut-shaped conference table with a small table in the center holding a marvelous piece of machinery created for the film. The walls are lined with bookcases holding old volumes of the complete works of Kipling, Stevenson, Balzac. If it weren't for the fact that I can download all that stuff for free from Project Gutenberg, I'd have been tempted to make off with some "souvenirs."

It's supposed to be Mia's last day on the film, and she has it easy(?). By easy, I mean she doesn't have to say anything. But she's very much part of the scene and just standing there in a scene is sometimes harder than walking and talking. The dialog today -- it's pretty much all one scene for today and much of tomorrow -- is all between Tom and myself. He wants something, I want something else, and right there you have the basic ingredients for drama. The first portion of the scene, and thus the first portion of the day, has me seated, which is pleasant, as I've still not overcome the problems with my feet. I'm in different shoes than the dress shoes from the dress ball and the formal dinner scenes, but either because the effects of those other shoes haven't worn off or because these different ones are causing the same problems, I'm in a lot of pain when I have to stand. It's not that the shoes are tight, it's that something about the layout of the inner sole is causing me a problem. I frankly think it's plantar fasciitis, and that it was caused by the days of standing relatively still for 15 hours a day during the ballroom scenes. If I'm right, it's not the shoes at all. That I'm having trouble even in my own shoes at times suggests I'm right, though my own shoes are much more comfortable. At any rate, it's the final two days. This too shall pass.

Tom makes a speech to me and the assorted gentlemen (most of them extras) seated around the conference table, and then I make a speech to Tom. It's about two-and-a-half pages of script altogether, will take a couple or three minutes onscreen. And a day and a half or more to shoot.

What makes the day such a memorably pleasant one is the scene. It's really wonderfully written, and Tom and I have great opportunities both to speak and to react. It's a scene that could be played a variety of ways, and throughout the day, Guillermo makes subtle suggestions that, for me, make the difference between an adequate performance and one I can feel pride in, even though it's my instincts he's guiding me away from. I trust my instincts, but at times it's good to be led away from them, because instincts sometimes are nothing more than habits you've picked up from other roles and, thus, are not necessarily applicable to the role you're playing now. Also, it's good to be reminded that this scene, even though we're shooting it almost at the end of the production, takes place very early in the film, and many of the emotions our characters feel at the end of the story haven't been initiated or developed by the time of this scene. Actors, myself very much included, often fall into the trap of playing the end of the movie in scenes that take place at the beginning, i.e., imposing attitudes and emotions from later scenes on scenes that take place before those attitudes and emotions were formed. Because filming almost always takes place out of order, one must remember when shooting early scenes late not to play the anger or heartbreak or disdain or love we might feel for another character toward the end of the movie, if that anger or heartbreak, et al, hasn't been introduced yet in the scene one is shooting. I know this well, but it's always good to be reminded. Guillermo's gentle instructions saved me today from making some wrong choices out of forgetfulness about where in the story we are at the moment.

The wonderful Bruce Gray is with us again as "my" lawyer. He doesn't have anything to say today, so it's a full day of sitting for him. He's a grand guy, and we have mutual friends and a great similarity in our love of theatre. He's made our days together on set much more enjoyable.

The day goes on and on, the same twenty or thirty lines being spoken over and over, with the camera here, then there, then over there, and then back here. If the dialog weren't so good and the interaction between Tom and myself so nicely dramatic, it could slide easily into tediousness. But all in all, it is a most pleasant day, a day of real acting, and a day of great camaraderie on set. Everyone knows we're almost at the end now, and the emotions of sadness and relief are patently observable throughout the crew and cast. I'm really tired by the time we end filming for the day, at around 2 a.m. But I'm looking forward to another good day on Friday.

But before that, when I get back to my hotel room, I have to make an audition recording for another film. In recent years, with advances in technology, it has become more common to do auditions on video (or audio, as in this case) even when actors are away on location. The good thing is that we no longer miss potential future projects because we weren't in town when they were being cast. The bad thing is that sometimes you have to come home after a long and draining day and upload an audition for something else. This is my second audition for a job narrating a feature film, and I often dislike having to do a second recording for the same gig. But although I know nothing about this film and the producers are being extraordinarily secretive about it, the narration sounds very interesting, and I'd love to land the job. I get compliments and comments about my voice all the time (even though I don't hear it as anything special, or even as anything adequate), and some of the guys on the crew have taken to calling me "Pipes," because they like my voice. But I have a dismal record of getting hired for voice jobs, so I'd like to pop this one. Also, when producers are extremely secretive, it suggests the possibility that this project is a BIG deal. Only after I spend an hour recording the narration and emailing it to my agents at 3 in the morning do I discover a voice mail revealing to me that I'm already the top choice for the job and that it definitely IS a big deal, with another top-of-the-heap director. So this second audition recording will either cinch the job for me or knock me out of contention. Maybe it's ruminating about those possibilities that keeps me from being able to sleep. Whatever the cause, it's a rough night. And then it's time for work again. Last day.