CRIMSON PEAK 71st and last day of filming

CRIMSON PEAK, Friday, May 16, Day 22: Today is the 71st day of overall filming, and it is the last. Everyone is ready for it to be over and no one quite wants it to be, I think. I've been in around 40 feature films and yet this is, I believe, the first time I've worked on the last day. I love working and I love not working. I have a good time either way. But coming to the end of a project is very different from having a few days off. A film or television company is often a very close-knit group. One establishes friendships and acquaintanceships that not only make the days pass enjoyably but also feed one in one's work. Knowing that a person I like and respect is going to make sure I look my best, is going to make certain I am heard, is going to sew back on the button that fell off in the last take, frees me to give my eased concentration to the text and to the myriad technical matters such as posture, balance, timing, and the manipulation of props without having to be concerned with those other tasks. Acting for the camera is such a technical thing, one wants to have trusted associates removing the detritus from one's thoughts. A sudden worry in the midst of a take about whether my vest is buttoned up correctly can take away from my more important task of saying a word in the next line at precisely the moment I step into the key light. Knowing your back is protected by experts whom you like and trust is invaluable. That more often than not they are wonderful, good-spirited people makes the end of a shoot a melancholy thing. We started filming around the first week of February, and now it's mid-May, nearly 3 1/2 months of living and working in close connection for more hours per day than most people in our culture work. One gets close with a good many of one's colleagues, and when a film is over, there's the very real possibility that you many never see any of them again. Oh, the film industry isn't that large, and there's almost as good a chance you'll work together again, maybe many times. But the fact that it's anyone's guess as to whether you'll ever reencounter one another makes wrapping a picture hard, no matter how exhausting the job has been. The hours are such that almost everyone is happy to have a break. But when a picture ends, relief is tempered mightily by a bit of sorrow.

Yesterday was supposed to be Mia's last day, but we didn't get all her stuff shot, so she's been held over. We continued the same conference room scene, much of the initial work focusing on Mia watching events. In television, these two days of work would have been concluded in half a day, so sometimes I'm taken aback at how many variations can be rung on filming someone watch other characters. They told us to expect an 18-hour day today, and I'm sure a quarter of that was taken up with filming Mia watch me and Tom. But then she was done, and we all applauded her. She's the lead in the picture, of course, though applause is generally given on a set whenever any actor finishes their role. The applause for Mia was sustained, though, because she's the lead, but more importantly because she is a delight, a lively and charming and funny young woman, far less reserved and shy than I first took her to be a few months ago. She seems an uncommonly gracious girl, and I told her that I would be very happy if my daughter turned out at all like her. She was presented with a cake and with a huge bouquet of flowers -- Guillermo likes the theatrical tradition of flowers. We have these moments when an actor leaves and is shown respect and appreciation, and then... we go back to work.

Much of the rest of the scene involved tidying of bits and pieces, getting reaction shots from Bruce, and point-of-view shots from where Mia's character had watched. Instead of the repetition of nice dramatic speeches we had yesterday, today was piecemeal, picking up bits of a speech, catching a glimpse of a physical action from a different angle, but without any of the sustained dramatic beats. Finally, the big scene was done.

That didn't let us out of the conference room, though. There's another scene that takes place there, though it's a much shorter scene. I had a wardrobe change, as the scene takes place on a different day. I only had one line in the scene, but it had to be timed well with a bit of prop business, and Guillermo rewrote the dialog before we started shooting it. His changes simplified matters a lot, removing a bit of the obviousness from my line and making it more of an offhand moment of authenticity rather than a pronouncement. So often in films, large chunks of beautiful-sounding dialog can be dispensed with and replaced by a glance or the inflection of a brief word or two, to much greater effect than the lustrous prose poem would have given. As a writer who started on the stage, where the point of the play usually IS the dialog, it's long been difficult for me to adapt my own writing style well to screen work, because I like expansive dialog. But as an actor, I'm acutely aware how much needn't be said, how much a simple look or a simple silence will convey. Guillermo writes great dialog, but he also recognizes when he doesn't need it. Sometimes you have to hear the actors saying it before that realization comes.

Eleven hours into our projected 18-hour day, Guillermo stopped and looked around, and said, "That's it. We don't have anything else to shoot." The off-stage crew began to filter into the room, and Guillermo made a lovely speech about what he felt we'd accomplished, and how happy he was, and he thanked everyone for their often very hard work. A cake arrived for Tom and another for me, and two big bouquets of flowers, one for each of us (Guillermo likes the theatrical tradition of flowers, I know, but I don't remember a stage production where the guys got flowers. Maybe it's a Mexican thing.) Everyone embraced, and I told Guillermo I loved him and he said we'd be working together again soon, and it was a lovely time. I told our producer Callum Greene the truth, that I'd been on 40-something feature films and had never, ever been treated so well. He and Guillermo make a great team, not just for their individual skills at making movies, but because they are both fine, decent, giving, and loyal men.

Lots of goodbyes, and one very welcome goodbye gift: I've been wanting to get rid of my long beard and hair, but I'd been told I should keep it for 24 hours after wrap, just to make sure there's no problem with any of the film we've shot. But Jordan, the wonderful key makeup artist, knowing how much I hated all that hair, went to Guillermo and Callum and asked if they would bend the rule and let me chop it all off tonight. They decided that it was not a problem, and I jumped for happiness when Jordan told me. I hear a lot about how great the beard looks for the part, and how awesome or majestic or whatever people think it looks. But I feel distinctly unattractive in it, despite the protestations of others. So I got changed, went to the makeup trailer, and Jordan, myself, and Paula, my hairdresser, all went to work on returning me to my normal look. It took a lot of chopping, but eventually I was free. It didn't help my belief in those protestations that I looked great with the long beard to hear everyone oo-ing and ah-ing about how much younger I looked without it.

One of the unpleasant things about film work is that even the best friendships that form on a set often end, for all practical purposes, when the movie's over. I formed a number of friendships on this one that I would hate to think are over. It's not that they aren't REAL friendships, it's that our business spreads us all over the globe, and while I've worked with some actors and crew repeatedly, there's no guarantee that we'll ever cross paths again, and it's hard to sustain the emotional pitch of a set friendship when you're no longer on set together, no longer even living in the same city. I always hate to lose that intensity, and because I take these friendships seriously, I feel their diminishment with great sorrow.

No friendship I made on this film has resonated with me more than the friendship that grew from the very beginning with Tom. It's always hard to know what to make of a working relationship with someone who is, or is on the verge of being, a huge star. It's hard to press for that relationship to become more, because such folk are under constant onslaught from people who want something from them, often with who the star really is as a human being an irrelevance to those who want from him. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed working with, and becoming friends with Tom to a truly extraordinary level. He was endlessly encouraging to me, in the sense that he actively encouraged me to "imitate the action of the tiger" and make specific hopes and dreams come true, and by being very convincing in his expressions of faith in me. He said the most wonderful thing to me the first day we acted together. He told me he'd read my book and that as a result he felt that he truly knew who I was, and that he wished there were some way for me to know him just as well. We had enough conversation over the next few weeks that I felt well on my way toward achieving that. I barely knew who Tom was when we started this movie. I'd been living in a cave, I suppose, because I knew nothing of his career or the fact that he has a gargantuan world-wide following. He was just this handsome bloke I'd met at Guillermo's dinner, who seemed stunningly authentic and generous, and who made me think working with him was going to be a blast. Well, it was. I've been lucky in this business. I can count on one hand and still have fingers left to hold an ice cream cone the number of actors who have given me cause to dislike them. Of star actors, the number is two, and one of them redeemed himself later. So I go into these things expecting, based on experience and choice, that I'm going to enjoy the people I work with. Sometimes that works out far better even than I imagined. Such was the case this time.

So a heartfelt goodbye with Tom, some hugs for the indefatigable production assistants, assistant directors, and cast assistants, and I headed back to Toronto, with CRIMSON PEAK already fading, for now, in the taillights' glow. Thanks for coming along for the ride. I'll keep you updated as things progress.