(Bruce) Banner

Well, Tom gave me a call andc told me he needed someone to make the coffee. Actually, herefs how it really went down. A guy I know got the contract to be the locations manager for the new Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai, starring Tom as an American Civil War veteran who works for Smith and Wesson and is sent to Japan to teach the Meiji government train its army and put down insurgents. When he is captured by a samurai, he becomes enamored with the ways of gold Japan,h the kind we see all the time in historical epics. Production was to take place for ten days in Himeji and Kyoto. This guy I know is pretty big in the Japanese entertainment business as one of the most successful street performers – juggling, etc. – but he was acting like an asshole, so they fired him. So another friend got his job and needed someone on site to do something, but he wasnft sure what. In fact, no one was ever sure what anyone was doing. So I said ghell yeah, Ifll work with Tom.h I got on the train and went out to Himeji to shoot in the scenic hills of Shoshazan mountain monastery. I arrived at the production center in the center of Himeji and introduced myself, said I needed a pass and transport up the hill. I got in the van and on the way stopped in a hotel to pick up somebody else. I was in the front seat and I figured, hell, wefre all grown ups, Ifll just stay here. The guy came out of the hotel and got in the back seat, but seemed hesitant about not getting the front seat. I could only think – dude, Ifm important, Ifm going to be making the coffee. Turns out this guy was Mashall Herskowitz and he wrote the screenplay – and was also involved with TV smash series gThirtysomething,h the film Legends of the Fall, and a lot of other top-end Hollywood entertainment-type things. This came out as I was chatting to the guy, who looked totally ordinary. I said – damn, youfre a big shot, you should sit in the front seat. He said I donft really care where I sit (but he really did – I could tell). So we get out to the movie set and there are crowds of Japanese people of all sexes and ages in various stages of disrobement and hysteria and so I, Daddy Kool, just stroll right through them, my all-sections pass dangling visibly beneath my swarthy visage, to meet my man. My job had changed before I arrived and I found myself talking to a guy called MIKE THE MAN. MIKE THE MAN is, by all accounts, a very close friend of Tom Cruisefs, and seemed like a hell of a guy. Eventually, it turned out he was a bit of an asshole too, but hey – arenft we all? So, I found myself working for craft services. Basically, that meant I had to throw little picnic parties in appropriate locations around the location where the actors and whoever could come and quickly refuel and shoot the shit. There is science to throwing these picnic parties on movies sites for movie people – itfs not just about putting the food and the drinks on a tablec youfve also got to create a cozy, happy, pain free ambiance. These are emotional people who need molly-coddling.
Everyonefs an expert on bananas, coffees, and twinkies. But I figured the mechanics of all this out, and things went more or less OK. My only fuck-up really was a time when I had to be on site in Kyoto with hot coffee ready at 4 AM and the coffee would not come out! But the problem was solved, we had coffee, and everybody was happy. I was happy too because at least I knew that it was the other guyfs fault. I wasnft always near an actual film set, but by taking things to people and making sure that people were catered for I eventually got into all of the areas like make up, shooting, and I got to see how things happened. Most of the people out there seemed to be Australians, Americans, and New Zealanders. The big shots were American, but the nuts and bolts people tended to be Australians and New Zealanders who had worked on lots of movies like the Lord Of The Rings movies, the last two Matrix films, Brad Pitt movies, and loads of others. The Kiwi presence was because most of the movie was going to be filmed in New Zealand. There is a mountain in New Zealand that looks like Fuji, and it is cheaper and easier to film in New Zealand than Japan. There were so many headaches based on indecision, bureaucratic nonsense, fuck-ups and backpeddling that it was difficult for people to get anything done here. It was cheaper and easier to do things in New Zealand with no language barrier, especially since Peter Jackson has gotten the ball rolling down there as a new Hollywood gSouth-East.h Blue collar union guys truck drivers who did grips and dolly and electrical were all Aussies – set builders and all the different fields – all nice guys. Some of them have companies that do very well doing services for films. A director says we need one hundred cherry trees and bing-bam-boom they can get it done. You get the idea that movies are exciting and glamorous, but basically the guys who work on these movies are truck drivers – they come, punch in, do their job, punch out, and go home. Nothing to do with the actors and the stardom. They do their jobs, not to be involved with the excitement and glamour but because they are interested in the technical aspects of this that and the other. To a large extent itfs pretty boring on the set. They turn up at 8 A.M., go home at 8 P.M., and all theyfve done with their day is sit at a keyboard, push buttons, and keep silent while stuff goes on. I decided that if I ever work on a move again, it will be as an actor, director, or writer, but I simply have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the technical aspects of it. It was tough being the smartest guy on a set making bad coffee. Everything is tightly accounted for, every cent. There were some interesting characters there: like Caesarfs just the kind of guy you need to move large things in great quantities from anywhere to anywhere. The transport dude. A legend in the business. You need a tank, a battle tank, on Sunset Boulevard at 3:15, it will be there. Mike, Tomfs mate, was a good guy, but an incredible playboy. All he could talk about was yodeling in canyons and anal sex (with women, not men or ponies). It was tragicomic to see him try to line it up with the Japanese nurses. We didnft party much at all on the set, but I was in a hotel for those seven nights and I managed to get out a few times with my buddy Dave who got me the job. I think I only got about twenty hours of sleep that whole week. Ifd never do it again. I couldnft wait to get home. Living out of suitcases for six to eight months a year doing this would suck. The logistics are staggering, the depth of planning is unreal, and thatfs impressive. Itfs like a war. Everything is planned for, but there is slippage factor for things that donft happen – like trucks that canft make it up steep roads and never arrive – yet everything has to work out. There were people in Japan six months before any shooting was done and there were hundreds of people involved directly on the set. Tom Cruise was in the country for four days (it made the national news the day he arrived in Osaka Kansai airport). In the seven days that I was there, which was the extent of the shooting, only three or four minutes of Japanese footage were shot. We were in Kyoto for four days, but they shot only ninety seconds of film. Tom was on the set for two hours. Meeting Tom Cruise was an interesting experience. I donft really think itfs Tom the person, so much as Tom the extremely wealthy Hollywood stud persona, that creates the aura. The old cliché about money and power being the ultimate aphrodesiac is totally right. Not that Tom was getting me wet (although I would have let him kiss me for a million bucks), but after five or ten minutes, the aura fades and hefs just that dude. It might be great to be Tom Cruisefs buddy, but it might be good to be that dude that is pushing that camera dollyfs buddy too. Basically, hefs just a person with an excellent job. I spent three or four minutes chatting with Tom. I was working with directly was his close friend, so that was a way to meet the man. When youfre there seeing it all happen, it seems mundane and banal. Its just a guy saying his lines on a stage and when you watch a movie every now and then you go gright, oh yeah, its a movie,h and there are people all around the actor with cameras. You get involved with a movie and you donft think about the artificiality of it. But having this experience, my suspension of my suspension of disbelief has become a lot more informed. There are people jerking off, farting, just inches from the edge of the screen. And the idea that somewhere beyond that is a jerk-off like me pushing cold coffee cracks me up. But what do you expect – itfs just a business where you put one dollar in one end and pull twenty out the other. Itfs actually easy to make a movie and it gets a lot easier when youfve got a hundred million dollars to spend. The logistics and execution were impressive, but the actual nuts and bolts of what a movie becomes is also a compelling story. After that, itfs just all about making it look good. It was an opportunity that Ifm glad to have taken, but I will never do what I did again. They offered me the chance to go down and set it all up in New Zealand, and I said NO. People said WHY NOT?, I said ITfS BECAUSE I HAVE A LIFE HERE IN JAPAN.


Bonus (Japan only): Lists!!

Why were they written? Intolerable books

That Dave Eggers book
The Dune series
The Tale of Genji
Infinite Jest
100 Years of Solitude
Pictures of the Water Trade
anything by William Faulkner
anything by Tom Robbins
Kathy Acker
A Confederacy Of Dunces
Lester Bangs

The Snob List! Films I donft wanna see

I thought about making a snob list for some time, but then I wondered what could actually be accomplished listing for all to see the movies that I donft have time for; the films that Ifm gtoo goodh for; the films that just arenft worth it; the stinkers you can smell from miles away; the films that fly in the face of good taste; the films that are guaranteed to be uninteresting, a miracle that they ever got made, the sure bets for the studio that try to hit all the same spots that the other hits did and still canft be interesting. Not enough hours in the day-type films. Would rather be picking my nose-type films. Wouldnft even watch them on TV if there was nothing else on-type films. Trapped on a long flight with nothing else to watch-type films. Scraping the bottom of the barrel-type films. You know the type. Films like:

The Juror
Psycho (remake)
Wild Wild West
Pearl Harbor
Kate And Leopold, Signs of Life, or any recent Meg Ryan flick
Jurassic Park 3
Planet of the Apes (remake)
Collateral Damage
Black Hawk Down
End Of Days
Any recent Robin Williams movies – Flubber, Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man, Fatherfs Day, Jack, etc.
The Sum of all Fears
The Edge
Jack Frost
Rock You
Oceans 11 (remake)
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Spy Game
The Replacements
Any Given Sunday
Proof of Life
Perfect Storm
Family Business
Panic Room
The Horse Whisperer
Red Dragon
Bird On A Wire
All The Pretty Horses
The Horse Whisperer
Reindeer Games (Ben Affleck etc.)
Tomb Raider
Red Dragon, the Cell, etc. etc. etc.

Famous record store clerks round the world

Masonna, Alchemy Record Shop, Osaka Japan
Jad Fair, Mickfs Picks, Flint Michigan
Tom Waits, Tower Records, Butte Montana
Tol Polhurst, Bobfs Discs, Camden Market
Thurston Moore, Time Bomb, Osaka

Meaningless phrases used by older people

As I said earlierc
Since I already mentioned this, I wonft mention it again.
It was literally raining cats and dogs.
To make a long story shortc
Youfre not getting any younger, you know
Weapons of mass destruction.
I donft believe you – prove it!
Sure I believe you. A thousand other guys wouldnft, but I believe you.
Getting back to what I was saying earlierc
To make a long story longerc
I hope Ifm not boring youc
Ifm not racist, butc
Ifm just as open-minded as the other guy, butc
I never said that.
I never did that!