Unfriendly persuasion on TV-film sceneBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NEWS that TV star Nicolette Sheridan (of “Desperate Housewives” fame) has filed charges against a producer of the show for hitting and later firing her has prompted a heated discussion about other instances of work-related “assault and battery” involving celebrities.
For starters, some former child actors have come forward to reveal the “blows” they were dealt when they got on the wrong side of the adults directing or otherwise handling them. The assault was more psychological than physical, but it has left a mark on their vulnerable sensibilities.
In addition, they recalled that even famous child stars like Judy Garland were maltreated and overworked to a traumatic degree. In Garland’s case, she was made to take uppers (chemical stimulants) whenever she was exhausted but had more scenes to film before the end of the day’s shoot. When the long day was over, she was given downers (chemical depressants) so she could fall asleep quickly.
The roller-coaster use and abuse of uppers and downers are thought to have taken a toll on the young Garland, who later became an alcoholic—one of the many long-festering consequences of her dependence on chemicals.
On the local show biz scene, the discussion is decidedly more physical in orientation. A veteran actress recalls that a famous director was known for his penchant for getting a great performance out of some female stars by slapping them just before they had to do a difficult crying or breakdown scene. But to be fair, this inflicted “violence” was always made with the consent of the actresses involved.
When it comes to local child actors having to do a crying scene, a former “stage mother” admits that, when genuine emotion is out of reach, the secret use of medicated vapors in the eyes is resorted to. And when even that fails to produce the requisite torrent of tears, the former stage mother confesses that she would secretly pinch her ward, until the tears started to flow out “naturally.” Ouch!
Other anecdotes about directorial “persuasion” include the director who kept a child performer shivering in the sea at night, just so he could finish shooting the day’s scheduled number of sequences. When the poor, wet kid protested, he shut her up by threatening not to cast her in his forthcoming production. Ouch, again!
Another director is known for throwing objects at actors who don’t deliver the thespian goods to his complete and absolute satisfaction. One of his regular cast members has made a list of the “UFOs”—shoes, a glass half-filled with water, an empty shoebox (does he have a foot fetish?), assorted scripts, a doughnut.
For those working with this “missile-launching” maestro, the word is out: Be sure to duck!
Of course, all of these transgressions on the part of foreign and local producers and directors are small potatoes compared to the much more traumatic exploitation of helpless young talents perpetrated on show biz’s dreaded casting couch.
Generations of starlets and stars have admitted to paying their dues in this seamy but far-from-steamy way—and we aren’t only talking about the female species.
Indeed, as a veteran show biz observer concluded from his decades-long study of “true confessions,” more boys than girls agree to this expedient arrangement to further their careers, citing the straight Filipino’s attitude to gay sex: “Kasi, wala namang mawawala sa akin .” A question of denial, perhaps?
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