During August or September of 2013 Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater (set to premiere next month in Toronto, possibly also in Telluride) shot footage in Jordan, and in preparation for this costumer Phaedra Dadaleh, a well-established professional in that region, was hired. On 9.11.13 Dadaleh told a Rosewater promotional site that she was “nervous” meeting Stewart, but her concerns quickly evaporated. “He’s just the most amazing, friendly, down-to-earth kind of guy,” she said. “He just got up, gave me a big hug and immediately made me feel at ease.”
Rosewater director-writer Jon Stewart, costumer Phaedra Dahdelah during filming in Jordan last year.
That’s cool, Phaedra, and good for you, Jon. But people on movie sets have been saying the exact same thing about major above-the-line types for at least a century if not longer, and they never get tired of saying it. Time marches on and they just won’t stop wetting their pants when name-brand people are as kind and gracious and friendly to them as regular Joes are to each other in the outside world. It’s always “I was afraid this famous hotshot might be brusque or snide or otherwise a dick or a bitch, but he/she was totally the opposite…and he/she made me feel so good.” I know the feeling, and I’m not saying that that many bigtime above-the-liners — Jon Stewart among them, I’m sure — aren’t really nice to begin with. But one of the main reasons that bigtime showbiz types have made it to the top is that they’re really good — practiced — at putting on that warm, kind and affectionate face when the situation calls for it.
And one atmosphere in which you’re almost guaranteed to receive warmth and love and hugs is one in which people are always alpha-vibing each other to death from the early morning into the wee hours until it’s coming out of their ears — i.e., a fucking movie set. People loving and kissing and hugging each other like mad. Hugs, backrubs, bon ami…and every fucking joke and one-liner is either hilarious or very funny or at least somewhat funny. A lot of people do the monkey submission thing by slapping their thighs and bending over and staggering backwards when they laugh at other people’s jokes on movie sets. I’ve been visiting sets all my life, and sometimes I wind up smiling so much that my facial muscles are aching after four or five hours.
Which is fine. I wear that kind face all the time in social situations. It’s the only way to be. 99% of people who work in social congregation situations turn on the alpha. So much so that it’s fairly freaky, in fact, when certain people (submentals, addicts, sociopaths) don’t turn it on. There’s no earthly reason not to be warm and kind and gracious with people, and I mean especially in Hollywood realms.
I’m saying this because I wish below-the-liners and set visitors and others who work with above-the-liners would stop saying “wow…he/she is so nice!” What else are they gonna put out? Stink bombs? They’re probably nice people anyway, yes, but first and foremost they’re top-level professionals and talented smoothies, and this is how the movie business operates. Do you ever hear polar bears saying, “Wow, the snow is so white and powdery, and the seals bark so vigorously when I try to catch and eat them!” I’m just sick of hearing how nice this and that famous person turned out to be. Turn that shit down a bit.
But don’t get me wrong. I know how it feels when an A-lister who’s really gifted at turning on the charm turns it on in my direction. You know it’s at least partly an “act”, but you fall for it and feel good about it anyway. I’ve never heard the words “how are ya?” spoken with such profound tenderness and world-class charm as when Warren Beatty said these words to me on the phone some 22 years ago.