My first union gig was 8 days on Fight Club. I was a couple years into my time in LA and not being a union actor was presenting challenges. When I saw that Fight Club was looking for union extras, I wrote a letter to the casting director asking if she would throw me a bone and bring me in under a union contract so I could get my SAG card. She was kind to me and I worked for 8 days at the union rate. It was a generous offer.
I played one of the Space Monkeys, the guys who fought in the underground scenes and then became part of Project Mayhem. There are rooms that I distinctly remember, like the basement under the bar where Fight Club was born, and the kitchen where they made "soap".
You can see me in the background of many of the fight sequences, the most memorable of which is when Jared Leto got his face busted in by Edward' Norton's character.
Norton is known to be a character actor, meaning that he lives the parts he plays while filming. I didn't know this at the time and to be candid, I was both fascinated and disgusted by his behavior on set. He would push the makeup crew off of him, throw tantrums, and curse at people. His performance is brilliant, and the idea of immersing myself so completely into the life of a character is tantalizing, but it was hard to watch. It was negative and unkind.
Brad Pitt on the other hand was one of the kindest people I'd come across in the industry. The day that we were filming the scene after the bar owner beats the crap out of Pitt's character, Brad sat down with all the extras, about a dozen of us, while we were waiting to shoot and he held court. He was calm and dare I say loving. I sensed no ego from him, a graciousness, and a big heart. How he was present with us was impactful.
And then there was Meatloaf who was the comic relief on set. He had us constantly in stitches. He wore a body suit that gave him man-boobs and frequently poked fun at himself, singing and dancing between takes.
While other extras were jerking around when not in front of the camera, I felt different from them. Being an extra was a stepping stone for me, not a job. So whenever possible, I found myself over by the monitors watching David Fincher direct, looking at camera angles, and learning what everyone on set was responsible for. It was a masterclass in filmmaking and 8 days, each 12 to 14 hours in duration, is a lot of time to absorb.
I'm grateful for the experience. My biggest lesson was in asking for help from that casting director. I got lucky, but only because I was willing to ask for some luck to be thrown my way. I'm proud of myself for chasing my dream as hard as I did. Shortly after my time on Fight Club and joining the union, in the same day, I booked a small co-starring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a leading role in the Mountain Dew commercial that would premiere during the superbowl.
Ultimately, acting wasn't the only path I was destined for, and yet I'm so profoundly grateful for the experiences and opportunities afforded me in Hollywood. Seeing the polarities that existed between the approaches of Pitt and Norton for example taught me a lot about myself and how I would choose to show up in the world.
Every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow. These memories continue to inform my own behavior. Thank you for the space to reflect and remember.