First off, I want to thank everyone who came out to see me last night in Greensboro. I had a great time, meet tons of cool folks, and there was a choral concert right after me that I got to listen to while I signed stock. How cool is that? And if you didn’t make it out, I’ll be at McIntyre’s Bookstore at Fearrington, in Pittsboro NC, tomorrow at 11am. I can’t promise a chorus, but it should still be good.
With that done, I’ll move on to my promised entry about How to Deal, which has its broadcast premiere on the WB tonight at 8pm. (You can click here for a preview, very cute.) Now, longtime readers of this page probably remember that, back in 2003 when the movie came out, I wrote a LOT about the experience. So if you’re really interested, you can check out archived entries here (about when I visited the set) and here (about going to the premiere a year later: there are pictures there, too). Also, if you’re really bored and needing to kill time, you can go read what I wrote on my website about the whole experience.
But I promised something today so…
When I first got invited to come up to Toronto to the set, I was so nervous. I mean, of course I wanted to go. But I was going by myself, and I had to no idea what to expect. I was a wreck all the way there on the plane, and through baggage claim, and then I came around a corner to see this guy standing there holding a sign that said HOW TO DEAL. His name was Jeff—I think! It’s been four years, so I may be wrong—and he was just about the nicest person ever. Took me to my hotel, gave me a running commentary on Toronto en route, and then said, “So do you want to go to the set?”
I did. Even in my nervous state. So off we went. It turned out the crew was at lunch, so he took me to where everyone was eating. Lots of food laid out, people sitting around tables. We got some food, then went to sit down. I was still feeling like everything was ENTIRELY surreal–I was eating pasta salad! In Canada! With movie people!—when this man at the next table over looked up, saw me, and said, “Sarah?” Turned out it was Bill Teitler, the man who had optioned That Summer and Someone Like You a few years earlier, and who lobbied so hard to get to the movie made. We’d talked on the phone tons but never met. So he comes over, and sits down, and we start talking about how everything’s going. I’m eating my pasta salad, finally relaxing a bit, and then this guy walks by and Bill says, “Trent! Come meet Sarah!”
So yes. Trent Ford was the first cast member I met. While I was eating pasta salad. Let me say that yes, he is gorgeous in person, as well as very friendly and down to earth. He also has an English accent, and is very well read (he went to Cambridge) but of course I didn’t know that during the whole pasta salad meeting. That all came later. Anyway, so Trent sat down with us and we all talked for awhile, and then Bill took me down to the set. They were filming in Halley’s house, which was in the very pretty neighborhood a few blocks down from where we were eating. As we got closer, I saw that there were barricades set up, and people standing behind them watching, although nothing much seemed to be happening. Bill took me inside and showed me around, and then got me some headphones so I could watch, on the monitor, some stuff they’d already filmed. Meanwhile people are running all over the place, dragging cords and talking into walkie-talkies: it was very hectic. So Bill is giving me the tour of the house set, walking me back into the kitchen, and I happen to glance over and….there’s Mandy Moore. Sitting in a chair, reading a magazine. Bill just walks me right up, no preparation, no chance to breathe. Yikes! He introduces us, she sticks out her hand, we shake. In person, she is GORGEOUS, just stunningly so, and so friendly. Of course I am practically comatose with shock and I think come off like some kind of freak. But it was still great.
I was on the set for four days total: two when they were filming at Halley’s house, one at this local hospital, and one at the church you’ll see at the end. If you watch the movie tonight, the scene where Halley and her mom and sitting in those wicker chairs, talking about the house: that’s where I sat while they filmed inside. They’d get me all set up with a chair, and headphones so I could follow along while they filmed. I’d been warned by several people that watching filming is the most boring thing in the world, but honestly, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I had a blast. But because I had been told this, I always brought a book with me, just in case. (What can I say, it’s the Rory Gilmore in me.) Before I’d left, I’d picked up my favorite book of all time, A Prayer for Owen Meany, so that was what I had with me, and let me tell you, it was a great conversation starter. So many people, cast and crew, would walk by and say, “That’s a great book!” and I would agree, and then we’d start talking about Owen or the armadillo or whatever. Forget music: books are the universal uniter. At least that one, anyway.
During the time I was there, I got to see them film the scene where Lewis shows up to help Ashley with her hangover, as well as the night scene when Halley comes home to find Ashley slumped by the door. At the hospital, I watched them film the part you’ll see at the very end, when everyone’s gathered around the window, looking in at the new baby. The assistant director was off to the side, yelling stuff, and then the cast would react. “The baby’s smiling!” he’d say, and they’ll all laugh and point; “The baby’s crying!” and everyone would be concerned, etc. This went on for so long everyone got slap happy and he started saying things like, “The baby’s on fire!” and everyone would crack up. Good stuff. I mean, not the baby being on fire, of course.
Then I spent the entire last day at the church where they were filming Ashley’s wedding. That morning, when I went out to meet the van that had been sent for me, I pulled open the back door and…there was Peter Gallagher. And Allison Janney was in the front seat. Gulp. I got in, trying to be cool and collected, and we headed out. I honestly cannot tell you what the conversation was on the way to the set, but I do know that Peter Gallagher asked me about writing and that Allison Janney was doing a crossword puzzle and asked the rest of us if we knew a seven-letter word for something, and I wished more than anything I could impress her by saying (cool and collected-ly) “Oh, sure. That’s —–.” But I, um, didn’t know it. Oh, well.
That last day, I was almost an extra. I got to put on an outfit and everything, to be a wedding guest. But as it turned out, I would have had to stay LATE into the night, and my plane left at the crack of dawn the next day, so I didn’t get to do it. But if you ever rent the DVD, and watch the little featurette about the director, Clare Kilner, you can catch a glimpse of me, on that day at the church, sitting in a pew watching the filming. I’m wearing a blue shirt. My big moment, right?
*reads back over entry*
You know, I’m doing my best, but it’s just hard to do the experience justice here. It sounds so scattered and random, and I guess it was. The entire time, I just kept having that dual thing of, “Oh, my God, this isn’t really happening!” and “Shut up and enjoy this while it’s happening!” I wanted to remember everything, every single second. But of course, now, four years later, details run together. But here and there, things stick: like the guy who brought Mandy cotton candy, every day, and stood behind the barricade waiting to give it to her; or sitting outside the hospital, watching Mary Catherine, who played Ashley, pull up to the entrance again and again in a Taurus station wagon while the crew teased her about her driving skills; Peter Gallagher (before he was even Sandy Cohen!) in the church, teasing me by saying he had to be careful what he said because “The writer’s here!”; watching them film Mandy’s close up when she’s supposed to be watching her sister go down the aisle, and how the assistant director walked one of Mandy’s friends, who was visiting, down instead, both of them laughing; plus a million other weird little moments that I’ll probably remember the instant I post this, too late. Oh, well.
So if you watch the movie tonight, you can think of me during those house scenes, sitting off to the side with my headphones and my copy of Owen Meany and my palpable excitement.That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed, all these years later: that little thrill when I remember that yes, this did really happen. I felt it then: I’ll feel it tonight, when the movie starts, and probably all the way through to the end. Which is as it should be, right?