I was cast as a Detective, circa 1967, in the new Coen Brothers Film “A Serious Man”, now shooting in Minneapolis, St. Paul, MN. I auditioned for casting agent Rachel Tenner August 5 and had a callback on the 12th with the Coen Brothers. It’s a small speaking part but it’s a thrill to be involved.
On August 23 I met with Mary Zophres, the costume designer for a wardrobe fitting. There was a large room filled with every conceivable outfit, male and female, from the late’60’s, a look I remember very well. I received a nice dark suit, skinny tie black shoes and socks, white shirt and a “Blues Brothers” hat. I had a nice chat with Debbie DeLisi, the extras casting director. She worked on the Robert Altman film “A Prairie Home Companion” with me and brought me up to date on what the producers and crew had been up to.
September 1, Labor Day, took me to the floor of the Republican National Convention as part of my day job with WCCO, a CBS radio station, and “The Morning News with Dave Lee”. I’m the Entertainment Editor as part of the morning show, but during the convention I served as a roving reporter ambushing the big names with my trusty Flash Mic, a portable digital Microphone with a built in flash memory. I Talked with Laura Bush, NBC’s Meredith Vieira, Rep. Ron Paul, Face the Nation’s Bob Shieiffer, former Governor Jesse Ventura, CNN’s John Roberts and many others. The security was intense, but since we arrived at 4am each morning it was smooth sailing getting in and out.
After the last day, September 4, my wife and I left for vacation in Buenos Aires, Argentina The Coen Brothers had some concerns about our planned return date of September 15th since my shooting day was to be the 16th, so we arranged to come back on the 13th, traveling back through Houston.
Argentina was great, good food, great people, and fine architecture. Hurricane Ike was of some concern through our week there, so we moved our return to September 11th, arriving in Houston on the 12th. It became a race with the clock, when we arrived in Houston our 11am flight had been canceled; they were closing the airport at Noon. We were able to rebook getting the last two seats on the 7:10am flight to MSP, but had just 20 minutes to make the flight. We were very lucky. Judy’s cousin Patty lives in Houston and said we could stay in their guest room if we got stranded. Ike hit in the wee hours of Saturday the 13th and later that day we got a call from Patty that a tree had smashed through their roof right into the guestroom that had been prepped for us. We were very, very lucky.
Tuesday the 16th I arrived at the base camp of the Coen Brothers Film at 9am, got into my costume and waited for my call. The base camp is a Lutheran Church in Bloomington, a postwar suburb with the right look for the period. The block of homes that serves as the exterior set was hit with straight line winds a few years back so all these ramblers had newly planted trees making it look like 1967. We I got the call for my scene after a great film set meal, I was blown away by the time travel aspect of the one story houses with mid 60’s cars in every driveway.
I play Detective #1 and my partner, Detective#2 is played by Guthrie Theater actor, Jim Lichtscheidl. We looked like Jake and Elwood, The Blues Brothers, in our hats so the Coen Brothers decided to ditch the hats. We blocked the scene then waited 20 minutes for them to set the camera and lights. The props department had just given us badges to use…”Badges! Badges! I don’t need no stinking badges!” I used the time practicing whipping my badge out of my suit coat pocket with authority.
We did four takes, shooting us from inside the house through a screen door, with minor adjustments each time. The brothers were very nice and seemed pleased with the results. They even thanked me for coming back from my vacation early. When I told them about our close call Ethan said, “I guess we saved your life then”. We return on October 13th to film the scene again from our viewpoint of the scene, the exterior of the house looking in to the living room.
It’s about 30 seconds, so I don’t think I’ll be submitted for anyone’s consideration come Oscar time, but it was a big thrill. I just hope I escape the cutting room floor.