I was recently sitting in the office of a talent agency, doing what I do, when I took a break from work. As my digits were drubbing the keys of my HP with Windows Vista (grrrrr), I overheard one of the agents next to me call out to an assistant:
"Make sure you put in the cover letter that he got an M.F.A. from NYU. Because [casting director's name withheld] is snobby."
Prior to this, the agent had received a phone call from a new client who was fresh out of school. The actor had heard—through the thorny thicket that is the actor grapevine—that [well-known director's name being withheld] was casting a major production of a language play and that final auditions would be held the following day. The actor requested the agent push the casting director for an appointment.
O.K. All systems normal, until... Chutzpah, we have a problem.
Once the push had been made, the agent called the actor to inform him that she had requested, on his behalf, that he be squeezed into the schedule for an audition. The audition, if granted, would occur the very next day. Of which the actor, you'll recall, was aware when he requested the push.
Unfortunately, the actor had a sudden case of amnesia (which came over him in less than ten minutes). He balked to his agent that if he got the audition he would not go in because, he informed his agent, "I wouldn't have enough time to prepare."
Excuse me? Did he just nod off from reality?
An argument between actor and agent ensued. I listened as the agent reminded the newly minted client that it was he who had requested the push, knowing the audition would be the next day. The actor would not relent and remained resolved, informing the agent he would not go in for the audition if the casting director—who is a tough-to-convince buyer—welcomed the actor to read for the industry-respected director.
That's when the relationship guillotine blade began its ascent, priming for what was surely a bloody business demise for the belligerent actor.
The agent warned the actor, "I don't like the way this relationship is developing between us. This is not something I'm comfortable with." After a few more back-and-forth exchanges—during which the actor still registered his intent to reject an appointment for the next day, if it were presented—the conversation ended without pleasantries. One could almost imagine hearing the swoosh of the sharp blade as it slid down la guillotine to severe service of agent to actor. But there was a momentary reprieve.
The agent turned to me for my reaction. Before she spoke I, as an observer, simply said, "Drop him."
The agent then called the actor's manager and related what had just transpired. The manager revealed that they too had been having similar problems with this actor. This was not the first rumblings of trouble between actor and talent rep.
Prior, another agency dropped this same actor for bad behavior. The manager then had to sell the damaged goods to another agency and hope for the best. Now that problems were happening again, and within just two weeks of being at this new agency, the manager unknowingly agreed with my observation and promptly then-and-there dropped the actor. The agency followed in kind.
Now you may think this to be odd, rare, extreme, or a happens-not-too-often scenario of bad actor behavior. It's not.
I know not why some actors decide to commit professional suicide. And while performing hara-kiri profusely put forth that they are in the right for their actions and the rest of the world is wrong. I could go into lengthy analyses of personality disorders. But the life-clock is ticking and I need my morning muffin.
The best answer for the actor's actions detailed prior (and others like him) may simply be, in short, stupidity.
Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.