Here’s a story with many important lessons about luck, chance, and success.
I once auditioned to be a photo double to portray a young Steve Martin in the movie Cheaper by the Dozen, even though I look nothing like him.
I was told they were looking for someone who “acted” like Steve – you didn’t actually have to look like him. I was a huge Steve Martin fan, so I called the casting agent whose number I got from a friend of mine.
First of all, the casting agent was furious that I had his number. “Where did you get this?” he demanded. He then calmed down and asked if I could impersonate Steve.
I said yes. I have no idea why.
The casting agent asked for me to show up at his office in 90 minutes.
Here’s the problem – I had no idea how to impersonate Steve Martin. I ran to the video store and rented Roxanne. I rushed home and over the next 30 minutes memorized the famous 20 jokes dartboard scene. Then I drove furiously across Los Angeles to the casting director’s office. They brought everyone out into the lobby to watch me “perform.” The agent must have liked me, because he said he would send me to meet the director.
Two weeks go by and I show up on set at a big house in LA. There I meet the one other guy auditioning for the role, and this guy looks exactly like a young Steve Martin. He even has the premature grey hair thing going on. Amazing. No way I was getting the role.
After waiting an hour, a production assistant came and took our photos. I thought my fate was sealed at that point because I look nothing like Steve Martin! Half an hour later another guy came down, who I later learned was an assistant director. He looked at the Polaroids. Without saying a word to either one of us, he pointed at me and walked away. The production assistant walked over and told me I had the job.
No flippin’ way! I didn’t even do my “impression” of Steve. I look nothing like him. I felt embarrassed for the other guy.
Two more weeks go by. They call me to the set again to meet with the director, Shawn Levy. This time it’s at a school. After an hour and a half, they finally pull me in to meet Shawn as he finishes with a scene. I think “this is it – this is when I get to do my Steve impression.”
The director held his finger out like an eye doctor and asked me to look straight ahead. Then he moved his finger from side-to-side and asked me to follow so he could see me in profile. We did this two times. Finally he said “Yep, he’ll do” and sent me on my way. I had the job! And it was totally based on my looks, which was ridiculous because in no way did I look like Steve Martin!
Another week goes by and they finally call me on set for actual shooting. The first scene is filmed in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In this scene, I was portraying the Steve character as a football player in college. First and last time I ever wore a football uniform. Two hours in makeup. Why? Because they had to “paint” hair on my head – because I am balding. (remember, I look nothing like Steve!)
We shot the scene with Bonnie Hunt (who was hot enough to play herself at 22) and she was absolutely wonderful. Then we did another day of shooting at a sound stage where we recreated the young characters’ wedding.
My total screen time in the film was about 20 seconds, and you can see brief shots of me in the trailer below.
After we finished shooting, the director walks over to tell me I did a nice job. I say thanks and he finally asks “So, do you do a Steve Martin impression or something?”
It was 4 days of total work, with the costuming, makeup and everything else for 20 seconds of uncredited screen time. I made a few hundred dollars and received two Screen Actors Guild credits (you need 3 to fully join the union.)
That marked the absolute height of my Hollywood career.
There’s probably a lot of lessons to be learned here, but I’ll be damned if I know what they are.