A few years back, I worked on a sit-com whose writing staff emerged from The Room late one night clutching a script that featured a subplot involving a monkey. For one scene, the writers decided this monkey should crawl from the Designated Actor’s arms up to his shoulders, then atop his head, where it would finally escape to a conveniently located prop tree.
All in the greater service of Art, you understand.
What doubtless seemed like a stroke of comedic brilliance during that long, late night made a rather awkward transition to reality a week later. Before the first on-set rehearsal, the animal wrangler cautioned the Designated Actor against making eye contact with the hairy primate.
“Do not look the monkey in the eyes,” she warned, before taking the creature out of its cage.
Easier said than done. When a monkey is only 18 inches high, even a brief glance in the general direction of the beast can be
interpreted by the simian brain as looking into its eyes. Sure enough, no sooner did the Designated Actor gingerly take the monkey into his arms than the little brute suddenly went ballistic – ape-shit, so to speak – baring a matched set of extremely sharp fangs while shrieking at the top of its lungs.
Work on the stage came to an abrupt halt, for this was a primal scream straight from the dark, pulsing heart of the jungle — a heart-stopping howl of prehistoric rage that sent a jolt of pure adrenaline directly into the crew’s collective Reptilian Brain, that most ancient and unevolved enclave of the human mind.
The poor actor was terrified, his face inches from an apparently deranged wild animal capable of doing horrendous, career-ending damage in a matter of seconds. Before any of the stunned crew could react, the wrangler grabbed the hairy little beast and stuffed it back in the cage.
Had I been that actor, I might have walked off the set, straight to my car, and never come back. Fuck the goddamned monkey – tell those writers to come up with another, less lethal gimmick, and send that crazy ape back to the jungle from whence it came. But the Designated Actor was made of sterner stuff. Rather than fly into a self-indulgent panic, he simply waited for the monkey to calm down, and once the wrangler gave the okay, went about rehearsing the scene until man and monkey got it right. I gained a world of respect for this particular actor that day – who subsequently led the cheer for weeks thereafter, in what became the catch-phrase for the show: “Do NOT look the monkey in the eyes!”
Generously submitted by:
Please visit his site: “Blood, Sweat and Tedium: Confessions of a Hollywood Juicer” for the whole story and lots of other great posts.