I’ll never forget that time I auditioned for Ron Howard. It was in the early nineties, when Tamra and I still lived in New York City. I went to a casting office somewhere in the shadow of the World Trade Center to read for a small role in his film The Paper. I wasnot expecting Ron to actually be there. To my surprise, he was!
I had known Ron for many years of course, since my mom began playing the role of his mom, “Mrs. C”. He was probably 18 or 19 when I met him on the set of Happy Days.
He had ambitions to direct from an early age and worked diligently in that direction. It would be hard to find a more perfect example of a person who knows where his heart lies in life and follows it all the way.
Now of course he’s one of a handful of top drawer, successful film directors who continually turn out Oscar-worthy (and Oscar-winning) work, and the films from his Imagine Entertainment have also left their mark on the world.
When I auditioned for him that day in the 90’s, he was already an experienced director, now preparing to tackle a new, gritty genre, his homage to classic films like His Gal Friday or The Front Page.
He was aware that I had been doing a lot of improv in NYC, and he had even come to one of my one-man shows at The National Improv Theatre in Chelsea. (And, yes, that night he heard my impression of him. He was very gracious about it.)
The role in The Paper I was reading for was a lawyer who worked in the NYC Justice Department. It was a scene in a fern bar, in which he flirted pretty heavily with the female lead while she tried to pry information out of him.
I had prepared my audition ahead of time, but hadn’t read the entire script, so I was unaware that her character, the one I was putting the moves on, was not only married, but eight months pregnant! That little detail changed things a lot…
I auditioned the scene, reading with the casting person Jane Jenkins, trying to rapidly adjust to this new information about the character (I mean, what kind of jerk hits on a VERY pregnant married woman?)
After that first attempt, Ron gave me a little direction: “They’re at a bar, he’s drinking; this time, have the guy feel it a bit more.”
So I did the scene again… but I was still so hard at work adjusting to the whole pregnancy thing that I totally omitted to honor that new thing he had asked me to do.
Ron was very kind and gave me a nice acknowledgement, and I left the office.
On the way home, I jotted down on the sides some notes about what I felt I had done “wrong” in the audition. Things like, “Next time, do what the director asks you to do.”
Miraculously, about a month and a half later, I got a call. I would be playing the part of sleazy Tom in the film, The Paper. Huge surprise! Opposite Marisa Tomei! Crazy!
So that was how I booked my first movie role, in a scene with an Oscar-winning actress, by a future Oscar-winning director.
And as has often happened to me since, I had been pretty sure I had tanked the audition. You never know…
Since then I have been fortunate to work with Ron Howard on four other of his films, but I never really had to audition for him again. It was just that one time, and I’ll never forget it.
It has been a while though, and I sure wouldn’t mind being a part of one of his films again…
Ron, if you’re reading this–I’d be happy to audition for you.
It’s been a minute!