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THE GREEN MILE

THE SALTON SEA

I AM SAM

BAIT

X-FILES

NO GOOD DEED

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


The Green Mile… Yes, folks... Tom Hanks' poop really does stink, too! 
 

[1998]


     After thirteen years of yo-yo-ing between various acting work, odd-ball jobs, and unemployment checks, my life completely transforms as a big fish called The Green Mile lands in my bucket. Starring Tom Hanks, Bonnie Hunt, and David Morse (to name a few of the heavy-hitters), every talent agent and manager in town are literally salivating to get their clients attached to the movie. The late legendary casting director Mali Finn (who helped get me in the door for A Time to Kill) is casting. Her phones are ringing off the hook.


The Green Mile (based on the novel by Stephen King) takes place in the 1930s in a Louisianan penitentiary on death row (called "The Green Mile" because the linoleum tile leading from the prison block to the execution chamber is the color of faded limes). Hanks plays the head prison guard, Paul Edgecomb.


Thanks to Mali, I get a shot at auditioning for the juicy role of Percy Wetmore, the dastardly nephew of the warden (played by James Cromwell) who makes life on The Mile a living hell for both guards and prisoners alike. It's a role to die for. Mali puts me on tape for the director, Frank Darabont (whose other King-based movie Shawshank Redemption, became a cult-like classic after originally tanking at the box office).


Over the course of six and a half weeks, I audition twice for Darabont. It's a process of elimination. After my first audition, my manager, Sam Maydew, calls to inform me that I’m a "contender." Well, what exactly does that mean? Sam replies: “It's between you and sixteen other actors.” Good  God! After my callback, it's now apparently between eight other actors and me. Agonizing! By the final stretch, on a Friday afternoon, Sam calls to tell me that now it's been whittled down to two other actors and me — and that Darabont’s going to take the weekend to think about it before making his decision on Monday. Cruel and inhumane punishment!


Needless to say, I don't sleep a wink the entire seventy-two hours up until Sam calls on Monday morning to say: “Well, okay, we're nearly at the finish line. It's between you and one other actor. Darabont's gonna make his final decision this afternoon.” What?! Holy hell! Can this entire process be any more excruciating?!

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! 
 

At about 2pm, there's a knock on my door. I open it to find Sam standing on the threshold.
 

At first, I’m confused, because Sam’s never just popped by my apartment unannounced before — and especially not in the middle of a Monday afternoon. I jump to the conclusion that something must be terribly wrong: “What's up, Sam?” He looks me dead in the eyes and says: “I just wanted to tell you in person that... you're going to be walking The Green Mile. I immediately fall into Sam’s arms and weep like a baby. And then Sam tells me something profound and ultimately prophetic: "Get ready, buddy, because -- from this point forward -- your life will never be the same.”


I'm so excited about being cast in The Green Mile that I get severe insomnia — can’t sleep for two weeks — and come down with a case of pneumonia. Consequently, I’m sick as a dog only three days away from our table read-through.


I'm nervous as hell on my way to Warner Bros. Studios for my first day on The Green Mile. The read-through commences in a large rehearsal room stocked with a breakfast of assorted bagels, cream cheese, lox, a variety of fruit, orange juice, and fresh pots of coffee. I meet Hanks and the other cast members, and we all sit together around a large table with Frank Darabont at the helm. Everybody always says that Tom Hanks is the nicest guy in Hollywood. I wish I could say different. I wish I could share some salacious stories about Tom in order to spice up this part of my book — but I can't. Tom Hanks is the nicest guy in Hollywood. Like Sandra Bullock on the set of A Time to Kill, Hanks has an uplifting aura around him, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and a way of making everybody around him feel special -- from the top-dog producers, the cast, make-up and hair artists, and all the way to the janitors. The thing about Hanks is: he gets it; this Hollywood illusion. He takes his work seriously, but he doesn't necessarily take himself seriously. Hanks never buys into the holier-than-thou celebrity crap. Throughout his career, he's remained down-to-earth, humble, generous of spirit, and absolutely approachable. Tom Hanks knows that his shit stinks just like the rest of ours. That's what makes him an exceptional actor, movie star, and human being.


Darabont welcomes us and says: "I look around this table at this amazing cast, and all I can say is that I’m the luckiest director in Hollywood right now." And with that, we launch into our read-through of The Green Mile.


A break is called half-way through the script. People mingle at the food table, go outside to smoke, and hit the restroom. I have to pee like a racehorse, so make a bee-line for the bathroom. Once inside, standing at the urinal, I can't help but notice an atrocious smell emanating from one of the toilet stalls. Someone's in there taking a major dump and stinking up the entire room big time. It gets so bad that I want to gag. So I pee as fast as I can, zip up, and then go to the sink to quickly wash my hands in order to get the hell out of there.


After a moment, the toilet flushes, the stall door opens, and... Tom Hanks emerges! He joins me at the sink to scrub up and says: “Hey, buddy. Nicely done. You're gonna make a helluva Percy.” Tom dries his hands, slaps me on the back, and leaves me there in the aftermath of his bowel movement.


I walk back into the rehearsal room with an extra lightness to my step, an added confidence I hadn't possessed before, and a slight smile on my face, thinking: “Well, I'll be damned. Tom Hanks' shit stinks, too.”


From that point on, I never look at celebrities quite the same. Anytime I’m even slightly intimidated or enamored by a movie star, I think back on that exchange with Hanks in the bathroom and realize that we're all exactly the same. Just people. Walking into the same toilet stalls. Sitting on the same toilet seats. And taking from the same toilet rolls.


Needless to say, thanks to Tom Hanks and the rest of the impeccable cast and crew, The Green Mile turns out to be, hands down, one of the most impeccable and memorable experiences in the entirety of my acting career to date...

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