Op-ed: How Bumping Into Jim Carrey Changed Everything
BY Dan Steadman
November 21 2012 5:00 AM ET
“Hi,” I replied, terrified. The rule for extras is that you are never, ever supposed to speak to the talent. I was so afraid of getting fired I could only bring myself to mutter that one word. He smiled at me and nodded, took his hand off my shoulder and walked away. A few extras saw the exchange and they were dying to know why Jim Carrey had spoken to me. I said I had no idea. I figured he was walking up to fire me for bumping into him.
But it turns out the movie star loved my little action of stepping into his frame and causing him to spill some soda. It was one of life’s happy accidents that became the highlight of my background talent career, and forevermore, I can be seen in a two-shot with Jim Carrey for seven seconds of cinematic history. Unfortunately, however, the movie didn’t turn out to be the epic story everyone wanted it to be. The New Yorker called it “a fiasco.”
The Majestic became an apt metaphor for the last decade of my life. I had hoped my career would be epic, but it really didn’t turn out that way. As I approach my 39th birthday this week, I’m starting to realize I wasn’t destined for such things. My 10 years in Los Angeles were exciting, to be sure. I came close to selling a screenplay for a film with a producer who had done half a billion dollars in box office. I shot a number of TV pilots, one with Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, and Jennifer Coolidge, but those projects came to a screeching halt when the Writers Guild strike happened. I produced a very funny movie called Jesus People with Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help). It did well at film festivals but never even made it as far as Netflix.
Maybe my life wasn’t supposed to be an epic tale worthy of the big screen. Perhaps some of us are destined to something closer to an ’80s sitcom. In the past year I have moved three times. In January, I was living in Billings, Mont., ready to shoot my gay-themed Christmas movie Red Lodge. I didn’t have money to complete the film, so I delivered pizzas for $7.25 an hour to pay for the remainder of it. This was my It’s A Living episode of life, minus the off-the-shoulder Ann Jillian outfit.
In March, I moved back to L.A. to finish the film. Once again out of cash, I applied to every business claiming to be hiring — including Taco Bell and Wendy’s. No one called me back, so I ended up working at a dildo factory in the Valley. For the next two months, I manufactured silicone dildos, ball stretchers, cock rings, and piss plugs. I couldn’t afford to live in an apartment, so I rented an office with a Russian I met on the street and illegally slept in that office for a few months. This was clearly my Perfect Strangers phase. If only we had shared the homoerotic tension Balki had with Cousin Larry. That would have been an upside to the ugly turn my life had taken.
In July, I drove across the country to Tampa, Fla., where I agreed to help my sister raise her children, ala Charles in Charge. Since I wasn’t born with a Silver Spoon in my mouth, I will have to accept the Growing Pains life has to offer. My life isn’t an epic, life-changing, Academy Award-winning film and it never will be. That’s one of those simple Facts of Life. Once I learn to accept it, then and only then will I finally begin to Blossom.
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