Thursday, January 04, 2007


Our movie is set in an unnamed mid western American town, where - as various characters mention throughout the script - they haven’t had snow at Christmas “for thirty years: This is an important plot point, as eventually Dennis the Menace, by acting selflessly, makes magic happen and “voila” (as they say here in Montreal), snow appears on Christmas Day.

But since the better part of the movie happens BEFORE Christmas Day, that means we have to have CLEAR DRY GROUND and no SNOW in the air. We have no snow. That much is true. However, freezing rain….well, that’s another matter entirely.
To be specific, it’s actually subzero temperature sleet mixed with pellets of solid ice. My camera, grip and electric team have valiantly pulled on their cold weather gear, bundling up in layer upon layer of gore-tex and fleece in a desperate bid to stay warm and dry. But no amount of high tech survival clothing will protect us from the most dangerous side effect of this horrible weather – falling wood.

It appears that this neighborhood is famous not just for the cranky rich and idly tasteless who live along its sidewalks, but also for the huge trees growing virtually untended up and down the streets which, when burdened with a thick coating of ice, crack at will and send gigantic limbs of frozen wood plunging down onto unsuspecting passersby below.

So now not only do we have scheduling problems, actor problems and weather problems, we also have to avoid decapitation by murderous maple branches.

Of course it’s on THIS day, the most disastrous we’ve had to date, that Robert Wagner finally arrives. And suddenly, everything just seems a little bit…better. The sheer charm of the man is almost overwhelming. Even in his mid seventies, while perhaps no longer the young male ingénue of Hollywood, he is strikingly handsome and completely elegant. Seated on a cheap fold out sofa bed in the mobile dressing room we’ve rented for him, the ice storm wailing away outside, his very presence made it seem as though we weren’t stuck in the middle of some suburban Montreal parking lot, but rather exchanging clever “bon mots” while sipping cocktails on a yacht in Nice.

And while there’s nothing I would rather have done than listen to his incredible and thrilling stories of Hollywood, then and now, the movie beckoned. So out into the ghastly weather we ventured, my idol and I, to set up the next shot.

If you ever find yourself directing a movie star, here’s a hint: DO NOT strap him or her to a paramedic gurney during an ice storm and wheel him around the front yard of a house in Montreal pretending to suffer the effects of food poisoning, the result of some cookies made by Dennis the Menace. Hardly a great way to start a relationship.

But RJ (he ACTUALLY told me to call him this!! For real!) was a trouper through all of this, emitting nothing more than an “oi” when the flimsy screen we erected above him as protection blew away with the first gale force wind.

When I asked him later how he managed to maintain his composure, give a terrific performance AND deliver a very funny adlib line all while in danger of frostbite he gave me one of those dazzling old school Show Biz smiles and said: “I learned how to do it in Star School.”

This is going to be great.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Ron keep sucking up to RJ, if you only had the same respect for others on set you might not have earned yourself the title of one of the most hated directors in Montreal history.

3:58 PM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

geez, i wonder who voted on that "most hated" award? The people who actually WORKED on set all seemed to want to work with me on my next project? And i must take exception to your insinuation that i had no respect for others on my set -- respect is earned, my dear reader, and those who earned it got it back tenfold. Anyway I'm sorry you had such a bad day as an extra or whatever it was, but honestly you really must talk to your shrink about these anger issues you have...

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

geez, Ron your so right people on set can't await for the grand return of Ron Oliver, who bashed Montreal, Montreal industry, his crew members and used a blog to communicate because he wasn't strong enough to talk to people instead of bashing them. Ron Oliver we really do love you.

2:06 PM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

ouch. that may have been sarcasm. but anonymous, had your read the earlier bloggings, you'd know I haven't bashed montreal or its industry -- just the odd series of under the table deals and weirdly incestuous goings-on which may be peculiar to this particular production. As I've stated, my crew, with the exception of a couple of folks rather ill-suited to their positions, were incredibly skilled and very, very fast. And trust me, I am plenty strong enough to talk to people -- but when one is directing a movie, one doesn't have always have the time to lead each crewperson by the hand through their job description. Frankly, I adore Montreal; beautiful people, beautiful locations and fabulous nightlife; I almost lost my heart there -- if I'd had one.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ron,

Well said. But you should know that on film sets that have very little money to spend and with a negative pick up deal that forces the producer to cut and cut, in order to make the big producer go home with a lot of money, sometimes you need to do under the table deals and crews do get overworked without proper assistance because of the lack of money. Maybe a thank you to these crew members and under the table deals as you say, keep people like you working. When you make films with real money then you make real deals. See the good in what everybody on this film tried to bring you earning close to nothing. Except working with you...

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very well said!!!

9:26 AM  

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