Chapter 72 – Down-and-out director
The Amsterdam Avenue, just after a rain shower, was filled with a damp smell. The heavy heat made the air sticky, and the restless unease made people feel like doing something, but they lacked the motivation. The Victorian-style buildings on both sides of the street carried an ancient scent, with moss, rust, and red bricks. The lingering moisture wafted between the brick walls, as if crossing the Atlantic, walking from Manhattan in New York into Knightrider Street in London.
Near the intersection of the 103rd Avenue, inside the Hello New York Youth Hostel, travelers from all over the world had their plans disrupted by the sudden heavy rain. They stayed in the lobby on the first floor, searching for like-minded companions. A group of young people were sitting on the sofa in the corner, engaging in lively discussions and laughter filled the air. Several literary young adults sat at a long table by the window, sharing the books they had been reading recently. Three people stood in front of the coffee machine, having a serious discussion on how to repair it and brew a flavorful coffee once again.
Rodrigo Cortes was slouched on a red recliner, while he was holding a book titled “The Social Animal,” but he hadn’t turned a page in nearly ten minutes, clearly lost in thought.
This time, he came to the United States specifically to find suitable actors for his new project “Buried.” Both he and the screenwriter, Chris Sparling, knew very well how crucial an outstanding actor was for this project.
His first target was Ryan Reynolds. After seeing Ryan’s performance in the movie “The Nines,” where he played three roles, Rodrigo greatly admired his natural yet profound acting. If Ryan could star in “Buried,” he believed they could create an excellent piece of work.
However, at the same time, he also knew that Ryan was now considered a second-tier actor in Hollywood. His performances in “Wolverine” and “The Proposal” last year had earned him a considerable amount of popularity, and his career was on a rapid rise. It is almost a fantasy to invite Ryan to star in an independent film funded by an unknown small company, directed by an unknown director, and written by an unknown screenwriter.
Therefore, on one hand, he earnestly wrote an invitation letter, which was sent to Ryan’s agent through the channels of the Actors’ Union, and then he waited for a response. On the other hand, he also posted a casting call through the Actors’ Union, hoping to find other suitable actors.
Two weeks passed in the blink of an eye, but he still had no progress to show for it. Ryan’s side remained silent and unresponsive; there were quite a few actors who came for auditions, around thirteen in total, but their performances were disappointing and fell short of his expectations. Some auditions were so awkward that he couldn’t bear to watch them.
Although Rodrigo knew that “Buried” is not a particularly attractive project, this outcome was still disheartening.
New York City is an expensive city to live in. Even with him staying at a youth hostel, most of his budget had been depleted in the two weeks. If things continued at this pace, he would have to go to New Jersey and wait. As a director with limited experience and credentials, he didn’t have many options. However, New Jersey is inconveniently located, with a commute of over ninety minutes each time, and the resources there are also lacking.
At this rate, the start date for “Buried” seemed indefinitely distant.
“Hey, buddy, why the long face?” a playful voice broke through Rodrigo’s thoughts. He looked up and saw a black man with a head full of dreadlocks, wearing a colorful short-sleeved T-shirt and a bright smile. He walked over and fist-bumped Rodrigo. “What’s up? The progress of your movie project not going well?”
Rodrigo shrugged and gave a bitter smile. “Hollywood is much trickier than I had imagined.” He had been staying here for two weeks, with little progress on the project, but he had made some friends. The person before him is called Charles, an Italian who was pursuing his own global adventure and is currently staying in New York.
“You should give Broadway a try,” Charles said with an exaggerated expression, the vividness of which made Rodrigo chuckle involuntarily. “Take it easy, take it easy. Life is tough, and nobody knows whether what awaits us ahead is an uphill or downhill journey, so don’t think that this is the end of the world.”
The cheerful and unrestrained words accompanied by vivid gestures unleashed Rodrigo’s inherent Spanish passion and exuberance. He imitated Charlie Chaplin’s most iconic penguin posture, raising his shoulders high, elbows against his waist, spreading his hands open, tilting his head, and pinching his throat as he exclaimed, “We must learn to let go.”
Both of them burst into laughter at the same time. At that moment, a shout came from behind the counter, “Rodrigo? Rodrigo? Another auditionee has arrived.” Hearing this, Rodrigo and Charles both looked up and immediately saw the smiling man.
He is wearing a white undershirt with a dark blue plaid shirt layered on top. He also has black jeans and ginger-colored high-top boots on. The shirt sleeves were roughly rolled up to the wrists, and his short, curly, chestnut hair hung casually and rebelliously. The corners of his mouth gently curved upward, outlining a rebellious arc. The raw and rough hormone scent seemed to be raging and restless beneath the refined gentleman’s facade, ready to break free. The subtle restlessness made the hot air even more tense.
With just one glance, Rodrigo didn’t even have time to carefully examine the other person’s facial features and appearance, yet that unique temperament hit him head-on, involuntarily bringing to mind the charm of Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” combined with a touch of Montgomery Clift’s elegance in “The Misfits.”
He is Paul Conroy, the male protagonist of “Buried.”
He seemed to have walked straight out of the script. The grace and posture in every movement perfectly matched Rodrigo’s every requirement for the character. It was simply astounding! Rodrigo could feel his heart starting to beat wildly. After two weeks of waiting he has finally saw a glimmer of hope. The urgency and anxiety exploded like fireworks, and his blood rushed towards his heart.
“You… you’re that rich young boy!” Charles’s astonished voice snapped Rodrigo back to reality. He looked at Charles in confusion and saw Charles excitedly reaching out his hands, giving the man in front of them a big hug. “I mean, ‘The Pacific,’ that… what was his name again?”
Charles tightly held the other person’s hands, wracking his brain to remember the name. The other person seemed unperturbed, standing in place with a smile, not interrupting Charles’ contemplation. “Sledgehammer! Yes, Eugene ‘Sledgehammer’ Sledge!” Charles finally recalled and then burst into hearty laughter.
“I guess I can put away my pistol,” the man’s response made Charles even more joyful. However, Rodrigo wore an expression of confusion, and the man seemed to sense Rodrigo’s gaze. He released Charles’ right hand and took the initiative to introduce himself, “Good afternoon, I am Renly Hall. You must be Mr. Rodrigo Cortes, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Rodrigo shook the man’s right hand but couldn’t help but thoroughly scrutinize the person in front of him. He felt somewhat disappointed, no, to be precise, extremely disappointed.
Because Renly was too young, really too young, appearing to be just in his early twenties, completely resembling an inexperienced university student. This was far from the looks of the main character “Paul” in “Buried”—Paul should be a middle-aged man in his thirties, married with two children, having reached a certain stage in his career but facing more difficulties in life.
The brief glimpse just now was just an illusion caused by various factors like lighting, angles, and distance. Rodrigo could hardly conceal his disappointment. He had thought that the long wait had finally paid off, that even if it wasn’t Ryan, it would be an actor with great potential. But clearly, his expectations were too high.
“Yes, I am Rodrigo.” Although he tried his best to conceal his disappointment, his tone inevitably dropped, and the change in his attitude was too apparent. Even Rodrigo himself felt it was somewhat inappropriate. So, he quickly turned to Charles, changing the topic. “What’s going on? Do you know him?”
“This is Eugene ‘Sledgehammer’ Sledge! His recent performance in the ‘The Pacific’ sparked countless discussions… It was almost like a one-man show. Let me tell you, his performance was truly amazing!” Charles’ exaggerated words attracted the attention of many people around them, but Charles didn’t care at all. He continued to speak earnestly, “Believe me, this is an actor who can bring pleasant surprises! Trust me, you’ll be lucky to have him in your film project.”
Rodrigo understood what was going on. The news about “The Pacific” had been dominating important sections of news pages for some time now. He wasn’t someone oblivious to what was happening around him, so he naturally didn’t miss it. However, he wasn’t particularly interested in war themed stories, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, or “Band of Brothers.” Therefore, he hadn’t watched “The Pacific” and didn’t recognize any of the characters in it.
As for Charles’ praise, Rodrigo reserved his opinion. A youngster who seemed to be no more than twenty? Talents like that weren’t found everywhere. Moreover, if this guy is truly that exceptional, shouldn’t he be in high demand and flooded with offers after “The Pacific”? Why would he choose to be part of a no-name, no background, and no reputation production like “Buried”? It seemed even more absurd than Ryan nodding in agreement to take on the role.
In the blink of an eye, Rodrigo had already made his judgment. He put on a polite smile and said, “It seems today is my lucky day.”
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