A thought struck me -- I wondered if he'd consider being in our movie? I had been working on the storyline and treatment for "Drawing Down the Moon" for several months. I was hoping to shoot the movie in the upcoming summer. Wouldn't it be great to have someone with a name in the film?
So during a lull in his conversations with other fans, I casually mentioned -- "Hey Walter, I'm an independent filmmaker. I was wondering, would you ever consider acting in a low-budget independent feature?" He was a little surprised by the question, but said "Sure, I guess, if I liked the script enough." So I gave him a quick pitch of the story. He must have liked what he heard, because he wrote his P.O. Box address in the book my wife was having autographed so I could send him a script when it was ready.
I was pleased, but skeptical. I mean, why in the world would he actually do it? Yet being the hopeless, eternal optimist that I am, over the next few weeks I tweaked the story idea a bit, then I sent him the ten page story treatment.
Two weeks later he called! He liked what he saw in the treatment, and had some suggestions. I noted his ideas (which, thankfully, were good ones), and I promised to keep in touch on my progress with the full script. During the following months as I worked on the script I sent him various updates, and a few little gifts/bribes (books which I thought might help with his research on the character he'd be playing).
Finally he gave me the firm commitment to take part in the film, just three days before we were supposed to start shooting the opening scenes! I was elated!
So what's it like working with a legend? Nerve-racking. Scary. And rewarding. I've heard it said before that having a true pro on the set raises the level of professionalism in everyone. And it's true. When Walter was working, it raised the stakes. The cast and crew were more on top of things. Everyone's focus was greater.
What made working with Walter nerve-racking? Nothing that he did, actually. He was always polite and friendly. The "nerve-racking" part was all me. I did it to myself. I was just plain nervous. I wanted Walter to be pleased. I wanted him to know that we were on top of everything. The pressure was in my head.
Walter is demanding, true -- but he never asked for anything unreasonable.
He has a very dry sense of humor, but I've always enjoyed that in people,
so it didn't bother me. And I think Walter understood better than anybody
the type of production this was. We were low-budget by Hollywood standards.
He didn't have his own trailer on the set. He didn't have a beautiful hotel
suite at the Hilton. In fact, one night I called him after the day's shoot
to invite him to come out for a drink with us. I heard what sounded like
birds chirping in the background. I said "Walter, what is that? Do you
have a parakeet in your room?" He said "No, that's the plumbing."
Obviously he's no prima-donna. I think he had a lot of fun with us. He certainly enjoyed entertaining the cast and crew between takes. During set-ups he usually disappeared into his "dressing room" to study his lines and prepare for upcoming scenes. And we didn't give him much spare time. Word-for-word he has the most dialogue in the script. And it isn't easy stuff -- quite a bit of it is about chaos mathematics, with a bunch of technical jargon. Plus his character has one of the most complex development arcs in the film. So I'm proud when Walter says that our film was the most difficult shoot he has ever worked on. He had lots to do. And we were working fast. (He also said, by the way, that he had a very good time working with us. And that he looks forward to working with us again. So I guess it wasn't all drudgery.)
Walter was under pressure, too. He must have felt like he had "to deliver" for us. He certainly delivered. During our test screenings people have raved about his performance. I was worried about Walter being a "target" in a small town -- you know, that he'd be bugged all the time by well-meaning but overzealous fans. We don't get many big-time celebrities in Sunbury (my home town, where we filmed). But Walter was very kind to all of the people who accosted him for autographs. And you have to applaud his patience -- I mean, the guy must get sick of signing his name. Each member of the original "Star Trek" cast has probably given more autographs than anyone else in history.
But Walter was always a gentleman. He gave plenty of people in the local area a thrill. His appearance at a flea market in Lewisburg -- he collects old comic book memorabilia, among other things -- was an event for celebration. He took the time to speak to a local children's theatre group. He complimented the food from all the restaurants and individuals who fed us.
And he took the entire cast and crew out for dinner on his last night
in town -- an incredibly thoughtful gesture. So it has been wonderful
working with a legend. But Walter is a thoughtful, charming, friendly legend.
His attitude made all the difference in the world to the cast and crew.
He made us feel comfortable, and he brought all of us up to his level of
To learn more about the movie Drawing Down the Moon, visit their website at http://www.drawingdownthemoon.com/.