“I think he said something about somebody being beyond stoned on set.”
Bill sighed. “Those people who told you Cliff was a good man. They were right.” Anne could feel her eyes sting and her throat tighten like she was about to cry but she smiled instead and took a slug of cocoa. “I don’t know how to put this,” he cleared his throat. “I try not to be one of those asshole directors who screams all day, but,” he paused, “but one day I’m on set, we’re just coming back from lunch and, and we shot the morning with Ben and he doesn’t play in the afternoon but James does and I see the P.A. knocking at James’ trailer to tell him he’s needed in ten and his assistant comes to the door and points toward Ben’s trailer. So this kid, who’s about Ben’s age and a real go-getter but sweet as can be and really naïve, goes up and knocks on Ben’s door. Ben opens the door a crack and then closes it. About twenty seconds later—too long, the pacing’s all wrong, something’s obviously up—the door swings open and out stumbles James right into the P.A., and then they both kinda bounce down the steps. Okay, by that point, I admit, I’m getting pretty steamed. It’s obvious that James is drunk or stoned out of his mind so I wait for him to walk onto set, which he does kind of draped over the P.A., who’s got a cut on his chin. And I’m thinking, I can’t fire him, James. He’s my friend. I’ve never seen him like this before, and besides, his doctor will just tell the studio he’s suffering from exhaustion and they’ll can me instead. So we’ve already set up the shot and we take our places and it turns out he’s got his lines down pat, but he literally can’t stand up. He keeps tipping over, or his knees buckle and then he pops back up shouting, ‘I got this!’ Well, he didn’t have it, and I decide I’m going to fire him, him and that little pill-dispensing man-whore, and Tessa, who’s been watching all this from video village, walks over and hands me her phone and says, ‘Call Cliff instead.’ ”
“Oh,” said Anne.
“Yeah. So Cliff gets to set in about ten minutes and the A.D. is trying to get me to reblock the scene, but as far as I’m concerned if he’s doing it, he’s doing it standing up. And I’m about to walk off set and Cliff comes up to me and he says, ‘Bill, he can do it. I promise.’ I tell him unless we tie James to a pole there’s no way he can stay upright, but he convinces me, says it’ll be better for everybody if we just get through this, and so we get everyone camera-ready and Cliff is standing next to me at the monitor. He sees how I’ve got the shot framed and when the A.C. goes in to mark it with the slate he, Cliff, crawls down out of the shot, and he’s there, flat out on the concrete floor and he’s, granted, out of the frame, holding James up by his knees. And James is standing, saying his lines perfectly every time, with Cliff sweating to keep him steady and stay away from the lens. Saved my ass, saved James’, and indirectly saved that worthless little piece of shit. For an agent he, he just went to the wall for everyone he knew. He was okay—he was much more than okay—he was honorable.”
Bill stared off into space for a minute and then he met the eyes of Anne, who had been thinking, Honorable or world-class enabler? But she kept a muzzle on it.