Two local residents come face-to-face with Hollywood royalty
George Clooney Was in My Bed
(and so was Jon Stewart!)
Doris Pinter and her husband, Joseph, live next door to the house in Blooming Grove, Orange County, where George Clooney spent several days in February shooting the movie Michael Clayton.
How did you get involved with George Clooney?
One day we had a knock on the door. This young man says, Â¡Â°WeÂ¡Â¯re looking for an empty garage to store equipment, and maybe a room upstairs.Â¡Â± My husband says, Â¡Â°The only thing in our garage is our car.Â¡Â± They wound up using the garage as a cafeteria for the film workers.
First day of the shoot, about 35 people walked into our living room Â¡Âª actors, stand-ins, and some of the crew. Our living room became a sort of crash pad for the crew and cast. It was cold outside, so they hung out with us until it was time to do a scene.
Then Jon Stewart came up because he and George were shooting a scene for the opening of the Oscars. It was a skit on Brokeback Mountain. Nobody was supposed to know they were doing it, but somebody spilled the beans.
And they shot it in your bedroom?
Yes. They took down the bedroom door and the door to a closet so the camera crew had room to move around. They moved a few things off the dresser. They put everything back when they were done, and a girl came and undid the bed. I thought maybe I could keep the sheets and get Jon and George to sign them, but they took them away. A friend said they probably thought IÂ¡Â¯d sell them on eBay, but I was going to fold them down small and put them in a frame.
Did the house feel different afterwards?
It felt strange that first night going to bed, but on the whole it was just a fantastic thing. They were all very gracious people. My husband had his picture taken with George. Even my dog, Ginger, got in on the act. JonÂ¡Â¯s wife is a veterinarian, and he was making a fuss over Ginger. He was very nice.
Did George Clooney radiate star power?
Very much so. Just standing next to him you feel, Oh, gee.
WhoÂ¡Â¯s your favorite actor?
I would have to say George.
And your favorite comedian?
Tom Cruise Loves My Dog
(or how I kept Steven Spielberg and a cast of 1,000 waiting on the set of War of the
by Scott Ian Barry
Hey, man. Great dog!Â¡Â±
These are the first words Tom Cruise says to me, just after completing a close-up shot with me and my dog, Katana, on the Athens, Greene County, set of Steven SpielbergÂ¡Â¯s War of the Worlds in December 2004.
IÂ¡Â¯m standing at the peak of a small steel bridge, part of the dock for the big ferry scene, grinning back at the famous actor. Â¡Â°Thanks, Tom,Â¡Â± I respond.
Earlier that night, amid freezing rain and scores of runny noses, the question Â¡Â°WhereÂ¡Â¯s Tom?Â¡Â± hung heavy in the air around me and my fellow extras. The sense of excitement created by that question was broken when a muffled cheer made its way from the back of the ranks. Tom Cruise had arrived. Shooting was about to begin.
Â¡Â°Look!Â¡Â± Tom says to co-star Dakota Fanning, hovering paternally over the young actressÂ¡Â¯ shoulders. Â¡Â°That big, white dog is watching you.Â¡Â±
Â¡Â°HeÂ¡Â¯s a rare breed,Â¡Â± I offer, doing my best to show that IÂ¡Â¯m cool and no novice when it comes to the moviemaking business.
Â¡Â°What kind of dog is he?Â¡Â± Tom asks.
Â¡Â°A Turkish mastiff.Â¡Â±
Â¡Â°IÂ¡Â¯ve never heard of a Turkish mastiff. HowÂ¡Â¯d you get him?Â¡Â±
Â¡Â°Well, I worked with wolves for many years, and his breed is on the opposite side of the spectrum, so to speak. They protect livestock from predators like wolves. I became interested in them because of my work with wolves.Â¡Â±
Â¡Â°Wolves? You worked with wolves? Where?Â¡Â± asks Tom.
Â¡Â°All over North America. My friends and I invented the idea of taking live wolves into schools, to educate the public Â¡Âª to save the species Â¡Âª and to teach them that wolves arenÂ¡Â¯t pets.Â¡Â±
Â¡Â°ItÂ¡Â¯s funny, IÂ¡Â¯ve always promised myself that if I ever met you I would tell you that your sword work was superb in The Last Samurai. The other half of my work is as an edged-weapons specialist. I have many swords, and I do lectures with them.Â¡Â±
Tom, his eyes wide: Â¡Â°Swords?Â¡Â±
A nod from me. Â¡Â°Fifty-five.Â¡Â±
Tom: Â¡Â°I practiced a long time for my scenes in The Last Samurai. About six hours a day for two years. It was really hard. You wouldnÂ¡Â¯t believeÂ¡ÂÂ¡Â± He stops himself, flashing a pearly white smile. Â¡Â°Ahhh, you know what IÂ¡Â¯m talking about.Â¡Â±
Eyeball to eyeball with Tom Cruise (actually eyeball to forehead), I smile. Â¡Â°Yes, I know.Â¡Â±
TomÂ¡Â¯s eyes grow serious. Â¡Â°You have no idea what that means to meÂ¡Â± Â¡Âª referring to his sword work Â¡Âª Â¡Â°coming from someone like you.Â¡Â±
I begin to feel a bit self-conscious beneath the weight of such generous praise. I shoot a glance over my shoulder at the gray tent that houses the main camera and our illustrious director.
Then it hits me. While Tom Cruise and I have been conversing beneath gargantuan studio lights that turn night into day; while we discussed wolves and swords, Steven Spielberg and his two assistants, some 200 crew members, and 1,000 curious extras are all quietly waiting for us to get done. Only then can Dreamworks StudiosÂ¡Â¯ $240 million movie resume shooting.
Â¡Â°Does it get any better than this?Â¡Â± I ask myself. Other than having passionate sex with Salma Hayek, I donÂ¡Â¯t know.
Six months pass. After much anticipation, I enter my local movie theater, plunk down $8.75, and nestle into the aisle seat of the seventh row. I am prepared to surrender to the Hollywood magic that Katana and I had been a part of, the magic that transformed four surreal nights of working with Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg into the classic sci-fi thriller War of the Worlds.
We never know what fate has in store for us. The upshot of my 20 takes, five different scenes, and multiple close-ups with Tom and Dakota is that Katana and I are nowhere to be found. WeÂ¡Â¯ve been left on the cutting-room floor.
Though disappointed, a smile comes to my lips. I can see Tom Cruise in my mindÂ¡Â¯s eye, flashing his smile. Â¡Â°Hey, man,Â¡Â± he says, shrugging his shoulders sympathetically. Â¡Â°ThatÂ¡Â¯s showbizÂ¡Â. But you still have that great dog.Â¡Â± Â¡Ã¶
A resident of Woodstock, Ulster County, Scott Ian Barry is the author of the urban thriller The Streeter.