Marilyn is temperamental.
At least thats the
word, though from what I can ascertain shes just being professional. By
temperamental I mean that the word around the set is she is not to be petted by anyone
other than her handler. Oh, and Peggy, the associate producer with an abiding love for
canines, and an uncanny understanding of them.
Did I mention that Marilyn is playing Paxil, Leila's dog?
Which means that PAs and set decorators and camera assistants and anyone else who might
instinctively reach out for a cute dog making its way across the set are instructed to
keep their hands to themselves. Marilyn must have her concentration. Marilyn must feel
pampered. Marilyn must feel like a star.
Actually, that's how the PAs and set decorators and camera assistants who have been
rebuffed feel. What Marilyn really needs is to find her zone, the balance between
performance and reward that makes her an effective working dog. If she gets petted too
much, dog that she is, she'll feel like she doesn't require any more reward. And work goes
out the window.
Here's a picture of Marilyn chasing her tail, something she does when she doesn't have
something better to do. I can identify with that.
Marilyn mugs for the camera
Tuesday is devoted to a series of exterior shots outside Leilas muffin shop. The
first one involves a line-up of prospective sperm donors, about 30 non-SAG extras, who are
responding to Leilas personal advert seeking "able-bodied men." Not all
the donors appear to be able-bodied, especially not the women and some fellows who
appeared to have been rounded up on the docks. "It was wild," said Patrick of the line up, "what a group!"
Apart from one over-energetic fellow, who seemed to be utilizing the method and got a
little too into his role (Stephanie said, "I had
to tell him I wasnt straight to get him to back off."), the morning proceeded
One of the contingencies built into the days schedule was a series of alternative
takes, with dog and without dog. The problem wasnt the sequence of shots to be done
here in Hoboken. These involved Leila descending the staircase, walking out the door and
up the street. Sure there were a few different set ups and a tracking shot down the
sidewalk, but everyone wanted Marilyn to be a big part of it. And there wasn't anyone who
doubted that she could do the work.
The problem was the next scene. In the scenes to be shot on this day, Leila is on the
way to her uncles house, for a complex scene that will be shot in coming weeks, in
which, as the script says: "Uncle Ernest notices the dog cowering behind Leila."
No one knows if Marilyn is going to be able to cower. The easy way to get a dog to cower
is to yell at it, but once you yell at a dog you cant ever be sure it will respond
to your commands again.
If Paxil can't cower on cue the scene at Uncle Ernest and Mammy's apartment will be an
expensive nightmare. Production time will have to be spent getting Marilyn to perform
Paxil's stunt. That is, if theyve set up Paxil going to Uncle Ernest and
If, on the other hand, Leila has left Paxil at home, then they don't have to worry
about him cowering at Ernest and Mammy's, and everything is just a little easier, and
But, as I mentioned earlier, everyone who is anyone believes the scenes play better
with Paxil. So, starting the day, the decision is to cover butts and shoot with and
without the dog.
She's such a cute dog.
It's a dog's life
In the first shot Leila tromps down the stairs, finds a mess of menus in the foyer
behind the door, and then steps out into the street. Without Marilyn (as Paxil),
she moves easily and the scene goes off without a hitch. There are retakes, of course, for
traffic and some blocking, but in general the scene plays smoothly.
"Okay," Elizabeth calls, "Its time for the dog."
Everyone resets. Marilyn is walked onto the set by Barbara and Loren, her
owner/trainers. They march upstairs and convene with Shalom.
"Should we shoot the rehearsal?" Elizabeth
"Sure," Jon says, "shoot the
Action is called and Marilyn, on a leash, comes down the stairs unsurely. Is she
leading Leila, or is she being led?
From the bodies crammed around the video monitor and the smiles on their faces,
its hard to tell that Marilyn hasnt performed perfectly. But her choice has
been to be led, not to lead, and so the scene is reset, with Shalom now wired for sound so
that she can give her dog commands.
Jon scrutinizes the monitor...
Again, they reset and this time Marilyn pulls Shalom down the stairs. The crowd
gathered at the monitor laughs out loud.
...and likes what he sees
"Thats perfect," Joseph and Jon say, practically in unison.
Marilyn will go to Ernest and Mammys.