The whole thing began in a hotel in New York City with my meeting Paul Verhoeven. Looking back, I realize that he was, in his own subtle, classy way, trying to tell me that, was I to be chosen for this film, I was in for an experience unlike anything in my 20-plus years as an actor. We are still 2 or 3 weeks from shooting, and already his prophetic message is correct.
I’d never met Paul, but having read the script, I was thrilled about the opportunity to work with him and to play this fascinating character. I mean, how often does one get a chance to be invisible? More importantly, I found the transformation from man to monster something new. God knows I’ve played my share of bad guys, but always mere mortals limited by their ordinary powers. This bad guy had, as he put it, ”a gift.”
First meetings with directors are not unlike first dates. You dance around each other, sussing each other out because you could be spending a lot of time together in a very intense, close relationship. And you need to sniff a little, flirt a little, strut a little, and fall in love, or at least get a crush.
We had very different agendas that day. My main agenda was getting the gig, but secondarily, I wanted to know more about his vision for the character. Paul had a different agenda — I think he wanted to know if I could handle it. He stressed that the shoot would be long and technically very difficult. I assured him that for The River Wild, I had been thrown from a boat into the rapids, worn a wet suit for 4 months, and played scenes in water made from freshly melted snow. I had spent a month in the KC-135 zero-g airplane, a.k.a. the Vomit Comet, doing Apollo 13, diving & climbing at 36,000 feet to experience 23 seconds of weightlessness. I tried to convince him that I was not a wimp with stories of being naked, shackled, and dirty during Murder in the First, having rats chewing my legs, and spiders crawling around my private parts. He seemed unimpressed.
I was assured by my agents that I was ”on a very short list.” I stayed on that very short list for a very long time. Acting is waiting. It’s no coincidence that actors often start as waiters, since you’re going to be waiting for the rest of your life. I was told that the studio was concentrating on finding the heroine, my nemesis. After months of waiting, I read that they had hired Elisabeth Shue. I no longer believed that it would work out. I just wanted to stop waiting.
I had an old dog named Jane. I got her from a pound years ago. I put her age at around 17 or 18. Everyone says their dog was the best dog. Mine really was. About two weeks earlier, she had 5 seizures. It was a rough weekend, coming to terms with my old dog’s mortality. Sunday night was the worst, and on Monday morning I logged on to Variety.com and read that Robert Downey Jr. was going to be the Hollow Man. Bad, bad morning. Feeling sorry for myself, sorry for my dog. What else could go wrong? Then my tooth broke. Emergency dental. Fun, fun, fun.