By Chris Langley, Inyo Film Commission
August 31, 2005
(Note: This is the second part of a series on the set of Bone Dry which filmed recently in Death Valley.)
As the director called again and again for retakes, the bees began to gather around the actor. He stayed in character, but concentration became more and more difficult as the bees landed on his arms and even on his face. He had joked, "I hope they aren't killer bees," but the insects were about to ruin getting the scene on film the way the director wished.
The star of the film is Lance Hendricksen who was doing his scene perched on the front of the monster machine overlooking Panamint. Hendricksen has a long filmography but you are most likely to remember him as the android Bishop from the film Aliens or Frank Black from the television series Millennium. He had a role in Into the West, which was on TNT a few weeks ago. The crew had laid down tracks for a dolly shot, and Director Bret Hart was riding the camera cart as Hendrickson delivered his monologue about the desert and his experiences in Desert Storm and the retreat from Baghdad.
The clapboard said "Scene 83, take one" and so it went. Director Hart reshot and reshot with feedback each time from the monitors about sound, speed of the dolly movement and focus. He knew exactly what he wanted on the screen and he was not willing to compromise even as the light began to fade over the Sierra and Lone Pine to the west.
Hendricksen has a deep resonant voice. Even though he was speaking in a quiet voice, his words carried across the silent landscape. His character had clearly suffered. There was a determined, if exhausted quality to his speech. Although this scene was in the middle of the film, it was clear that the two characters were locked in a bloody battle to the end.
In the scene, Hendricksen was to grab a canvas water bag, wet his kerchief and wipe his face and neck. The ever present make-up girl was ready to check his hair and make sure the fake scar on his forehead looked right even as he repeatedly took off his hat and wet his face in take after take.
As the shooting proceeded, the actor became wetter and wetter, a not unpleasant experience on a July afternoon near Towne's Pass. Unfortunately, yellow jackets (not bees) were slowly gathering, attracted to the moisture and finally a swarm of up to fifty were buzzing around him and landing on his sleeve and skin. The tension rose as Hendricksen began to swat away the pesky bees in between takes until he leapt off the hood, cursing the insects. I told him it was his wet shirt and the jacket he was wearing that were creating the problem. With fading light, the actor in retreat and no scene satisfactory to the director yet on film, everyone was on edge.
With a young crew of twenty-six, everyone seemed very enthusiastic on the project and ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead. Greg and Bret had both spoken glowingly of the crew. In the first few days they already proven their reliability and flexibility. They had gone about setting up for the shots framed in Bret's head, placing the equipment almost intuitively.
They were almost ready for first rehearsals when a white SUV drove up and everyone turned to welcome second lead Luke Goss who made a very Hollywood entrance. He'd hugged and, in the case of the few women on the crew, kissed his way across the location to say hello to Director Hart, Hendricksen and other crewmembers. He wasn't filming but had just showed up to offer greetings and support. Everyone seemed to know him; perhaps no more than in a Hollywood acquaintance way, but there was a brief sense of frivolity before they got back to work.
Goss had made his mark with his band Bros in England where his debut album sold almost five million. He followed his success in music with a book called I Owe You Nothing, which went to three printings. Then he turned to acting and had success as the vampire "suckhead" Nomak in Blade 2. When he announced he had just gotten off his cell to London, everyone, but particularly Hendricksen, expressed his or her jealousy and frustration with the cell service. None of them had been able to "get out," and they were clearly feeling "cut-off" and isolated, the feeling Hart was trying to evoke in the film.
When Goss turned to drive back to the motel, several crewmembers warned him about taking the short cut off the location because of his "sissy Hollywood car." He hesitated then turned and followed the regular dirt road back to 190.
To try discouraging the bees swarming around the actor, and get the Hendricksen scene finally finished, the car was moved and the coat was removed, a breeze came up and that helped. Hendricksen took his place again and they quickly yelled "Action!" Things went better, and in the fading light, the cinematographer "ok'd" the take and Director Hart called for the crane shots. The crew had been assembling the crane and the lighting director assured the director, that if need be, he could light the scene to get it finished.
The gentle breeze at 3000 feet on the side of the valley and the waning intensity of that sun made the shoot almost comfortable. The crew and actor were getting really tired, but they were ready to stay with the director and get what he wanted on film before they wrapped for the day.
With the two mantras of filming on location repeating in my mind: "Hurry up and wait," and "Time is money," my hopes were that the little thriller film Bone Dry would further the careers of those involved and provide the audience tense entertainment.
READ PART ONE OF THIS STORY