Wednesday evening, January 14th, we had an open casting call for the movie, “Forty Shades of Blue,” and it attracted thirteen hundred would-be actors and extras to the University of Memphis.
The auditions were scheduled to start at 4 p.m., but people began lining up three hours early inside the University’s Theater and Communications Building, causing us, and the 10 assistants the University had provided us with, to start auditions at 3.
By 5 p.m. more than 600 people had signed up. Our director, Ira Sachs, who had just flown in from Los Angeles, popped his head in to say that he was going to grab a camera, my assistant and open a second room to help accelerate the process. When by 7 p.m. the number had grown to over a thousand a third room was opened and my assistant took a third camera and did the same.
Like I said, by nights end thirteen hundred people had shown up. We were all exhilarated. And exhausted!
“Forty Shades of Blue” is a $1.5-million independent production from executive producer Sydney Pollack, who won the Best Director Oscar in 1985 for “Out of Africa” and shot “The Firm” in Memphis in 1992.
As John Beifuss wrote in his next day front page Commerical Appeal piece:
“The would-be actors included notables and novices. Blues singer Timothy Lee Matthews, co-writer of the classic Ann Peebles hit “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” was 598th in line. “I was surprised to see so many people here,” he said. “I might lose my patience and go home.”
However, 18-year-old Ryan Webb – No. 324 – was optimistic. “Since it’s the first time I ever auditioned for anything, anything I get is going to be great.”
The tireless Lynn Sitler who heads up the Memphis Film Commission had booked me to appear on WREC with Tanya and Craig at 7 a.m. that morning, as well as on Fox 13, interviewed by Valerie Calhoun, at 7:30 a.m. to promote the open call. I did the radio show via phone from my car as I was pulling into the Fox 13 parking lot. When I wrapped the call I ran into the studio only to discover, to my horror, that the interview was to be televised. Live. I had mistakenly believed it to be another radio interview! I hadn’t shaved, I had major hat hair due to the fact that I was wearing my signature Red Hot Chili Peppers cap, etc. so Valerie thrust her hand into mine and dragged me into the ladies room to make me presentable.
My Memphis experience just keeps getting more and more colorful.
The most extraordinary thing about the open call, okay the second most extraordinary thing because the most extraordinary thing is that I found an incredible three year old boy who speaks English and Russian, and boy was I desperate to find him!!!!, was the fact that the event went without incident. Absolutely phenomenal.
I love these Memphis folks.