Thursday, June 29, 2006

Talia Shire falls down... hard

I'm watching John Frankenheimer's Prophesy as research for Arousal. It's similar in plot to Arousal—people threatened in the woods by infected animals.

There's a scene halfway through where Talia Shire's character and her character's husband are staying in the woods in a log cabin. They're being lovey-dovey when this animal makes a weird sound outside the cabin. At first, they ignore it. Then the husband gets up to see what it is.

Outside the front door is this raccoon, totally wigging out. You know when cats start running around the house, jumping on the furniture, then running away again? Imagine that, but for a raccoon—this little guy looks like he's either about to hurl or he's trying to drown out the sound in his head by screaming. Regardless, something is seriously fucking off with this raccoon.

Without warning, the raccoon attacks the husband. The husband struggles, the wife screams—and then somehow the raccoon has jumped over onto Talia Shire—

—Talia does what any person would do in this situation: she pulls back from the raccoon as fast as possible. I mean, this is a fucking rabid raccoon or some shit! She pulls back so hard that she backs up near a chair, which is placed about a foot away from the wall. She loses her balance and slides down into the foot-wide crevice, twisting face-first towards the wall. In the instant she falls, we see her terrified face, then her naked thigh... and then she's completely gone from view.

It's a miracle Talia Shire didn't break her neck.

The thing that impressed me most about this scene is that it's definitely Talia Shire who does this stunt. And because she does this stunt, and because everything happens so quickly (in retrospect, they might have sped up the film slightly), her fear and desperation look real. More importantly, it all feels real. So real I completely forgot I was watching a movie.

Prophesy is a not a bad horror film, given that it's as old as Star Wars. The beast in it is pretty lame, but there are tense moments in it with some unsettling story developments (foot-long tadpoles still give me the willies). Frankenheimer gave us the superb Ronin, among other films. He's a deft storyteller.

Anyway, now I know why actors doing their own stunts makes such a big difference. Seeing an actor in the action itself creates a visceral link between the story and the audience, which is the entire reason people go to the cinema. To sustain this link, to make it as vivid as possible for as long as possible...

So bad/good news for all my actors—you're all doing your own stunts! (If you're nice to me, I'll talk to the DP to see if I can speed up the film to make you look good.)

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