September 29, 1997
After breakfast, I accompanied a portion of the group to the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Here, the commercial's star, 'Actor X', was staying with his father, Grandmother, and Agent, since arriving from Tennessee the day before. Today's agenda was to do a costume fit on the two principle actors. Moreover, to make general introductions between the team from Japan, the actors and director George Romero. Hmm... George Romero... Yeah... Cool... I was buzzed!
We arrived an hour early. I poked around the lobby, taking in the extravagant floral collections and the Picasso on the wall. Upstairs, we relaxed in a comfortable meeting room. I spent the time preparing my camera, reviewing notes, and drinking the excellent complimentary coffee (this is, after all, a five star hotel in Beverly Hills). Finally, from down the hall, I heard Romero's unmistakable voice. I grew panicky as his words grew closer. I tried not to think about how many times I'd seen this or that film of his; tried to forget how few people there are in this world I admire as much as he; tried to remember his reputation for being good-natured; but mostly, I tried not to worry about what I'd do if he thought I was a complete jerk. Before my worrisome thoughts could play themselves out, George A. Romero entered the room. He was engaged in conversation with 'Actor X', talking about the 'Return of the Living Dead' films.('Actor X' mistakenly thinking George had directed this offshoot series. True to his rep, George seemed to bear no ill for what was an honest mistake on the part of the young actor.)
What struck me first about George was his size. It had been twelve years since I last saw him and for whatever reasons, he was taller than I'd remembered. In fact, he towered over everyone in the room. (Okay, so there were a lot of Japanese.) His face was half covered by a graying beard and large, black framed glasses magnified his eyes. He wore khaki shorts and his hairy legs stuck straight down. From under a loose fitting cotton shirt, gray chest hairs tangled about wildly. As strange as his appearance may sound, it really wasn't. All of these seeming oddities were held together by the warmhearted grin spread across his face.
Andy from Size took George around the room for introductions. Coming to me, George held out a large hand. I placed mine in his, trying to summon whatever strength had not yet been sapped by the time change.
"Hey, nice to meet you!" George said it like he meant it.
Nervous, I replied with some unmemorable pleasantry.
'Actor X' was led through and introduced to the same half-dozen faces. Unlike George, he seemed slightly withdrawn, as if trying to assess everyone and everything. Where George came across as a person who trusts first, 'Actor X' displayed the personality of one who distrusts first. Following 'Actor X' was his agent. She glared at us in the room like a mother bear protecting its cub. When coming to me she near demanded to know what I did and why was I holding a camera. It was explained that I was a writer covering the story. She shook her head, an indication of understanding what I was doing, but it was obvious she didn't approve. For the rest of the shoot she kept a cold gaze on me at all times. The funniest moment came when she walked up to George Romero and brazenly asked, "What is it you do?" The ever kind George looked at the small woman and politely said, "Why, I'm the director." The agent turned bright red and apologized. "Oh, you're George Romero, I'm so sorry." It takes a certain breed to be an agent.
'Actor X' did his costume check first. The outfit, based on character 'Leon' in the game, fit like a glove. Its blue material, actual police uniform material, wore brawny on him. On 'Actor X's' face was the beginning of a beard. He was told he would have to shave for the shoot. Women in Japan, the people from Capcom said apologetically, don't like facial hair, especially young girls. With 'Actor X' the then number two most popular foreign star in Japan (the number one slot belonged to Leonardo DiCaprio) he had to play by the rules, least his popularity, so fickle in Japan, fade.
Outside on the balcony 'Actor X' posed for a few photos. I spent the time getting to know his father, who, despite being from Tennessee, was more into rock and roll than country music. The two of us, with 'Actor X' joining later, went on and on about bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Ramones. I was happy to find that they shared my love of live music and that 'Actor X', like myself, plays and writes music. 'Actor X', despite being only fifteen, was full of insightful anecdotes on other actors and events in his own life. Soon enough, his original apprehension was replaced by a more professional, let's-get-this-job-done-right kind of attitude.
Romero didn't have much say on the costumes since they were to match those of the game. His presence was more a courtesy. He lounged around outside with the rest of us in the warm California air, drank juice and even laughed at my mostly stupid jokes (sorry George). In almost no time my original anxiety was gone. George, despite his achievements in film, struck me as a non-ego. He was less a director in the grandiose style, and more just a guy who makes films. I liked him.
With 'Actor X' done, the female lead came. A peppy blonde named Adrienne Fantz, she was a regular on the soap, 'The Bold and the Beautiful' and a regular on the Aaron Spelling show, 'Sunset Beach'.
Flashing a killer smile, she bounced around the room and gleefully slipped into the red uniform of her character. Outside, she posed for photos on the balcony. She was easygoing and, even more so than 'Actor X', completely assessable. I enjoyed her company very much. By two o'clock we were finished.
The rest of the day was spent over at the Century Plaza hotel where I had to attend more meetings. This time, ones dealing with every infinitesimal detail concerning press coverage.
At about this point, with all these meetings whittling my mind away, I was beginning to wonder if coming here was worth it. As a concession, I was able to choose the dinner location, requesting Mexican food, something near impossible to find in Japan.