I was asked this question last month while sitting on a bench in an old art deco arcade in downtown Ft. Myers. I was obviously perplexed by the question but not offended in any way. I had come dressed for the part..but I had no prior inkling that I was going to be auditioning for the role of a Russian prostitute.
Less than a week before the audition I had come across a casting call for a new film being shot in my area called “Sunlight, Jr” starring Matt Dillon and Naomi Watts. The premise of the film is about a struggling couple (Watts & Dillon) who live in Clearwater in a less than stellar neighborhood. Watts plays a convenience store clerk while Dillon plays her husband, Ritchie. Ritchie is a drunk who is confined to his wheelchair. As you can imagine, their lives are on the skids and their struggles are on full display.
I responded to the casting call, which was looking for extras, and small speaking roles. The casting director was looking for beat up looking types, drug addicts and actors who could pull off looking homeless. I sent the casting director a couple photos and heard back from her within minutes. Her words were,
Thank you for submitting your picture.
My immediate thought, Leah, is you’re far too beautiful for this film….do you have a shot of you looking like your on the skids of life?
Hmmmm. She asked if I could send her a few older pictures of myself “looking rough,” so I tried. I mean, who keeps not so stellar photos of themselves ? I, for one, have gotten rid or lost the majority of photographs of myself in various states of intoxication….Well, you get the point. I did find an interesting shot of me shooting pool with a cigg hanging out of my mouth and…no dice? I heard back from her again and we resumed a friendly banter. She advised me to watch the film “SherryBaby,” which is directed by the same lady who is filming “Sunlight.” I watched the film and understood what it was she wanted me to see. I really did understand what she was looking for and hoped to hear back from her that night. I am currently enrolled in four college classes, I work and volunteer at a local non-profit, so I wasn’t exactly sitting around doing nothing. I did hear back from her the next evening, but I had a speech class at 8:00 am the following day, so I was a bit worried about how I was going to pull off the audition plus all of my work…..but I made it happen…which leads me back to being asked whether or not I was indeed the Russian prostitute.
I was asked the question by a fellow actress who was there to audition for the role of a cardiologist. I had changed my clothes in a Starbucks bathroom and walked the three blocks to the audition destination wearing sea foam green pumps from the 80s, a pair of authentic black leather biker pants, and an old Harley tank top. I had my hair in pigtails and an American Spirit tucked behind one ear. I suppose it wasn’t my colorful outfit that gave me away as much as the blonde hair and blue eye shadow. I wasn’t sure, but would learn soon enough that I was indeed there to audition for the role of the Russian prostitute.
The casting director who I had been in contact with approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking off some of my makeup. At this point, I began to worry. Perhaps I didn’t understand what it was they were looking for. In any case, I was called in to audition and since I was not sent a script, I had to improv…. I learned that the scene in which I would be in (given that I got the part), would be shot with Matt Dillon’s character on the sidewalk in front of a bar. I was given a few lines which I spoke with as much confidence as possible.Since the character is Russian, I was very nervous about how I was going to sound. I made a joke about how much I loved Dostoevsky, which the older lady got right away and the young man with the tattoos and trucker hat sitting beside the camera pretended to get but didn’t. Anyhoo, after my take, I asked to do another one but was told by the casting team that “it was perfect, you do not need to go again.”They were both smiling and I left the building feeling encouraged and happy.
It has been a month and I have not heard back from the casting director. I am assuming they found someone else for the part which is OK. I told myself when I began taking acting classes at the age of 22, that I would never let myself be torn apart by disappointment… although I have certainly succeeded in doing just that in other areas of my life. I was hoping to meet Matt Dillon so I could tell him how much I admired him in “Drugstore Cowboy.” I first came across the film as a teenager and have been a fan of his work ever since. Of course there is “Rumble Fish” and “The Outsiders”. It would have been cool to have been in a scene with him, even if it was a small one. In any case, it was an interesting experience. It isn’t everyday that you get asked if you are a Russian prostitute….