Monday, May 25, 2009

Welcome to Buzzsaw

In the early 90s, while I was finishing a book on consciousness, the circus came to town.

Actually it wasn't the circus, but a Hollywood movie company that intended to use Boulder Creek as a set for a movie called "Welcome to Buzzsaw". The movie featured Matthew Broderick (who recently starred in the Broadway revival of "The Producers") and Jeffrey Jones (whom I will always remember as the delightfully clueless Emperor in "Amadeus").

In "WTB" Broderick plays a stockbroker who is a genius among New York hustlers but is completely out of his depth in the rural logging town of Buzzsaw. Jeffrey Jones plays both the popular mayor of Buzzsaw and his Evil Twin who had broken out of jail, murdered his brother, whom he was now impersonating for the 24 hours it would take him to scoop up the mayor's liquid assets and get out of town. Some of the movie's funniest lines occur as Evil Twin Jeffrey Jones tries to pass as the Good Twin mayor at home with the mayor's wife and two kids.

As the technicians were transforming Boulder Creek beyond recognition into Buzzsaw, the casting director went looking for extras. On a whim I auditioned and was chosen for the role of bank president. After the shoot, the president of our local bank told me that he thought I made a more impressive bank president than he did. And I didn't just sit behind a desk. While I was processing a loan, Jeffrey Jones pulls a gun, holds us all hostage, robs my bank, and leaps out of a (closed) window into the street. I couldn't say a word because they'd have had to pay me extra and I'd also have to join the union. One of the hostages--the lady I was interviewing for a loan--was one of the few extras with a speaking part and I stood next to her silently watching as Jeffrey Jones verbally intimidates her.

It was a lot of fun to work on the movie, hang out with the actors and observe all the problems that had to be solved to shoot the simplest scenes. One scene was shot in the rain outside a bar. The rain was produced artificially by sprinklers on big booms. If it had really rained, the director said, they'd have to cancel the shoot because the cameras would get wet. One of the oddest sights in more than a month of oddities for me was the crew cafeteria. We were all fed marvelous food under a big tent with cooks and waitresses imported from Hollywood who wore T-shirts with shoulder pads, a style statement truly impressive to the hillbilly denizens of Buzzsaw.

Some of the best scenes were cut, including an attempt by Jones to kill Broderick with a falling tree. My friend and alpaca rancher Fred Keesaw brought the tree down for this one but Fred's logging artistry never made it to the big screen. After serious editing the title was changed to "Out on a Limb" but the movie never really held together and quickly transited from theater to DVD. O yes, my scenes were kept intact. But you'll have to look quick to catch Buzzsaw bank president Nick Herbert's 16 seconds of big-screen fame.


metaphormessiah said...

Yes sir, I recall that month of mayhem well - the transformation of Joe's Bar, the firehouse, the shoots at Johnnie's parking lot -

I recall the pervasive sense of letdown by the locals when the mangled version hit the screen; how much of that footage ended up on the cutting floor is anyone's guess -

If only you had been able to utter one single line, it might have saved the movie from quasi-oblivion!

Joseph II said...

And there it is...

nick herbert said...

Simply brilliant, your Highness.