Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brief Encounter: Keanu Reeves' elbow and my boob

This is why I will never be an extra in a movie ever again.

The summer I turned 21, my marathon training group was asked to be in a film with Keanu Reeves called "Thumbsucker." We were told to dress for October weather. When we arrived on the set at 7 am, we stretched and waited for instructions. I wore Lolita heart-shaped sunglasses, thinking I might be a little more conspicuous in the film. Keanu Reeves emerged from his trailer, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. The people in my group burst into applause and I imitated them, but with less enthusiasm. I liked Keanu Reeves in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," but I fell asleep during "The Matrix," and I usually need a reason to applaud.

"I hope you're all having a thumb-sucking good time," Keanu Reeves said.

We all laughed, as if he had said something funny, but maybe we were just surprised to hear his actual voice. I took in Keanu Reeves' bedraggled appearance. His shoulder-length hair looked greasy, his skin looked sickly, and his face and physique looked haggard. I wasn't expecting him to be wearing a tuxedo, but I expected him to look presentable. This is why I would hate to be famous. People expect celebrities to look good all the time.

Keanu Reeves said, "I don't know how to run," and a couple guys in the group showed him the proper form. I watched him pump his arms, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. As he lumbered along, wheezing with every step, it was hard to believe he was ever in a movie called "Speed."

For the scene, we all had to run uphill across a finish line and let Keanu Reeves beat us. Spectators cheered from the sidelines. After hours of running in the heat, the people in my group were growing bitter and a rumor circulated about how those extras were getting paid. Hmph! We grumbled about how we weren't getting anything for our trouble, and we were doing real work.

Getting defeated by Keanu Reeves repeatedly started to wear on me. He ran so slowly and was so unconvincing as an athlete, I was skeptical as to whether this scene would even be used in the movie. The sunlight was shifting and I thought, unless some camera tricks were applied, this day would not pass for a day in October.

I blamed Keanu for the length of time it took to film the scene. Every time I saw him getting sprayed with fake sweat, my anger swelled. After crossing the finish line, we would have to run back to the starting point while Keanu Reeves was driven back in a car. After a few hours I snapped. I ran as fast as I could, trying to catch up with Keanu Reeves. I passed everyone I was supposed to stay behind. I was gaining on him, but he still passed the finish line before me. He knelt down and did a victorious elbow jab, hitting me right in the boob. I rubbed my boob and looked at him aghast, and he just stared blankly at me. I ran back to the starting point and did the scene again. Nobody said anything to me about running too fast. I think everyone had stopped caring and just wanted to go home.

During dinner with friends last night, the conversation somehow transitioned from tornadoes to celebrities. One girl said, "I haven't met any famous people."

"I've met a few famous people," I said. "I met Guillermo del Toro, and Christopher Hitchens and Julia Sweeney, the woman who played Pat on Saturday Night Live." Then I suddenly remembered, "Oh yeah, and Keanu Reeves elbowed me in the boob once."


  1. I really enjoy your writing, Meriwether--I actually feel like using an exclamation point to express my appreciation. ! (P.S. yes, I have had a few cocktails tonight. But my thoughts here are completely sincere)

  2. :) Thanks so much!

  3. thanks for sharing.