We worked together on the Ray Charles Diet Pepsi spot called AUDITION. Jerry gave the money to charity. He had a reputation for being difficult. I didn’t know what to expect.
He shows up (alone) and everyone hides. I greet him and he bellows out a ‘Hi Joe! How are yah?’ Ice broken. He looks at the video playback and says, ‘You know, I still get money from Panavision for that.’ Jerry had developed video playback when he began to direct himself in the fifties. We chatted a bit about that and some of the agency guys started to emerge from the dark places where they had been hiding.
‘Where’s the set?’
‘Around the corner past these flats.’
Jerry turns the corner and lets out a huge laugh.
‘THE BRILL BUILDING!’
I had the British production designer model the agent’s room that defined the spot after the Brill Building in New York, the classic agent’s building. Jerry picked up on it immediately, because that is where he had gotten his start.
Jerry understands the scene immediately and does the first take. I say you have to do it again. He asks why.
‘I was laughing so hard that I fell off the dolly and shook the camera.’
‘Do me a favor, stay away from the camera.’
Next take, perfect. He throws in an extra line and everyone cracks up.
Of course, somebody asks for a STUPID TAKE. A request that usually comes from fear, is thoughtless, illogical, and has nothing to do with what we need. I have what I need and more, so I cautiously ask Jerry to do what I’ve been asked to ask him. He asks me to repeat and I do.
‘What do you think?’
‘I’m a happy man. I have more than I need.’
‘Can they see us?’
‘Yeah, we’re on camera.’
‘Can they hear me?’
Jerry calls out asking them if that is indeed their request. Some voices come out of the darkness confirming it. Jerry gives the biggest Italian salute ever seen. There are a lot of nervous laughs that are drowned out by the big ones.
We shake hands, chat just a bit, and Jerry moves on after meeting the guys from the darkness.