May 2, 2004
‘We Will Rock You’ Casting
Binder Casting in NYC calls. They’re coming to LA to hold auditions for the American premiere of Queen’s We Will Rock You. It’s like Mamma Mia, in that it’s a show with their music, not a band biography. They’re seeking a fun/hip reader to read opposite the people auditioning. I figure, “sure, make a few extra bucks, meet a casting director, and it’s always educational to view the audition process from the other side of the table.” They’re hiring a different reader for each day of pre-reads, then they’ll decide who’s best for the callbacks. Sort of a reader audition. Odd.
So we’re doing the auditions, and some people are really great, and others. . . not. I’m having a great time, and it’s like watching an auditioning do’s and don’ts. One don’t I’m reminded of repeatedly: nearly every guy says something about how his voice “isn’t 100%”. “I’m getting over a cold” “It’s so early in the day” (that went on ALL DAY). Gimme a break. Just do the song. They just can’t admit they can’t hit those Freddy Mercury notes (hey, nothing to be embarrassed about!). Anyway, at the end, the lovely and adorably British casting director Sarah tells me she’d like me to do the callbacks. I made it! I got called back to be a reader again! Yay! Haha. Whatever.
So I go in, and this time I meet Mark, one of the casting directors. He says, “Nice to meet you” which is funny, bc I’ve actually auditioned for him a few times. But I figure, if my auditions were that forgettable, there’s no reason to remind him! Also present are Jay Binder and 2 of the British creatives from the production, Tony, the associate director (no idea what that means), and Mike, one of the music supervisors. One thing that strikes me is that many many actors come in and give Jay a big hug. I think “what gives?” but as I get to know Jay, I get the picture.
Everyone is super nice. And I’m really getting into a groove playing the different roles. It’s fun. Of course, the most fun is when I read the lead part of Galileo. And I’m actually pretty good at it (I even happen to know I CAN hit those Freddy Mercury notes). Alas, it’s a part that I could never play, as the description clearly states, “a sexy, appealing, James Dean Rebel Without a Cause type”. I mean, I’m not saying I’m unappealing, and sure, there’s been a string of women over the years who have found me sexy (why are you laughing?), but ultimately, you’re casting a rock musical, your lead ain’t brown. I mean I know I’m a pretty versatile guy, but I don’t know if anyone’s ever thought of me as a leading man type. Moving on.
At one point, Mark says, “Can you come to Vegas to be our reader there?”
“Well, we do have a Vegas reader, but you just have such a great range.” Um, sure. Wow, that’s pretty flattering.
And later, Mike Dixon says, “Amir, do you sing?”
“Well, you should audition for Galileo.”
You’re just being nice because I’m a nice guy and a good reader right?
“No, prepare the 2 songs by tomorrow. Go at the end of the day, after we’re done with everyone else.”
Okaaaay. Wow, that’s really cool. That’s really really cool. And the sweet thing is, I know I’ll do a good job. This is gonna be fun. But ya know, I’ll probably have a good audition, I’m sure they’ll be happy with my work and maybe keep me in mind for other projects, but ultimately, Me brown. Me no lead guy.
So the next day I come in, and the first couple people are late. And I’m really starting to get butterflies, bc I want to do good for them. So I say, hey guys, is it ok if I go right now? I kind of want to hurry up and do it.
“Oh yeah! Sure, yeah, you go Amir!”
I sing the first song, “I Want To Break Free”. Stunned, intense silence. Sort of a, this kid’s good. We may have something here.
“That was great Amir. Do the other song.”
“We Are The Champions.” This song is a BITCH. Here we go.
“…I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come THROUGH!!!!!” B flat. If you don’t know, that’s CRAZY high.
“We are the champions, WE (b flat again!) ARE THE CHAMPIONS, NO time for LOsers, cuz WE are the champions… OF THE WORLD!!!”
I totally nailed it. No stunned silence this time. Sheer jubilance. I thought they were gonna throw me a party. “Amir! That was great!” “And at 10:30 in the morning! Imagine how it’ll be after warm-ups! Fantastic! Fantastic!” “Mark, have you ever seen Amir before?” “No! No! This is fantastic!” “What a great surprise!” “What a great way to start the morning!”
“Amir, we’re going to fly you to Vegas. We want you to meet Queen and the rest of the creative team, and we’ll put you on tape for Robert DeNiro, one of the producers.”
Wow. OK. So the rest of the day goes on, and I’m pretty much on cloud 9. During one person’s audition, Jay passes me a note: “Did you audition for Bombay Dreams?” I nod yes (you can read about it here and here), and he angrily whispers, “Those fools!” Another funny thing is, from then on, after other Galileos audition, the guys won’t let me hear their discussion. So after every Galileo, they kick me out. Later, this girl Aspen auditions for the female lead. She is AWESOME. They discuss her, and Jay says, “See, there you go. She’s got the voice, she’s got the attitude, she can act, she has comic timing, but here’s what it boils down to: She’s a natural. Just like that boy that came in yesterday for Galileo, just like Ami. . . Amir, get out of here.” Woooooooooooooooooooow. Now that’s a compliment. I mean, assuming he was talking about me. So I come back in, and he explains, “I don’t want you getting a big head.” Too late, sucka!!! Haha. Oh, BTW, I also read for the role of Puff Daddy (no relation to the actual guy), the comedicly (sp?) pompous leader of the rebels. Small part. Slam dunk audition. That stuff I can do in my sleep.
I ask if they still want me to be their Vegas reader, and Mark says, “no, we don’t want to present you that way.” Cool. But it’s funny, I’m still thinking, no way they’re going brown. (Clearly I’ve got issues.)
So then I’m flown to Vegas. They put me up at the Paris, where the show is gonna be, BTW. Each auditioner has a 15 minute work session with Tony, to get them ready to meet the big big bigwigs. Then that night, I catch up with another auditioner, Bill Katt, who you may know as The Greatest American Hero. He’s trying out for Pop, and we have a really cool dinner at the Paris hotel’s Asian restaurant. Next day, it’s me and 4 white guys, including my bud David Brouwer, AKA Jesus’ Kid Brother. He’s freakin good. They are casting 2 Galileos, bc it’s 10 shows a week, and no one can sing like Freddy Mercury 10 times a week. So hey, I figure I have a 2/5 chance! Not bad! I hear they’re matching us up with girls later in the day, but no one in casting tells me that. So I go in, and there are like 14 people there, including Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen. Sooo cooool.
I sing my 2 songs, I do the 2 scenes. It goes pretty well. I mean, they actually applaud. The director gives me adjustments, I do it a few times. It’s all great. And then I do Puff Daddy, which also gets a fair amount of laughs. Good times. Brian May says, “Your audition was the most fun me ‘ad all day!”
And that’s it. But they don’t say anything about ‘later in the day’. So I figure. . . that’s it. I go hang at the pool with David. My phone rings. They want me back in half an hour. They're matching us up with girls. I change, and go back. Now it’s me and 2 other guys! Hey, I’m liking my odds. Finally, I really think I have a shot. I really think, hey, these fuckers might actually go brown! I mean, I’m sure I always had a shot, but this is the first time I really feel it. (again, issues). But then, not only am I last (not the best position, IMO), but I see who I’m matched up with. Uh-oh. Not that the girl ain’t talented or cool or very cute (cuz she IS), but she ain’t Aspen. She’s taller and sweeter than I feel like they’re thinking for the role, and she tells me that as far as she knows, she’s only auditioning for the understudy. So I’m thinking, ahh, we’re the reject couple. Well, maybe we’ll be understudies. We go in, and we do it like 20 times. But each time, they only have adjustments for her. It’s almost like I’m the reader. I get the picture. And they keep saying “You’re such good actors! Good actors!” I don’t know, there’s something that seems backhanded about the compliment. Almost like “You’re so wrong for the part! But you’re trying so hard!”. HAHA. I mean I guess alternatively I could look at it like, “You’re not what we had in mind, but you’re talented enough that we’re seriously considering you.” I guess that’s more generous. Well anyway, I go back to my room, and that night, I fly home. A pretty great experience all around.
Couple days later, agent calls. They’re flying me BACK to Vegas. I’m no longer being considered for Galileo, but I’m to do Puff again, and I’m to prepare 2 other roles that I might understudy. First, Khashoggi, the big bad mean murderous chief-of-police guy (similar to the role of Pilate I recently played). He’s in his 30s, a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly doable. Second, they also want me to read for Pop, the crazy old hippie guy! He’s at least in his 50s. Are they for real?? I guess it’s true, I really am a “good ACTOR!” Well, I fly in, go straight to the auditions, and rock the house on all 3 parts. Khashoggi, incidentally, has to hit a high C, which again, not easy. But it goes well, and I go straight back to LA.
BTW, this is all in the week leading up to my lab show at the Groundlings. So I’m kinda goin crazy. It’s a miracle I passed lab, considering how distracted I musta been, and considering I had fewer sketches in consideration for the show, since I had to miss a couple classes.
A couple days after my lab show, agent says they want me for Puff, plus the understudy to Khashoggi and Pop. What’s really cool is that I was the first person to be given an offer. Everyone else had to be approved by like Deniro or whatever, but for me, they fast-tracked it I guess. The money isn’t much more than the minimum, but the minimum is pretty darn good, and plus they’re gonna put me up in corporate housing and give me like $200 a week for food. So after a few weeks of back and forth, I’ve decided to accept the offer. And I just found out they didn’t cast ANY of the guys that were there that day as Galileo. In fact, they’re still looking. I guess there’s a certain something they’re looking for, and they’re just not finding it.
I’m a bit ambivalent about taking the job. I’m disappointed that they didn’t show me more respect (ie money!!), but I guess that’s economics. And it appears that I won’t be able to do any film/TV on the side -- the show is gonna be super time consuming. But, the money’s great, I’m young and single and Vegas is not bad for young singles, and the show and the town are gonna be FUN. It’s funny, I actually made a new year’s resolution to party more this year. I guess I’ll definitely have the opportunity! I’m sort of looking at it as the frat experience I never had: plenty of good looking young people living in close quarters, and lots of readily available booze. Of course, knowing my luck, 80% of the girls in the show will be engaged (it’s a FUCKING EPIDEMIC!!!), but hopefully, I’ll be able to meet other people too. Haha, hopefully. But really, I’m looking forward to it, and they’re giving me time off to go to the Onion Movie premiere in December. And I’ll be back in LA next year. I’m gonna miss my friends and career here, but what better time to do this than right now, before I have a wife or kids or a steady job?
The contract starts June 21. The show opens in late August / early September. You’re invited. I’m hoping to have one of you on my couch at all times. Vegas, here I come!
May 7 postscript: Remember “reject girl” who I read with in the final callbacks? Well, she got the part. Shows what I know!! HA! I’m an idiot.
2005 postscript: I was reading this and reminiscing, and I thought I'd mention something humorous -- as it turned out, EXACTLY 80% of the chicks in my cast were indeed taken. And by the end of my contract, 0% were taken by me. Curse my luck.