I approached Russ Tamblyn first to play the main character of my audio-book Rock Star Rising. Audio with Kindle $2.99: http://goo.gl/OEcIR3
I'd been a fan of his, even before West Side Story. I enjoyed him in Tom Thumb and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grim. His athletic ability in dance and action scenes really excited me.
Then West Side Story followed soon after and I became a lifelong fan. I was lucky in the fact that Russ had just come back from a one year world tour with Neil Young. Russ had done all the choreography for the large show, directing new dancers in each city.
By the way, Elvis Presley sought out Russ' help for his dance routine in Jailhouse Rock.
My agent submitted the script for the project to him and after reading it, he said yes right away. He even volunteered to get a copy of the script to George Chakiris to play the part of a Puerto Rican gangster. It was an unplanned dream to possibly have both leaders of "The Jets" and "The Sharks" in my project.
I assured Russ that I had written the novel six years before thinking of doing this project, so I didn't write the Puerto Rican part, to get the two of them together for the first time since West Side Story. I had to wait for Russ to attend various premiers of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, starring his daughter Amber Tamblyn, before I could set a date with him to record, but the wait was well worth it.
In the recording studio Russ was totally prepared and ready to go with all the actors he had to work with. His character is the would be writer who goes in search of "Shane" a dead rock star (played by James Darren).
This meant that he would be the one that would meet up with all the other characters. So he had a lot of scenes to prepare for. Of course, being an audio-book, the actors would have their scripts in front of them. But I wanted this to be a performance and not a reading, so that actors had to see their lines and then "live them".
I scheduled Russ for four hours of recording starting with George and continuing throughout the day with other actors coming in and out, sometimes having as many a four actors in the recording booth. Thank God it was large enough, as four mikes had to be set up with the actors given room to do what ever body language they wanted.
Russ and George had met on their own before the recording day, to go over their lines and make some changes to make the words more suitable to their ears. I encouraged this from the start, as I not only wanted the best performance possible, but I wanted to record a part of the actors personality as well as their character's.
Russ was calmly professional and had to task of making his easy going character of Alan, come off strong as he meets up with many intimidating characters. Strong women as well as gangsters. In many cases his only defense is his sarcasm. This Russ did perfectly, playing strength in the midst of fear.
After I was finished recording George, I had many of the actors standing by and asked Russ if he preferred to do the remaining scenes in continuity. I was surprised when he said, "No, let's just run all the scenes of each actor at once." This saved us about an hour of re-set up time.
After we finished, I told Russ, "I really learned something today. Even though, it might help the actor to do it in continuity, it's best for energy of performance to finish the main actors scenes with each of the supporting actors first."I planned the rest of the recordings with the star actors that way.
During breaks, Russ answered my questions about scenes from his movies. And when I mentioned DeMile's Samson and Delilah made when he was around 12 years old, he mentioned this: In the movie he has his sling shot tied around his head and tries to rescue Samson. Russ said, "Even now, when I get ready to leave the house my wife usually says, 'Did you remember to bring your sling shot?' "
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