There’s an actor on a talk show and he’s talking about the drug problems and the drink problems he’s had and how he’s now been clean and sober for the last seven years. The audience applaud and whoop and the host says ‘congratulations, really’ and the actor smiles, nods, says ‘thank you’, says ‘one day at a time’ and after he finishes speaking the audience applaud some more.
The host leans forward. ‘The life you led before, with the booze, with the drugs, how to you see it now? Do you regret it?’ The actor’s body is covered in half hidden tattoos, the skin tan from the Californian sun and when he speaks he has the charming self confidence of a long time recovered addict. ‘I lost years of my life in bedsits’ the actor says, ‘It wasn’t glamorous. More Leaving Las Vegas than Swingers’ he says with a laugh and the host laughs with him, ‘But I think it made me who I am’. The host shakes his head, says ‘Wow’, then asks a little more about his life back then. The actor tells another story of crack pipes and LA parties, drug dealers and champagne receptions.
As the actor speaks the squalid surroundings and disreputable acquaintances of his anecdotes begin to sparkle. The mythology of the Hollywood bad-boy shimmers and warps the words, and the latter day success lends an unintentional veneer of respectability to a dark and turbulent period. Each story becomes not wasted time but only time spent wasted; and the time spent wasted becomes a rite of passage, becomes a baptism of fire.
‘And then you became a movie star’ says the host, and the host laughs and the audience laugh with him and the actor smiles and laughs gently as well. ‘I was lucky’ he says. A hundred other actors, wannabe actors, jobbing actors, who underwent the same rite of passage and were later found with needles in their arms or vomit filling their throats. Lucky to be born handsome, think the audience, lucky to be charming and wealthy, lucky to be a movie star.
Then host moves on to talk about the actor’s latest film and the actor praises the director and then, with a chuckle and only a little prompting, begins to relate an amusing on-set anecdote.