April 28, 2011
“Sir, would you mind moving across the street? You were in the last shot.”
Standing beneath an umbrella, I peered through the mist at the front entrance of the old Tedeschi Food Shops which had been transformed into a fictitious car rental office. Its aisles had been gutted and restocked with high-end audio-visual equipment, hipsters with headsets, and famous faces.
Ted was in town.
With Seth MacFarlane at the helm and Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis leading the bill, the film kicked off principal photography in Boston’s Back Bay. I had been monitoring the shoot throughout the day on Twitter and, if the production assistant I just asked was to be believed, they were wrapping shortly. The timing would be good—the clouds were holding the rain and I would get home for dinner, avoiding any storminess on that front.
Crew members dismantling the craft services tent on an adjacent street corner raised my alert level. I checked my vitals: Sharpies holstered, bag unzipped and photos at the ready, head still dry. When the massive flood light illuminating the interior set flicked off, I made my move. Weaving between the slowed traffic, I positioned myself ten yards from the entrance, now an exit for a swarm of cast and crew members spilling out onto the sidewalk. I scanned their faces robotically, never pausing on one for more than a half-second. Next to me, a black SUV sat idling without a driver. It would all be over a minute from now.
Mark Wahlberg headed straight for the SUV wearing the white button-down and khakis I saw earlier in the day in a blurry fan photo posted on Twitter. I whipped out an 8×10 still from The Fighter and asked him to sign. He changed direction quickly and took my Sharpie. I asked him to make it out to a cousin of mine who lives in Sicily who had asked me to bring her a famous actor’s autograph from America when my wife and I visit in October. Wahlberg was far less interested in the story than the spelling of her name, signed quickly, and hopped in the driver’s seat of the SUV and took off when the light turned green.
When I turned back to the doors, MacFarlane was already outside and heading toward a small group of crew members who had assembled among the prop cars in the rental parking lot.
“Mr. MacFarlane, can I please have your autograph?”
He paused, looking confused. “You want my autograph?”
“Yeah. Can you please make it out to Matt?”
“Um, ok,” he said, taking my 8×10. “I thought you were with the movie and had a question.”
I lingered for a few more minutes looking for familiar faces but saw none. Macfarlane headed back my way and I thought about asking for a picture but held my ground. He hopped in a town car and left and I headed in the opposite direction on foot. I wouldn’t be reheating my dinner tonight.
3 more observations from my experience graphing the Ted set:
- Mark Wahlberg is known to carry his own black Sharpie and, while I knew he wouldn’t have one on him coming off set, I thought using one would improve my chances. Incidentally, I’ve seen him sign with blue since this encounter.
- I had heard that Seth MacFarlane gets annoyed when asked to do a sketch beneath his autograph (although he has done them—in all examples I’ve seen it has been Stewie from Family Guy). While it would have added interest to my 8×10, I would never make that request knowing his feelings. Incidentally, I recently saw one personalized autograph and sketch he gave to a collector which began, “To eBay…”
- Mila Kunis didn’t begin filming for several more days and I headed to the South End on May 2 to see her in person. After the shoot wrapped, she left in a black van without signing an autograph. A few weeks later Ted turned up in South Boston across the street from my office for a one-day shoot at Lucky’s Lounge, a favorite happy hour spot. Heading into work I passed a line of trailers, saw one with a sign reading “Lori”—Kunis’s character—and parked myself about twenty feet away hoping to catch her on the way to the set. There were only two other people around—a PA and a bald security guard named Jerry who I heard was the gatekeeper to getting anything signed. A few days earlier he had helped a fellow collector out who was up front but polite about just wanting one graph. I saw the trailer door was ajar and knew there would be action soon. This was confirmed when the PA approached me and asked me to move along because there were “a lot of trucks moving in and out of this area.” Even right here on the sidewalk? I knew what was up and I was honest with him about my intentions. I wasn’t here to get in anyone’s way. I wasn’t here to profit from an autograph. I just wanted an opportunity to ask Mila. If she says no, she says no. I offered to speak to Jerry myself but the PA waved me off.
“Just stay right here, I’ll talk to him.”
While they talked I did my best to look like a guy who just happened to work in the area who had stopped to get a glimpse of a movie star—which was almost entirely true.
The PA returned, “He said she isn’t signing today. I’m not sure if we’ll still be here tomorrow but you can try again then.”
But I knew they wouldn’t be here tomorrow. I thanked him anyway and walked twenty yards to the office, opened the door and went to work.