He discussed the demands of screen acting. "Minute changes in that 40-foot image of a face tell everything to a movie audience, so the worst thing is to act, to overdo it. Screen acting is subtlety, it's containment. The camera digs out what is really there. It makes a cruel joke of what is fake." The steam thickened. Towne loomed out of it, a Biblical specter, droplets on his beard, while he spoke, then receded while I pondered. The key seemed to be in the ability to let go for a time, to allow natural responses to break through and inform one's lines with thought, with genuine reaction. "It will be my job to spur you, or soften you, or maybe infuriate you," he said, "so that what the camera sees is real. But I won't violate you."
My anticipated throes of embarrassment weren't realized, as the film crew adopted a professionally humane attitude. They ignored me. Stage 11 was a cold, cavernous barn with little green dressing rooms and dozens of lights shining on a Universal machine and a set of weights. The work taught me the basic pattern of developing a scene. First a "master" was done, a wide angle shot that records the whole of the action, and into which the later closeups and other angles can be cut. The demands of the weightlifting kept the demands of the acting to a minimum. Mariel had trained well. Seventy pounds was on the barbell we had to bench press six times apiece, take after take, all day, and I got wobbly before she did, which was the way the scene was written. "Life imitating art imitating life," said Towne happily.
Mariel and I sat together during a break. "You're doing great," she said. She was 18 and, though she often seemed preternaturally mature, now the bubbly kid had taken over.
Nearby, observing us, paced several stunning actresses waiting to try out for the part of Tory. "They are visions," I said, "but there is something troubling to me about their obvious hunger to put themselves forward."
"I know," she said. Mariel herself had been drawn into films when she was 13, not by burning ambition but by a director's need to find a little sister for Margaux Hemingway in Lipstick. What better than the real thing? "This is not," she said, "what I want to do for my entire life." Regarding the transparently eager actresses, she observed, "Sometimes there's a Catch-22. Sometimes someone who wants to do this desperately kind of prevents it from happening. But someone who is relatively indifferent"—she patted my knee—"can walk right in."
A couple of days later, the printed takes were ready. The whole crew trooped up some stairs to projection room 6. I thought I was calm, equally able to accept any verdict.
"Stop grinding your teeth," said Donnelly.
My first sharp impression as the images lit the screen was that there had been a cruel trick. That man wasn't me. The jolt was comparable to when, as a child, I first heard my voice played back on a tape recorder, but this was far more potent. I was comically knock-kneed. The closeups were excruciating, my eyes seeming to be on the verge of rolling out of my head. My leisurely pace of talk seemed a speech impediment. There was laughter. In the last few takes I just concentrated on watching Hemingway, who is beautiful.
The lights came up and people crowded around. Towne, astonishingly, shoved them aside and hugged me hard, saying there was no going back now, that he had just learned a lot about how to use Hemingway and me. I walked out in a kind of icy, consternated disbelief. Discovered.
The pentathlon was on the opening day of the Olympic Trials. Frederick aggravated a hamstring injury before the long jump and withdrew. Jodi Anderson won the event with a near-American-record 4,697 points.