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The Making of Cannibal! The Musical, by Jason McHugh


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Chapter 9 - The Casting Blur

For the most part, our film had been cast during our financing stage. There were, however, a few roles left. Most importantly, the role of our heroine Polly Prye, who was to have been played by Moira Kelly. It was early March by the time we put out a casting call out for open auditions. This call was reasonably successful; we had about fifty people audition for us.

From the auditions we cast the evil District Attorney, and although no one nailed the part of Polly Prye, there were a few people we wanted to call back.

One of these aspiring actresses was quite motivated. She obtained our phone number and inquired about the role and the director. She described her acting talent, experience, and aspirations on the phone, and she knew how to lay it on thick. The next day she invited Trey out to lunch. While inviting him to lunch, she didn't hesitate to make some less than subtle sexual suggestions for after lunch plans.

This was unreal -- she was trying to put Trey on the casting couch. And although the free food and sex would have been helpful in this needy time, this actress was not as wholesome as we had hoped for the part of Polly Prye.

On St. Patrick's Day, a bunch of us gathered in our crappy little office to have a meeting and hang out. We were later joined by our associate Ted Henwood, who brought his friend Toddy and a bottle of Bushmills.

Toddy was an actress-singer-songwriter, and she came ready to audition. I knew Toddy and had cast her in one of my shorts, but she was just meeting the rest of the group. Instead of relying on a standard monologue, she sang us one her original tunes a capella, and managed to impress the entire room. Both the singer and the song were beautiful, and everyone was stoked. We toasted her audition with Bushmills. The next day everybody agreed that Toddy was very talented, but we weren't absolutely sure she was "right" for the role.

So our call-backs continued, until finally the process came to a head. That was the day Trey ate acid for lunch. (It's not just for breakfast anymore.) Trey had been stomping all over town after having eaten this Chips Ahoy cookie that had been spiked with liquid acid; Matt was with him, and had gotten hold of the magic cookies, too. I bumped into them downtown, and they were so stoked to see me that they acted as if we were running into each other at random in a foreign country, instead of two blocks away from our office.

They couldn't stop talking about this big fat black guy they had run into, who kept saying "Watch the children, ya'll gots to watch the children." They kept putting their hands out pretending they were in some fat suit, and then they'd say, "Watch the Children," a few times until they were laughing hysterically. I'm still not sure if they actually ran into someone specific or not, but the description of the watch-the-children man became more and more outrageous as the weeks passed by. I guess that was the birth of Chef!

Anyway, I told Trey that we had to run a few call-backs later that night and Trey nearly crapped his pants, but I convinced him that we shouldn't cancel.

So later that night, Trey turned up at our crappy little office for our call-backs. One of our two scheduled call-backs canceled, so we met with just one actress. She was quite together and professional, while we were scattered and floundering. I attempted to read opposite her while Trey attempted to videotape the scene.

Every time we started the scene, he would start laughing or I would. Just watching Trey trip his face off while we read this scene for him made me laugh and he was laughing cause he was tripping his face off and trying to videotape us trying to do this scene.

Eventually we overcame our focus problems and laughing attacks and made it through the audition.

Moments after the actress left us in our crappy little office, Trey described to me how upon initial eye-contact, he envisioned the actress as a skeleton of herself.

This had clearly freaked him out -- such are the vagaries of the casting process. Trey then proceeded to tell me that throughout the audition he had a vision of Toddy in the leading role. The next day, Toddy Walters happily accepted the part of Polly Prye!

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