My life as an actor, part one
By Simon Barget
Sometimes a script so bizarre comes along you’ve just got to take it. It seems to leave a physical trace. I took one only two days ago. The main character is American, actually no, he’s Canadian and he’s called Dufferin, and Dufferin ends up getting held hostage.
There are three main characters, Dufferin and his kidnappers. But it’s not a regular balaclava kidnapping, it starts off more like a road-trip between friends, but before Dufferin knows it, the three of them are miles away from Tampa -- where he’s from -- and the film’s opening scene depicts Dufferin waking up in the back of this enormous RV, where he has this rear section all to himself, and Dufferin has been asleep for so long he can hardly remember setting off, he can hardly remember who his travelling companions are and when and if he even agreed to go on the road trip in the first place.
The premise of the film is this: the two kidnappers won’t go anywhere without Dufferin. They won’t let him out of the van. But they won’t hurt him either and there’s no great reason for keeping him; there’s no money in it or anything. And Dufferin is not the brightest of sparks. He’s not even sure if he’s from Tampa or Toronto. It’s something with a ‘T’. It’s not clear why he’s so confused, whether it’s memory loss or just sheer stupidity.
And the two guys are up front in the cabin just relaxing and driving, chatting away, not paying Dufferin much attention, just secure in the knowledge that he’s there in the back. And Dufferin can see they’re in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in South Carolina maybe, around there at least — he’s just starting to get his bearings — in any case miles and miles away from any place he knows, and though it’s nice to be in the open country, he doesn’t like the lack of control and he wants to know when he can go back home even if he’s not quite sure where that is. He wants to go home.
And though it appears that these two guys have completely waylaid him, they’re not threatening at all. All they want is to drive on. They want Dufferin for company. They’re more eccentric than anything else, but you never know from reading the script when they might turn on poor Dufferin. I won’t give it away but you never know when they’ll flip. They’re not going to make it easy for him to get away, that’s for certain.
One of the first scenes is particularly shocking and that scene made me want to take it. Dufferin manages to scramble out of the RV desperately trying to get away, but as soon as he makes it out on the road, one of the guys is just there in front of him, as if by magic, just waiting for Dufferin’s next move and the man is just standing there in poor old Dufferin’s way knowing that Dufferin is paralysed and doesn’t really have the power to move. Something about the ineffectualness of this person I find enthralling. The other thing about these two guys is that they actually want Dufferin to have what he wants but they’re unable to allow it, some other force governs them so they can’t comply with his wishes. And there’s even a phone booth in the back of the vehicle which Dufferin keeps making calls on, trying to establish where he is, trying to make contact with his friends, trying to make known he’s in some sort of trouble.
But back to this scene with Dufferin standing on some crossroads Palookaville, Carolina. He realises that as soon as he tries to actually escape, they’re not going to let him; then all of a sudden this new guy appears out of nowhere, a man who wants to really help Dufferin, and this guy is even more weird than the two travelling companions, the script says: ‘thin gaunt, effete and spindly, mid-30’s, straggly hair pulled back in pony-tail, thinning and receding at top so large parts of scalp visible’, this guy is so strange and creepy and he tells Dufferin he will help him, in what to this new guy is the most normal run-of-the-mill thing way the world, what he proposes to do is to throw acid in the kidnappers’ faces. And this course of action is so horrifying to Dufferin and as much as he pleads with this straggly man to do anything else, the first man is insistent on throwing acid, and Dufferin doesn’t want him to, because it’s so disproportionate to the seriousness of the offence, which isn’t really very serious at all, perhaps they’ve just mildly drugged Dufferin and just want him around, plus he was asleep all that way anyway, but I won’t give it away, you might want to see when it comes out.
I have to say, lastly, that I don’t claim to know exactly what the point the film is making; I just know there’s something in it. Maybe Dufferin represents the part in us we feel we are missing, and to such an extent that we’ll do anything to hold on to it. Maybe Dufferin is symbolic that we don’t know who or what we are. A nowhere man. But I can assure you that as much time as you spend going through these scripts trying to work out what they mean, it’s all just a role in the end, take it or leave it. I’m not saying it’s a choice to be taken lightly because you spend so much time in the role and you wouldn’t want to waste time with a bad one.