When Whatshisname Met the Girl From That One Movie

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about how my sisters and I sometimes cast movies of our lives with real actors. It’s good wholesome fun and an alternative to drinking gin when the power goes out.

For me, it’s a day-long activity, because I can never remember the actual name of the actor. So any brilliant ideas I have for who can play our cousins or old neighbors get all bogged down in me trying to describe who I’m thinking of. I can remember every movie, TV show and early-career commercial he ever did, who he was married to - all of them - and the quirky things he’s been exposed for in Star. And I don’t even read Star. But his actual name? Sometimes I can come up with a letter.

“I think there’s a B in his name. Somewhere. Or maybe it’s an M. Or a vowel.”

Very frustrating. When you’re trying to tell your husband what movie you want from Blockbuster and all you can come up with is: It costars that black-haired guy who was photographed on the red carpet once with that funny blond girl who was in that movie about the thing that happened . . . and she’s rich but her boyfriend’s in a coma . . . My husband is in the car, at the red light, ready to turn into the Blockbuster plaza before you’ve got it narrowed down to the fact that the actor’s first wife’s new husband’s costar named his baby after a car part.

Some years ago, my oldest son and I were buying him clothes in Structure and when we got up to the register to check out, the guy behind the counter, wishing to give the sales commission to the person who unlocked the dressing room door for us, said, “Did anyone help you today?”

I looked around and couldn’t see our helpful salesman, so I decided to describe him.

“Yeah, um, he has light hair, kind of a scrunched up face, teeth all the same size . . .” Well that wasn’t working. The guy was cute, actually, but he was coming off like some kind of gargoyle. Then it occurred to me that I could use my power of Hollywood similes.

“He looks like that actor. You know, the one who was in that movie.”

The Structure guy is turning his head to the side and squinting. He’s working hard to come up with the name of an actor. In a movie.

“You know, the movie was about a smart kid who was in a blue-collar job and his friend - Oh! his friend is his friend in real life, too! And they’re from Boston, and the one guy is a genius, but they get into bar fights and . . . the friend, the friend, you know, the friend was in that other movie where a meteor is going to hit the earth and he’s dating the daughter of the oil rig guy and in real life she’s the daughter of that singer with the huge mouth . . . “

The Structure guy is squinting so hard and making the biggest skepticism face I’d ever seen. “We have a salesman that looks like Ben Affleck?”

“No, but yes! Good! That’s the friend! In the movie and in real life.” Work with me, Structure man, we’re still a couple steps away from the winning answer. We’re getting closer.

After describing the entire story lines of Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Shakespeare in Love, Saving Private Ryan and several John Wayne movies (just for fun), not to mention singing and air-guitaring an Aerosmith song, my work was rewarded.

When he finally shouted, “Matt Damon!” we were both so happy we jumped up and down and high-fived each other across the counter.

And guess what? They did have a salesman who looked like Matt Damon. Structure Guy knew immediately who I was talking about. Of course, his shift was long over and he probably didn’t get the commission. My son had wandered off to the massaging chairs in Brookstone and may have grown out of the clothes we were buying.

An advice columnist recently suggested that a woman who complained that she could never remember names should associate them with movie stars. “A Jennifer becomes Jennifer Lopez. James is James Dean. And I have found that even if you can’t think of an association, just brainstorming about it sets the name into your mind.”

Ho-ho! Right! That would definitely not work for me. All it would do is add more degrees of separation from the original person whose name I need to remember. I could, however, do it backwards. When trying to think of a movie star’s name, I could try to associate it with a real person that I know. Then, when casting my movie, I’d already have some good ideas.

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