May 13, 2004
3 Minutes With Brad
Brad Pitt may have sustained an injury during the filming of his new movie, "Troy," but I sustained an injury during the viewing of the film.
With 15 minutes left of the special preview screening, I had to go to the bathroom. I had been able to hold on through at least three battles for the kingdom of Troy, but finally my bladder surrendered to an army of Diet Cokes.
Desperate not to miss the end of the film, I ran to the restroom, which was mobbed. I needed a new battle plan, so I flew up the jumbo escalator to the floor above me, ran to the empty bathroom and sprinted back down the escalator, victorious. Too bad my pant leg got caught on the heel of my boot.
The downward momentum of the steps combined with my lost footing had me toppling forward, clutching the railing. My shin slammed into the moving metal steps below me, which made for a very stylish striped bruise. I can only piece together from a forensic reading of my wounds what happened next; there's a black and blue on my right shoulder, a few nicks on my left hip and one pant cuff that will never be the same.
Somehow, fueled by the need to catch the end of the movie so that Brad Pitt wouldn't hate me, I righted myself before somersaulting to certain destruction below.
As I was falling, so was Troy. I got back just in time to see the city burning and feel the shin bruising, but I got the idea.
Why the hurry? Why the intense, irrational fear that if I missed a moment of the film I would be removed from the television industry and perhaps the planet? It has to do with three minutes: the three I was scheduled to spend with Brad Pitt the following day.
As part of a "Troy" press junket at a New York City hotel, I was to interview the "Sexiest Man Alive" for exactly three minutes.
The day after the screening, journalists were lined up in the hotel hallway, perusing their notes, schlepping their purses and notebooks and waiting for an audience with Brad.
When it was my turn, I tried to act normal. This is just a guy, I told myself, reaching out my hand.
"I'm Teresa with 'Good Day Live,'" I said, as a sound guy clipped a microphone to my lapel.
"I'm Brad," he replied quietly.
Well, duh! I wanted to shout.
I talk to people for a living. And before I went pro, I had many conversations on the amateur level. It's not that difficult.
Still, the pressure of not saying anything stupid to offend his Royal Pittness, of leaving that three minutes without a decent interview, of letting down my employer, it all got to me. In the film, Pitt plays Achilles, and my weakness was never more apparent than strolling into that well-lit room. For me, it wasn't the deification of a celebrity that brought me down; it was the worshipping of that golden calf named perfection. Fear of failing had me blade to neck without a shield. My vision went blurry. A muscle in my neck stiffened.
I'm not sure how it went. I remember "Brad" laughing. I sensed some understandable boredom. I recall making the game-time decision to scrap my "Did you ever suffer from helmet head?" question.
By the time you read this, my interview will have aired, just another three minutes in the barrage of publicity about "Troy."
When I left Brad, competing thoughts speared my brain like angry Spartans: Brad hated me, Brad was amused by me. I couldn't process the experience. And that's where alcohol can be very useful.
Safely at the hotel bar with a scotch in my hand -- just one, because as mediocre as I am at chatting up celebrities, I'm just as half-baked at self-destruction -- I noticed another reporter swigging down her per diem. A former reality TV star, she seemed as confused and out of place as I did, but with better skin.
I wanted to corral her and start a post-junket support group.
"My name is Teresa and I doubt and dissect everything I do. The thought of turning in a sub-par performance makes me feel like there are bugs crawling all over my lungs. Is this seat taken?"
My interview, even if it had been the best celebrity suck-up in modern history, would not have healed the sick or raised the dead. I know I won't get thrown off the planet for being bland. I know that most of us mortals spend our lives in the middle ground, doing our best, neither shattering land speed records nor standing stock-still. That's life. It's that muscle in the back of my neck that knows nothing.
Luckily, if I forget I'm only human, I have those bruises on my Achilles shins to remind me.
Teresa Strasser writes from Manhattan where she is a feature reporter for Fox's "Good Day Live." She's on the Web at teresastrasser.com.