"BRIAN SAID, 'PUT THE SCRIPT DOWN, LET'S JUST IMPROVISE'"
This past April, Rob Paulsen spoke to Dan Roberts about his small but memorable role in Brian De Palma's Body Double. This week, Paulsen provides even more details to A.V. Club's Will Harris:
Oh, dear. [Laughs.] That is an interesting story, actually. My son was coming along, and I remember that my agent called me—I was still doing live-action stuff at that point—and said, “Hey, Brian De Palma wants you to come in and read for him.” And I said, “Wow! That’s pretty cool!” I don’t know how the hell he knew who I was, but I was happy to do that, because he had actually just come off of directing Scarface, and Scarface had a lot of press that was very… [Hesitates.] Not criticizing, really. I mean, the movie got pretty good notices, and it was a successful movie. But [De Palma] had gotten a lot of reviews that suggested that the violence of Scarface should’ve made it an X-rated movie. Mind you, this was 28 years ago, so the stuff that was considered racy or violent then was nothing compared to what it is now. I read an article in the L.A. Times where Brian De Palma said, “You know what? Screw those people. If they want an X-rated movie, I’ll give ’em one!” And that movie was Body Double.
I remember going to audition for Body Double, and I read for a different role, and when I went in, I read the part, and Brian said, “Put the script down, let’s just improvise.” And I’m comfortable with that, so we did. And by the time I got home, I had a message on my machine from my agent, saying, “Hey, Brian loved you! He doesn’t necessarily want you for the part he read you for, but he really loved you and wants to use you. It’ll be three or four days.” And I said, “Oh, great!” Mind you, I was in my late 20s at the time, Brian De Palma was a big deal, and it was a Columbia Pictures movie, his first movie after Scarface. So they just said, “Your call time is such and such, you’re going way down on Melrose, way past Hollywood. It’s Melrose and Heliotrope, it’s an abandoned warehouse, and you’re going to shoot your stuff there.”
So I drove down there, and they said, “Your scenes are going to be with Craig Wasson and Melanie Griffith, the stars of the film.” And I remember Steve Burum was the director of photography, a very well-known and excellent DP, and, of course, De Palma’s there, too. Now, I knew that the movie had something to do with the adult-movie business, but I didn’t know that I was going to be involved in the parts that were directly involved in the adult-movie business. [Laughs.] But when I got down there, they just kind of handed me the script and said, “You’re this guy.” And then the guy that was playing the director in the adult movie was Al Israel, a really intense actor who got a lot of notices for being the chainsaw guy in Scarface. So I was already thinking, “Wow, this is really weird…” And then as I was getting ready to do my scenes, they brought Melanie and Craig in, and then they also had a bunch of extras who were real adult-movie actors, and… It was all just really bizarre for a young man from Flint, Michigan. [Laughs.] I mean, I’d already been out here for about five years or so by that point, but it was still pretty disconcerting. But I didn’t have the guts to say, “I can’t do this.” I don’t think it was purely discomfort. It was a little bit of consternation, but also going, “Wow, what the hell is going on here?”
So these folks were all in various stages of undress, and Melanie was very uncomfortable with all of the people there, so the only crew that were allowed on the set were the DP, Brian De Palma, and… that was it, actually. The rest of us were actors. And it was a very odd circumstance. They shot more than [they] ended up [using]. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. [Laughs.] I was on the movie for three days, and I remember coming home and telling my wife, “Wow, that was a bizarre experience. At least I know I’m making some diaper money, but it was pretty wild.” Luckily, I didn’t have to take off my clothes. Nobody’s going to want to see me naked, anyway. Trust me.
Years later, my son was about 16, he had a bunch of buddies over, and they were watching movies. I’d already gone to bed, and he came in and said [whispers loudly], “Hey, Dad!” He woke me up, and I said, “Yeah! You okay?” He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh… Were you in a movie called Body Double?” And I heard my wife immediately laugh. He and his buddies were watching Body Double, and they saw me. Then he said, “That was so cool!” I said, “It wasn’t really that cool, buddy, but…” [Laughs.] So it came back to haunt me. And it shows up every now and then in articles like this or whatever. But, hey, if you decide to be in show business or politics, your life is an open book. So I have no problem with people asking about it. I suppose it’s a left-handed compliment: When you achieve a certain modicum of celebrity—and I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but other people do—your past is available. Whether it hurts you or helps you, it’s all fair game.