Every Celebrity Encounter I’ve Ever Had: Ranked

kate6

13. When I was 16, I lined up behind a white ribbon in order to get close to the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Kate Winslet. This was before her Oscar, but after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had informed me of the sort of person I should be trying to be: the type who wears an orange sweatshirt, dyes her hair constantly, inexplicably collects potatoes, and does impulsive things like eat from a dude’s plate at a party in order to establish intimacy (note: I have tried all of these things, sans the potato collecting, yet I still lack the manic pixie dreamgirl charm. Perhaps because I am not the Most Beautiful Woman in the World).

It was the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and when Kate, in her gloriously tailored white pantsuit, turned to flash me The Most Beautiful Smile in the World, I offered her a hand-made button with Clementine’s face on it. She looked at it for a moment and then said “Thank you, this is very special.” She probably keeps it on her mantle, next to her Oscar.

12. The next year, at the same festival, I lined up behind the same white ribbon in order to speak to one of the most beautiful men in the world, Heath Ledger. Heath was with Michelle Williams at the time, but that didn’t stop a barrage of women from pushing at the restricting ribbon every time a car arrived at the event, screaming for attention and then not-so-quietly cursing when an unnamed female would appear instead of Ledger. “Who’s that bee-otch,” they would say loudly, repetitively, to themselves or whoever was nearby (me).

I wanted Heath to know that I respected All Who Walk The Red Carpet, so when he finally did arrive, Michelle in arm, I allowed myself to be nearly trampled by this group of women and only barely made eye contact with him as he shyly eased by. I’m convinced he appreciated the gesture.

Also, yes, he was beautiful.

11. When I was in school, the teensy screenwriting club (which I didn’t even know existed at the time, despite majoring in screenwriting) arranged for Mister White Himself, Bryan Cranston, to come over for a visit. We housed him in a lecture hall that bore the Periodic Table of Elements on the wall, which seemed appropriate. Afterward, I shyly approached and asked him what one might do in order to intern on Breaking Bad, then in its third season. Cranston laughed his deep, comforting Malcolm in the Middle Laugh, and said “Oh, look at you, this kid’s ambitious.” He eventually gave me a fax number to which I could send my resume. I assumed this made us buddies.

After everyone had left, I joined him on his walk to his car. The campus was empty and dark, after all, and I wanted to make sure he got to his vehicle safely, though I did reassuringly tell him that we all knew that He Is The Danger. On the way I definitely did not tell him all about how Breaking Bad had inspired me to rework my current screenwriting project. My memory gets a bit fuzzy around the time we reached his car, but I’m sure I didn’t do anything like tell him forebodingly that we would cross paths again. I never got any word back from my many faxing attempts, surprisingly.

quentin

10. One day in Los Angeles I shared the same air as Quentin Tarantino. He was doing promotion for his soon-t0-be-released movie Inglorious Basterds, and his important crew, including the late, great Sally, were present in the small theatre where they all engaged in a Q&A (or a QT&A, if you like). He wore a sweaty kimono top and was about half an hour late, I wore a shirt with a sad-looking planet on it that read “Don’t worry, Pluto, I’m not a planet, either.” Tarantino is such a fount of extreme cinephilic power that most references he made went over my head, but at one point he dropped the name George Sanders (my favorite curmudgeon), so I assumed the two of us were Meant To Be.

Sadly, QT only signed a few posters from those in the front row and then flashed the peace sign at the rest of us as he was rushed offstage by his pushy managers. But I’m certain at least one of those peace signs was for me. Peace indeed, Quentin, until we meet again.

9. I went to an early screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was followed by an appearance of the film’s director, David Fincher, a favorite of mine. Fincher was dark, enigmatic, and frustratingly friendly. He dodged all questions regarding his seeming shift from rough, masculine movie-making to the sentimentality of romance.

When I hesitantly approached him after his discussion, my plan was to inform him that I had an idea for a brilliant film that he should direct as soon as I finished writing it, but before I could open my mouth another screenwriter dashed up to him with a pile of papers. “I know that it’s probably pointless to give this to you,” the little nerd said, handing over the pile, “and that it will probably end up in the garbage, but I’d just hate myself if I didn’t give you my screenplay.” Fincher smiled, nodded, took the script and put it under his arm, then looked at me with his soft, penetrating eyes. “Fight Club is awesome,” I said.

8. Patricia Clarkson came to my school to give an informal talk. Her odd, signature cadence and Jodie-Foster-esque voice cut through the crowd and put me at ease instantly. She threw around many words such as “delectable” and “yummy,” mostly when talking about Justin Timberlake. Most questions she was asked were posed by the Theatre Majors, a crowd I had attempted to hitch my wagon to, but who had proven too confident to bear my nebbish personality. Their presence was reason enough to me to keep my hands in my pockets, though I did ask Patricia to sign my copy of Pieces of April.

“My mother and I just love you in that movie,” I told her. She smiled and signed my DVD with her sharpie. “To Katrina’s Mother,” she wrote, then grinned at me. “Well, isn’t that just delicious.” I ate a sizable box of cookies after this encounter, for some reason.

7. I once traveled all the way to Regina, a city in Canada, to see my one of my favorite comedians, Craig Ferguson. At one point during his act he was doing his tried-and-true German impression, and I, unable to hold back any longer, sneezed. Without missing a beat he nodded in the direction of the sneeze and uttered “gesundheit.” Maybe he couldn’t see me through the glare of the stage lights, but I’d say we had A Moment.

6. I was a participant in a Women in Film Conference once, and we hosted director Catharine Hardwicke. She is known primarily for the first Twilight movie, which had recently been released, but she also directed Thirteen, which I still think is amazing. She is tiny and wore a cow-print, floor-length coat. I was fat at the time and wore my conference shirt. We were photographed together, and afterwards I mentioned to her that I was once very inspired by what she said in a magazine about screenwriting. She then corrected me and told me that this advice had originated from David O. Russell. I hung my head. She signed my program anyway.

5. I went to a screenwriting program once that hosted a board of the most impressive screenwriters of that year, which included Michael Arndt and Aaron Sorkin. I bumped into David Seidler (screenwriter of that year’s The King’s Speech) on the way out, and as he waited for his car I told him that I had caught Speech with my father in tow, and that he, despite rarely enjoying any movies, had found himself relating to the late monarch, which had been very moving to me. “Well,” Seidler said, smiling a warm, grandfatherly smile, “I like your dad.” I smiled back as he got into his car, “I like Colin Firth,” I said. King George FTW!

4. I went to a school that was presenting Neil Gaiman, who took the stage for a little talk and a reading of his latest, The Graveyard Book. I had originally planned to meet a college acquaintance there, but people scared me, so I didn’t. I also thought maybe after the reading I would stroll up to Gaiman and ask him to sign my book, but his bodyguards scared me, so I didn’t.

bob

3. I went to a Bob Dylan concert one time, by myself. While there, I grew progressively grumpy as I realized I had little chance of seeing through the haze of pot-smoke (that’s a thing, right?) and flannel to the stage, until the super-tall hipster in front of me offered to change places.

Afterwards, he and I had a friendly chat on the sidewalk until we noticed Dylan’s own limo had been paused on the way out due to heavy traffic. While we pondered over whether or not to approach the throne, Dylan rolled his window down to accommodate a non-English-speaking gentleman who was selling Bob Dylan-themed apparel. “You want shirt,” Gentleman insisted, foisting his wares at the limo window. That voice we all know and love came slipping out of the vehicle: “Man, I should be selling YOU me, not the other way ’round.” I raised my hand to this, my fingers closed around an imaginary glass. Cheers, Bob. Bob quickly rolled up his window, but I’m confident he felt solidarity.

2. While banging out a long line of job applications at my local Coffee Bean, I witnessed a disheveled David Duchovny arrive and order three fancy fraps. He left with his drinks as soon as they were ready, much to the dismay of several nearby middle aged women. He never took his sunglasses off, but I want to believe it was really him.

wessy

1. Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman appeared at an early, free screening of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I attended. Schwartzman is adorable, chatty, and weirdly beautiful (as are his colorful, mis-matched socks). When I got the chance to speak to him, I told him I was a big fan. I’m sure he was able to detect the unspoken subtleties, such as I KNOW EVERY COCONUT RECORDS SONG, YOU LOOK LIKE TOM CRUISE AND STEVE CARREL’S LOVE CHILD, MAX FLETCHER IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL, “WEST COAST” IS MY ‘MOST PLAYED’ ON ITUNES, because he smiled and pushed his hair back and took a picture with me.

When I approached Wes, he was, bizarrely, all alone, folding and unfolding his hands awkwardly, a stunning picture in his almost-too-small corduroy suit. I told him hello, shook his hand, informed him that The Royal Tenenbaums changed my life and made me want to be a screenwriter. I’m 100% sure that he did not mutter “Darjeeling Limited was just as good” under his breath. We took a picture together. I didn’t think to wear makeup that day, and I sported a huge, multicolored scarf wrapped around my neck (and upper body? no one knows why), which I’m sure Wes found irresistible, though he was too shy to say so.

On my way out, I told him, not creepily at all, that I hoped we would meet again one sunny day (apparently this was my go-to when I met famous people in Los Angeles). He nodded, which I know meant “of course we will, I love you.” I then picked up my bag and turned to go, but had to turn back around on my way out– just to see him, my hero, who I imagined would be nodding at the next in line to compliment him. What I saw was him watching me expectantly. Granted, this might have been because my enormous scarf had become entangled in my feet, nearly causing me to fall, but I like to think it was due to that still, small voice that told him “this one. This one is Special. Don’t forget her.”

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