The pretentious musings of a misanthropic Delawarian writer. I've been a production assistant, a stand in, a door holder for B celebrities, I sold Bill Gates a bag of organic popcorn, and once I held an umbrella for a supermodel.
So we’re shooting on location at Venice Beach. Now, Venice Beach is notorious for drug addicts, homeless people, the mentally ill, or any combination of the three. But I’m new in town and no one told me. So I get to where we’re shooting, and it’s maybe 5am. The sun is just barely coming up. We’re filming an interior scene inside of a police station. Well, it was a police station. Now it’s a sort of halfway house for criminals. It’s unclear to me the actual situation of how the cops interact with the criminals, what type of criminals they are, or the level of freedom they have. But what I do know, is that there are cops, there are criminals, and for some reason they rent out the first floor for film productions.
Before filming, I’m already being assaulted with questions by mere fact that there are cranes and lights, and passerby’s want to know what’s going on. Film production is old hat in Los Angeles and New York City. So much so, that not only no one impressed, but they’re also furious that they’re being inconvenienced. It doesn’t matter one bit that famous actors are in the middle of a scene, if it means someone can’t get where they want to go without taking a detour.
Now, I’m no doctor. I know nothing of mental illness. But the people most annoyed by film crews seem to be the homeless. And I don’t mean the simply “lacking a place to live” homeless. The other kind. Because if it means they can’t lay on “their” bench when they want to, they will fucking lose it. Cursing, spitting, stripping off clothes.
None of that’s part of this story. It’s just to give you an idea of how my morning started before the notable part. That’s the life of a production assistant.
So anyway, now it’s time to film. And I get sent to my lock-up by the 2nd 2nd AD. Which happens to be upstairs inside the prison. So I go up a flight of winding wooden stairs, and I position myself between three doors. One to a bathroom, one to another flight of stairs, and one to the cafeteria. Being in a lock-up just means it’s your job to keep everyone quiet, and act as a buffer to stop people from walking into or near the shot. So that’s my job. I’m 21 at this point, it’s my third day in LA, and I’m 130lbs soaking wet. And I’m supposed to shush these giant, tattooed, convicts for talking too loud. Which they absolutely are.
The cafeteria is full. It must be breakfast, because they’re packed in there, laughing and arguing. And every so often they come to go to the bathroom, which means two doors slamming, twice. And me standing meekly by while the AD is asking me what’s going on upstairs. I stall. I tell him about the closeness of the cafeteria, and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. Film crews usually are an inconvenience, and we only push when we have to. So that car mechanic using the drill across the street, maybe you have the location manager go ask him to stop for a few minutes, but only in special cases. Most of the time you just try to work around it. But before that, the PA’s get yelled at. As a PA, you have to prove there’s nothing you can do about the noise before you earn being left alone about it.
And that’s what I’m trying to do on the second floor. I’m being eyed up by six feet tall thugs with teardrop tattoos. And like hell I’m going to put one finger to my lips to tell them to be quiet. So I have a bothered AD in my ear, and gangbanger in my eyeline, and I’m just counting the seconds until this fucking situation resolves itself.
It wasn’t until the final day of shooting, me and that AD had a long conversation about it. He, a fifty year old “seen it all” type, wanted to know how my experience was, and I jokingly told him about the prison fiasco. And in almost a rom-com twist, he told me it was him who called to have me taken out of that lock-up. He was protecting me in a concerned father way. It’s just a shame that at the end of a production you find out how much people liked you, when during everyone is screaming at everyone and every day feels like the one you might get fired.
There are some potentially dark and disturbing loose ends left behind after The Dark Knight Rises. Heath Ledger’s death put Christopher Nolan in an awkward place regarding the Joker, and his choice was to not include or mention the Joker in any way out of respect. Which is fine, but it leaves some big implications regarding where the Joker exists in the logical fiction of Nolan’s universe. So when Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham, a nuclear explosion has occurred just off the coast of Gotham. Over the bay according to Gordon. So let’s just put the implications of nuclear fallout slowly giving everyone in Gotham cancer on the shelf. Let’s focus instead on the future of John Blake as the new Batman. In The Dark Knight, Batman ties up Crane (Scarecrow) along with some thugs and Batman imposters. Presumably these guys are arrested and put into Gotham’s main prison, Arkham. We can also assume at the end of the movie the Joker is captured and put there too.
Which is why Nolan chose to have Bane break into Blackgate prison. It was a clever/desperate way of not dealing with the Joker. But then Crane shows up in an amazing cameo as the judge to Bane’s tribunal court. This would suggest that some sort of Arkham breakout did happen during Gotham’s occupation. Which is totally logical. In fact I figure the Joker would absolutely fit into Bane’s plan somehow, but let’s ignore that. So say the military comes in once the bomb is dealt with to take out Bane’s remaining army. Scarecrow doesn’t look like a mercenary, so I imagine he could elude the army during the retaking of Gotham, and would have a head start on evading police, considering it’d be months before the police actually started policing again. The Joker, sans makeup, would probably also slip away during the mini-war.
Then John Blake inherits the Batcave. But not any money or resources. So an undersized and under-trained 160lb beat cop is going to parade around in an ill-fitting Batman suit with the Joker and Scarecrow on the loose in a city suffering from nuclear radiation and an arduous rebuilding of it’s demolished infrastructure. Basically Robin, or Batman Junior, is going to be targeted by every thug plus one, two, or both super villains and he’s going to get fucking slaughtered.
RIP Robin. Bruce Wayne is fucking chilling out in Europe, good luck with his pissed off leftovers.
Versus a very pissed off Joker.
What’s a Bag-Man you ask? The Bag-Man is the cleaner. The fixer. He’s the hired hand for crime who can handle any situation. He’s not the hit man, but he could do that if you needed it. He’s not a getaway driver, but he’s got that covered. He’s not even on the payroll. He’s a vague force of nature, capable of anything. A jazz playing improv criminal, unflappable in his execution. They don’t usually speak much, and when they do, you better fucking listen. The hitmen, the drug dealers, the arms dealers, the getaway drivers, all rise and fall with flash and mistakes. But the Bag Man is a constant. The rock. He’s a metaphysical absolute, and every criminal enterprise needs one.
Spicer Lovejoy - Titanic
Spicer Lovejoy is a Confidante Bag Man. He’s not an out in the open criminal. His employer, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) would probably introduce him as his “associate” or his “business partner”. And yet, he is a full blooded Bag-Man. He’s got a cannon of a gun in his jacket, handcuffs, and an every present scowl all at the ready. He has no qualms about leaving a man to drown in a sinking ship. And he shows his Bag-Man detection skills in seeing right through Jack’s lies about saving Rose.
Mike Ehrmantraut - Breaking Bad
Oh Mike. Mike is the man. The truest Bag-Man on TV. For the first few seasons, Mike is an enigma. He’s in the shadows. If you look closely, he appears in a number of scenes, right before things go wrong. He’ll walk through a shot right before someone dies mysteriously. He’s also a one man army if need be; showing up with a single silenced pistol, making his way through a building full of heavily armed cartel soldiers. He gets rid of bodies, he delivers ominous speeches, he hatches plans. In the most recent episode of Breaking Bad, he extracts information from a police station by posing as a postal worker. Somehow.
But his crowning acheivement is the “No Half Measures” speech.
Nikolai - Eastern Promises
Nikolai is a bad man. Or is he? He’s the driver to a Russian mafia operating in London. He also cleans up the bodies, and performs acts of violence. His calm demeanor while clipping the fingertips off of a corpse is truly something to behold. Nikolai is a silent observer while the flamboyant mobsters drink and fuck themselves silly, and get into all kinds of problems.
Winston Wolfe - Pulp Fiction
Winston Wolfe. A favorite amongst the Bag Men. He shows up to get two enforcers out of a jam. He’s got the know-how, the connections, and the mustache. He thinks fast and talks faster. And if you do what he says, exactly how he says it, you can be eating bacon and muffins within the hour.
Winston Wolfe is so badass, he’s wearing a tuxedo at some sort of social event at nine in the goddamn morning.
Michael Clayton - Michael Clayton
What sets Michael Clayton apart from the other Bag-Men, is that he’s a corporately funded, on the books Bag-Man. Only he’s on the books as a vague “consultant”. Meanwhile he’s paid like a partner, and anyone but the bossman looks at the guy and thinks he’s a nobody. Behind the scenes, he makes situations disappear. Any potential corporate scandal gets ghosted with one visit from Michael Clayton.
And when one confused party tries to cover their tracks by “getting rid” of Clayton, he brings the whole fucking system down around him. In his own words “I’m not the guy you kill. I’m the guy you buy! Are you so fucking blind that you don’t even see what I am?” He’s the Bag-Man.
Sidney - Hard Eight & Midnight Run
Sidney has the rare occurrence of appearing in two films. First, Sidney was just some sort of adviser to top mafioso Jimmy Serrano. Then he reappeared in the seemingly unrelated film Hard Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson’s first, which was supposed to be titled Sidney. It’s been confirmed he’s supposed to be the same man.
Sidney is a an “old hood” who knows Vegas inside and out. He knows how to scam the casinos, and teaches some shlub he takes pity on how to grease the casino to get a free room. And even in his old age, he gets the drop on anyone who tests him.
Bronn - Game of Thrones
This one goes out to all of the Westerosi Bag-Men. Bronn, Davos, Sandor, Jorah. In the world of Game of Thrones, anytime a shamed knight flees his captors, or just wants a little extra coin, you get a Bag-Man. They’ve been all over the world, both sides of the Wall, all the continents. There are great moments showing their world weary wisdoms. For example, Davos knows Wildfire on sight. Wildfire is a rare chemical, used mostly by eccentrics like the Mad King, Thoros, and Tyrion. And yet, Davos knows right away what he’s dealing with. He probably knows a great cocktail made of Wildfire, Milk of the Poppy, and sweet Dornish Red, too.
But mostly, Bronn. A hired hand working for Tyrion as a bodyguard, assassin, police officer, spy, and even a marksman, helping Tyrion win the Battle of Blackwater. He’s got a nose that’s been broken fifteen times and a face only a mother can love. But need someone quick with a sword, or that badass back mounted Bowie knife? Yeah, he’s got that too.