Just in case anyone’s wondering, Laura’s received more than a few “concerned” emails from friends wondering if they should be worried about, as one person put it, her “escalating Hugh Jackman obsession.” She appreciates the concern but Laura thinks not. Yes she’s obsessed with using photos of Hugh Jackman in her brants and yes, that constant contact with photos of Hugh Jackman has made her slightly obsessed with him — life is so circular, isn’t it?!? — but at the end of the day her Hugh Jackman stunt is really just about one thing:
Hugh Jackman Decoy Photo #4
For over two years Laura has branted about….well…nothing. Not exactly nothing, but nothing that she could actually point to and say, “I brant about ___.” For awhile, after her surgery, she wrote her “Breast Brants.” But at a certain point she ran out of things to say about her experience with breast cancer. And she never found another subject that she could focus her thoughts on and channel her feelings through. And, most importantly, a subject that would attract and keep readers.
Until the other day when she posted that first photo of Hugh Jackman.
It was like a light went on — people were actually reading her brant because of the teaser photo on Facebook.
Ever the amateur social scientist, she posted another! And another! And not only were her readers appreciative, but Laura herself was appreciative: because she realized Hugh Jackman could inspire her branting.
It’s kind of like the blogger whose name was Julia or Julie and who wrote a blog — and later a book (or maybe it was just a book) — about cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes and what that was like for her and what it meant to her — “Julia and Julie” or something like that — and about the woman who just wrote a blog (and now a book) about following Oprah’s advice for a full year and what it was like for her and what it meant to her. It’s using a famous person, a public person, as a jumping off point for self-exploration and self-revelation. Well, why can’t Laura do the same thing with Hugh? Why can’t she glom onto his visage and use it to both attract readers and give her brants a focus and a framework?
For example, let’s take today’s photo. Here’s a shot of HJ from “Someone Like You.” Which is really convenient since Laura can now launch into her story about coming to the set while the movie was being shot and describe what it was like to see HJ, wearing that exact shirt, sitting on that exact couch, filming the exact scene in the photo. Is this not a really convenient way of killing several birds with one photo of Hugh Jackman?
Put another way: For Proust, it was madelaines. For Laura, it is photos of Hugh Jackman. For now, anyway…
August, 2000. Laura had just given birth to Ben, who was 10 pounds 2 ounces, and adjusting to life as a new mother down in hot humid frizzy-hair-weather Washington DC. Right before she’d gone into the hospital to have Ben, filming — or, as they say in the movie business, “the commencement of principle photography” — had begun for Animal Husbandry — which is what it was still called at that point — and the timing couldn’t have been better since anyone who knows anything about terms like the commencement of principle photography knows that the commencement of principle photography means that you get a nice big check.
Anyway, back from the hospital with this giant new baby, Laura received new-baby gifts and cards — and even a small stuffed cow with a cow bell attached from the film’s producer, Lynda Obst (Sleepless in Seattle) (Anyone who knows anything about the movie business knows that every time you mention the name of someone in the movie business you have to put, in parentheses, the ‘projects’ they’ve worked on — the financially successful projects they’ve worked on, that is, which is why you might have noticed that Laura didn’t put “Someone Like You” in the parentheses following Lynda Obst’s name.) (But more about that later.) This adorable little stuffed cow even had a big tag attached to it with a whole bunch of signatures — autographs and good wishes from the cast and crew — which couldn’t have been sweeter — and before long her film agent and Lynda Obst herself had called a few times to invite Laura and her husband to come and visit the set.
Under normal circumstances, Laura would have jumped at the opportunity to visit the set — or, as anyone who knows anything about the movie business knows, you don’t say “visit the set” — you say “go on set” — but there was one small problem: while Laura had had her baby, she had not yet lost her baby weight.
Now, as anyone who knows anything about anything knows, not losing your baby weight is one of the biggest sources of shame and humiliation for women. There is just no way apparently to excuse the fact that not only did you not have enough self control during your pregnancy to stop yourself from gaining weight but you still don’t have any self-control — let alone self-respect! — to starve yourself and lose the weight already! Laura had gained 50 pounds during her pregnancy and was still carrying around at least 25 of them when Hollywood literally started calling, which is why she ignored the calls.
Finally, though, she finally realized that they really should go on set of the movie, un-lost baby weight or no un-lost baby weight, so plans were made to do just that. It was early August and Laura’s stepdaughter Sarah just happened to be visiting from Denver, and they decided that they would combine a trip to NYC with their annual trip to the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, that Sarah loved going to every summer. So they packed up the car — packed the diapers and the wipes and the car seats and the onesies, packed the formula and the nipples and the sterilizing pot and the bibs, and set out from DC to New York for their triangulated journey.
They hit the road in late morning — Brendan was driving, and Laura was in the passenger seat. In the back seat was Ben in his carseat, and Sarah, who was 8 at the time, and Brendan’s mother Jane, who was and always has been half of Laura’s body weight. (Don’t get her started on this particular detail.) Sarah was really into Harry Potter, so there was a Books On Tape version of the first book playing in the tape player from the Beltway all the way up the New Jersey Turnpike. At about the four hour mark they hit traffic and it started to rain — which, as all married people who are on a road trip know, means a complete adult meltdown is imminent — which was bad timing since they were barreling through the Holland Tunnel and about to come out the other side in search of an address in Tribeca where the shooting was taking place.
The problem was, neither Brendan nor Laura knew anything about Tribeca despite the fact that between the two of them they’d clocked almost 25 years of living in New York — but Laura had lived in the West Village and the East Village, and Brendan had lived on the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. Within minutes they were lost in Chinatown, getting stuck behind trucks and bike messengers and having no idea where the fuck (460) they were and where the fuck (461) they were going. Needless to say, within seconds, they were fighting.
But this was not just a normal fight about getting lost — this was something else entirely, a fight about getting lost that was on some kind of epic scale Laura had never even known existed. Because after driving around in circles for about 15 minutes, Brendan suddenly accused Laura of withholding directions — something Laura still thinks is one of the most hilarious things she’s ever heard (which is why she’s putting it in bold italics) — meaning that he thought she knew where they were supposed to be going but was refusing to tell him where they were going because she preferred to be trapped in a car with three generations of family screaming at each other as they went around and around and around lower Manhattan in the rain!
Now it’s worth pointing out, despite how old it makes Laura look, that this was long before iPhones and Blackberrys and GPS Navigational systems were built into the dashboard of cars — I know! How thoroughly unimaginable this must be to Laura’s youthful readers!! No, this was still a low-tech era, which meant that if you were late and couldn’t find your way to an appointment there was no way to let the people who were waiting for you know that you were late and couldn’t find your way to the appointment. Finally, though, after much yelling and regressing (Brendan’s mother actually had to tell them to cut it out) they found their way, got to the address, and parked the car, Laura having to change Ben’s diaper on a diaper-changing pad on the ground in the corner of the parking lot, before they went into the old building where the filming was taking place.
It was one of those huge old industrial kind of loft-buildings with clanging elevators and huge steep stairwells that Laura remembers because it was hard for her to climb those huge stairs since she was carrying all that extra weight — luckily Brendan was carrying Ben, then about 5 weeks old, in the car seat — and so in they all walked: Jane, Sarah, Brendan with Ben in the car seat, and Laura and her extra 25 lbs of still-unlost-baby weight. There were signs up on the walls and on the doors — Animal Husbandry, those signs said — and Laura has to admit it was pretty cool. At some point some official movie-person found them and brought them over to Lynda Obst, who couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful, even taking Sarah by the hand to get her a smoothie from one of the many amply supplied food tables located at various spots throughout the building.
This left Laura with the movie person, with Brendan close by standing guard over the car seat. Laura remembers this part clearly because it’s here that her giant faux pas occurs: she looks up and sees this amazing looking man in the distance, but her view is partially blocked by something else — someone, a man, with his hand outstretched in greeting and a friendly smile on his face — Greg Kinnear, it turned out to be, who Laura inadvertently walks right past because her sights are focused completely on the vision in the distance — Hugh Jackman.
Now it’s important to note that back in the summer of 2000, Hugh Jackman was not very well known yet — in fact, when her agent called to tell her that he’d been cast in the role of Eddie, the inveterate womanizer, they were kind of confused: XMen had literally just been released in early July and Swordfish wouldn’t be released until 2001, sometime after Animal Husbandry was due to be released. So when he walked toward her and Brendan and crouched down to look at Ben in his car seat and told them that he and his wife had recently adopted a little boy they’d named Oscar, who was just about the same age as Ben, well, to say she swooned would be an understatement. Eventually, Laura realized her faux pas and talked with Greg Kinnear, who was also incredibly friendly and normal and not at all celebrity-like, by which point Lynda Obst returned with Sarah and the Smoothie and introduced Laura to Ashley Judd who, well, was, you know, really really really thing and very very very shy* (*unfriendly).
Laura’s going to wrap up this story now — it’s embarrassingly long and she hopes she hasn’t worn out her welcome with the Hugh Jackman business — but to pull it all together she’s going to say that soon after all the meeting and greeting and gabbing and shmoozing, they actually started shooting a scene — the scene where “Eddie” and “Jane” are in a “meeting” (they’re co-workers) and “Jane” notices a hickey on “Eddie’s” neck. And here’s the nice circular part of the story — the line that Hugh Jackman said in this scene — “I bit myself shaving” — is probably one of the only lines in the whole movie that was just as Laura had written it. Which was really cool: not only did Laura get to see the set and meet the cast, despite feeling like a giant cow herself, but she also got to see them shooting a scene which contained a line of dialogue that she’d actually written.