In his new memoir, "So That Happened" (New American Library), the Emmy Award-winning actor best known for the hit CBS sitcom, "Two and a Half Men," writes about all the things that have happened to him during his three decades in show business -- some of which are more R-rated than PG.
In the book's prologue, reprinted below, Cryer writes about an unusual first day of shooting on his first feature film:
"Cut, cut, cut!"
The director yanks off his headphones and wearily barks, "I'm pretty sure doves don't s--- sideways! Am I right? Anybody?!"
The special-effects guy (Allen, I think) is at a loss for words. Really, how does one respond to that question? The cast, dressed in tasteless formal wear for a mid-eighties suburban American wedding, break character and start to mill about restlessly.
There is a moment of tense silence while some of us consider a reply to the director's odd dove query. But fortunately, our fearless leader breaks the tension by answering himself. "That's what I thought."
We are shooting outside a wedding chapel in Phoenix, Arizona, during the summer of 1983, and it's incredibly, unbearably, f---tastically hot. My white polyester tux is sodden with sweat and adhering to every contour of my body. The reason Bob, our director, is asking about the physics of bird ejecta is because in this particular shot, the animal wranglers were supposed to release some doves, and when those doves flew over the wedding party, they were supposed to sh*t on us as we exited the chapel. Sadly, the actual doves, ignorant of their cue, indifferent to the wishes of the director, as well as unconcerned about their chance at screen stardom, did not cooperate and empty their bowels upon us.
So the special effects guy (ninety-five percent sure it's Allen), ever resourceful, had jury-rigged an elaborate backup system of pressurized containers to squirt fake dove poo on the wedding party from either side of the camera. But no matter how he tried, said poo would rain onto the partiers with a noticeably wide arc. This made Bob unhappy. Apparently he felt any discerning moviegoer would immediately notice the crap's flight path, and their sense of cinematic verisimilitude would be forever compromised. Bob was turning out to be the Stanley Kubrick of turdtrajectory perfectionists.
Not that Bob is being an a------ about it. He seems irritated, yet kind of amused. The Bob in question is actually a Robert: Robert Altman, the acclaimed director of "MASH," "Nashville," and "McCabe & Mrs. Miller." So if any director has earned the right to be an a------ about doves s---ting on people, it'd be him.
The movie is "O.C. and Stiggs, and it is intended to be Bob's subversive take on American suburban torpor dressed up as an accessible youth comedy. The story is about how the two titular teenagers abuse, accost, and generally annoy an atrociously clueless nouveau riche family, the Schwabs. I play Randall Schwab Jr., idiot scion of the brood, while Jane Curtin of "Saturday Night Live" fame and Paul Dooley from "Breaking Away" play my parents. Also in the film are Dennis Hopper, Cynthia Nixon, and Ray Walston.
This is my first day of shooting on my very first movie role.
In a f---ing Robert Altman movie.
I am quite literally vibrating with excitement, anticipation, and abject terror.
The scene we are shooting is Randall's sister Lenore's wedding. Pretty much the entire cast is in it. So on my first day I get to work with both a director I revere, as well as performers I've admired for ages. I'm in the big leagues. I'm getting my chance to find out how the actors who've made it ply their trade. To discover exactly how one of the all-time great directors makes his genius manifest. It's going to be amazing. If only they can figure out how to get this bird-s--- thing to work.
The crux of the scene, as Bob imagines it, is that the Schwab family emerges from the chapel, followed by the auspicious release of a flock of doves, signifying to all that our clan is the gauchest of the gauche in terms of egregious displays of suburban American wealth, at which point -- big joke! -- the doves would poop on us. Take that, richies!
But as I said, this guano business is easier said than done. So after Bob's minor outburst, he emerges from his trailer, where he's been watching us on video monitors, with a certain if-you-want-something-done-right-you-have-to-do-it-yourself determination. He confers with his special-effects guy (it's possible it's Steve), who runs off and hurriedly gathers a large yellow mixing bowl and several ingredients easily found in a refrigerator or pantry. He throws the assortment into the bowl and mixes fiercely. Meanwhile Bob motions to one of the grips, who grabs a ladder and rushes in. The special-effects guy (thanks, IMDb, definitely Allen) hands Bob the bowl and Bob sighs.
With filmic reality on the line, it is now evident that someone will have to go vertical and rain this new faux poo from a proper angle over the assembled wedding guests. And that that someone will be none other than five-time Academy Award-nominated director Robert Altman himself.
Imagine, if you will, this master American filmmaker -- the man behind "The Player," "Short Cuts," and "Gosford Park" -- climbing a rickety aluminum ladder, perching his shall we say portly frame on the top while a crew member nervously holds the ladder in place, and, as his actors step out from flung-open chapel doors, hurling down on us healthy dollops of very realistic-looking ersatz bird feces (see below for the recipe!) with steady, consistent authority.
As cameras roll, Bob lobs bogus excreta with the artistry of Jackson Pollock. Or perhaps Georges Seurat is a more appropriate comparison: Like Seurat's pointillist masterpieces, not a blob is out of place. But I start to notice a curious phenomenon. I haven't been hit and, for lack of a better description, I'm feeling left out. My gut tells me the audience will really enjoy seeing my character get nailed. So I begin jockeying into position to put myself in the line of poop fire, much the same way an outfielder adjusts to get under a fly ball. I look around and realize that all of the actors I was looking forward to working with, the ones I truly respected, are doing it too! There's Jane Curtin gliding sideways to snag a faceful of avian dookie, Paul Dooley expertly catching some on the shoulder, and future "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon animatedly yakking with a background performer as she stealthily positions herself to receive an admirably viscous splotch in her hair.
Looking around at this surreal scene, I could not help but marvel at the caliber of performer hoping to get s--- on by Bob Altman. I thought, Welcome to showbiz, Jon.
And as it turned out, this wouldn't even be the weirdest day of my career.
Not even close.
Robert Altman's Famous Mock Bird S--- Recipe
2 quarts sour cream
1 large mixing bowl
4 Tbsp. ground black pepper
2 oz. black rubber bands
Add sour cream to mixing bowl. Mix in ground black pepper.
Finely mice black rubber bands until pieces are rough 1/8-inch long. Add rubber bands to mix.
Take palette knife, scoop up generous dollops and drizzle eager young actors with Mock Bird S---.
From "So That Happened: A Memoir" by Jon Cryer. Published by New American Library. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. Copyright © 2015 by The Niven Company, Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Jon Cryer tells all, and then some ("Sunday Morning," 03/29/15)
For more info: