After eight rollercoaster years of development, Tony and I step off the teamster van into the bustling location set of THE EQUALIZER—a tent town of Hollywood activity in the Boston burb of Chelsea. It’s surreal, and hot. They’re having a heat wave. Heat is literally coming off the pavement in waves. An off-duty cop stops traffic and waves us across the street where electricians, sound techs, grips, and dozens of other specialists are happily going about their business despite the high temperature. And why shouldn’t they? They’re working on an exciting movie with the incomparable Denzel Washington!
A smiling German giant, who we learn is the Assistant Producer, waits for us on the sidewalk to lead us to the Producer’s tent. He lifts the flap carefully, so as not to lose any of the cool air from inside, and we slip in to greet Tony’s fellow producers. Cool air blasts through the tent across the director chairs where Chloe (KICK ASS) Grace Moretz’s mother, brother and tutor sit scrolling through iPads and sipping iced tea in the back row. In the front, the screenwriter writes notes in today’s script while the three of the producers from Escape Artists check emails or talk on cell phones. We’re greeted, I’m introduced, and stories are shared. Then the two monitors come to life and we see the diner for the first time. Antoine Fuqua is giving a final note to Denzel and Chloe, or perhaps solidifying something with the cinematographer, Mauro Fiore. A tingle goes up my spine. This is real. It’s finally happening. We’re offered seats and headsets. A voice shouts, “Standby,” from the sidewalk. I turn on my headset just in time to hear, “Rolling.” I look up at monitor A. The marker clicks. The diner door opens. The bell rings. And Denzel Washington walks off the page and into the scene—the man, the star, The Equalizer.
The coverage scene breaks to set up the next two shots—closer from a new angle, and another panning through the cakes and condiments on the diner counter. Tony and I abandon the cool of the tent to venture down the busy sidewalk to the tented diner. It’s a night scene but Chloe is only sixteen so it’s more efficient to shoot during the day and use a blue-screen to fill in the evening street activities. This is beyond cool. Literally. The air is blowing from giant tubes to keep this enormous tent comfortable.
The diner is a brooding character in itself, with green tinged paint, dark vinyl, and darker linoleum. It’s the perfect setting for a self-contained killing machine in hiding, and a Russian teenage whore. Where else would they meet and become unlikely friends? Their exchange is simple yet profound, their performances nuanced and riveting. I could watch it dozens of times—and I do—from a variety of moving points of view. Such is the artistry of Fuqua and Fiore.
The scene breaks and Denzel walks by with focused intent that screams, “not now.” The man is working and it’s a fearsome thing to witness. Antoine chats with the writer Richard Wenk, who is a welcome addition on the set—that’s not always the case with screenwriters. Fuqua looks out the diner window and sees us standing against the blue screen, out of the way, and comes out to say hello. He’s very pleased to meet Tony, but not as pleased as Tony is to finally meet him. Antoine was my husband’s first choice for directors, so it’s very satisfying to see him on the set. He looks as formidable as he does friendly, and he emotes warm, positive energy. Our dear movie is in excellent hands.
We had a chance to chat with a number of terrific people on the crew, all of whom treated us with warmth and welcome. Each and every one of them was happy and professional. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see people enjoying the process and aware of their good fortune. I wish more people could be that cognizant of their experiences. I wish I had always been so in my youth.
As we wandered around the perimeter from the catering tent to the set, Tony was amused to see cars slowing and drivers rubbernecking to get a better glimpse of my face—probably scrolling through every ethnic actress they could think of. Sorry folks, it’s just me. The next day, while hanging in the diner tent, a very nice lady tells us that she must take photos of us. We’re happy to comply when she stops. Struck by sudden doubt, she asks, “Are you extras?” When we tell her who we are, she’s horrified. We’re greatly amused. “That makes more sense,” she says. “I was watching you earlier,” she says to me. “You walk with such an air of comfort and confidence. I thought to myself that you were the most confident…” She stops, unwilling to repeat her previous error. I, of course, am tremendously complimented and tell her so. Later that day, I ask her to take a photo of Tony and me sitting at the diner with Richard—she’s allowed to have a camera on the set whereas we are not. She’s surprised by that, but we are determined to follow the set etiquette. After all, we want our actors to feel secure and at ease so they can give the best possible performance. And believe me, they do!
Tori Eldridge is the author of EMPOWERED LIVING EXPANDED EDITION, adapts books to screen, writes a monthly muse-letter on mindful living, and is currently writing a multi-cultural thriller series. She has performed in such Broadway shows as CATS, was a series regular on the television hit THE LOVE BOAT, performed the motion capture for the lead in FINAL FANTASY: SPIRITS WITHIN, and recorded with music legend Brian Wilson. Tori is a 5th degree black belt NINJA and has taught empowerment across the country. Follow Me on Facebook!