Need an anchorman type? Cast an anchorman. Local TV journos play themselves on the big screen
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Journalist Mike Hydeck, at the time a news anchor at a Hartford, Conn., TV station, was on his way to his own wedding early last year when he got a call from his agent about a job. They were looking for a morning anchor, the agent said, and "they really want you." Could he be in New York by Tuesday?
To his surprise, Hydeck got the gig: not working as an anchor on TV, but playing a TV anchor in a movie. Hydeck -- who in real life just moved to Washington as WUSA-9's new morning co-anchor -- made his acting debut this month in "Morning Glory." In a brief early scene, he portrays a fictional newsman, "Ralph Pollard," on the lackluster show from which the film's heroine -- a TV producer played by Rachel McAdams -- is later fired, setting the movie's plot in gear. Hydeck's co-anchor is played by an actual actress, Linda Powell (Colin Powell's daughter). But for verité, they brought in a pro.
"I deliver newscopy five days a week, so I guess they wanted that to be believable," Hydeck told us. "I get a chance to act and react a bit, but other than that, it's not a huge departure from what I do every day."
For years, news producers were wary of letting their on-air talent take such roles in movies, fearing it would make them look unserious or that their faux-news schtick would be taken out of context to embarrass them. The rules seem to be loosening up, though, at a time when TV networks and film studios share corporate overlords and news organizations are more willing to promote their journalists as personalities.
But it's not just big names like Chris Matthews and Larry King playing themselves. It's also local TV journalists playing generic versions of themselves.
"It's not so much that they're using someone they want to be recognized," said veteran NBC-4 anchor Barbara Harrison. She has twice played TV reporters (in "Clear and Present Danger" and "Salt") for director Phillip Noyce, who told her that it's very difficult for actors to play reporters. "He really wants the realism of someone who actually would be covering a story like that in this town." (She thinks, in fact, that her "Salt" moment might have ended up on the cutting-room floor because the scene may have lacked a certain realism. In reading her lines, "I didn't quite feel the motivation.")
Harrison's colleagues Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler recently cameo'd as TV journos in separate episodes of NBC's "The Event." And ABC-7 national correspondent Rebecca Cooper spent two days last month on the Washington set of director Michael Bay's "Transformers 3." Originally, producers sought her out for help getting a journalist's perch on the White House lawn; they ended up tapping her to play the journalist, even after they couldn't get clearance to shoot at the White House.
"Michael Bay Googled you," Cooper says a crew member told her. "He says you're perfect: You look just like a reporter." The costume folks brought Cooper a dozen or more beautiful designer suits in her size -- but ended up asking her to wear one of her own. When she got the script, Cooper suggested some changes ("They had written things I told them a Capitol Hill reporter wouldn't say"), and they took her ideas.
"Michael Bay was looking for authenticity," she said. "That I would know what a reporter would say, and that I would wear what a reporter would wear."
The Reliable Source
| November 22, 2010; 12:05 AM ET
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