Bill Pullman: The First Time a Fellow Actor Had My Back

“Do you want to have lunch with John in his trailer?”

I looked over to where Frankie was pointing and saw John hauling himself up into the door of his gleaming trailer in his full-fur Mog suit, minus the headpiece. I didn’t know if I’d be up to the bantering he traded on the set with the other lead actors. My first inclination was to say no but suddenly heard myself say with false cheer, “Sure.”

As I got closer, I heard John shout out, “Get in here Pullman, I’m starving for my Pritikin Diet Soup.” Frankie rolled his eyes at the mention. Inside he went to work heating up a thin chicken broth with a few stiff, floating strands of noodle. I was being introduced to a ritual with endless variations: John would chuckle and rib Frankie, Frankie would roll his eyes, John would find one way after another to curse the diet.

John’s humor was wry, and he loved to deflect any emotional baiting. Recalling one moment on the set, he included an observation of me: “And you, Mr. Still Waters, Mr. Smiling-on-the-Outside, you had it all figured out and stayed out of it.” He was both calling me out for being quiet and making me feel noticed, secure. He delivered this with a round-cheeked grin and a mischievous brown-eyed wink. I think I said, “I’d like to think so.”

Photo

Johny Candy and Bill Pullman in “Space Balls.”

Credit
MGM

A production assistant knocked on the door to give us a “we’re-back-in-five.” As John was gathering himself to leave, Frankie pulled out a variety box of a dozen doughnuts: “Boss, you said something about these.” John didn’t miss a beat as he grabbed one and pushed the box my way: “For your blood sugar, Pullman. I see you yawning.” We were co-conspirators now.

The lunches with John and Frankie continued from time to time. But the moment…

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