Star Gazing

Balmy Houston as wintry New York: A report from the set of The Evening Star .

SNOW BLANKETS A BLOCK of downtown Houston where bundled-up shoppers trudge along, toting gaily wrapped Christmas gifts. A few feet away, staring critically, are workers dressed in jeans and T-shirts for the city’s typically mild mid-December weather. Snow at 60 degrees? Even Texas weather doesn’t change that fast. The white drifts came from a Sparkle Ice truck, and the shoppers and workers are filming The Evening Star , Larry McMurtry’s 1992 sequel to Terms of Endearment .

The faux snow is only one step in the process of turning the exterior of Houston’s Jones Hall into that of New York’s Lincoln Center. Starting well before dawn, members of the film’s crew install a fake subway station in mid-block, complete with a “Metro” sign and a risqué Calvin Klein—style undies ad. In the distance, set designers unroll huge white sheets to resemble virgin snow. To provide a realistic background, two dozen cars bearing Connecticut and New York license plates sit idling on the street. Prop assistants hand out shopping bags from Macy’s and FAO Schwarz plumped out with tissue. The milling extras, not only shoppers but dozens clad in glitzy evening attire, churn the fresh layers of Sparkle Ice into realistic inner-city slush while an assistant director addresses them with a bullhorn: “Hold up your hands and repeat after me: ‘I will not look at the camera.’”

Typical of big-budget Hollywood, the elaborate choreography is all for a single short scene—one that will rate less than one minute in the actual movie—in which actress Juliette Lewis and first-timer Jimmy Bauserman, a puppy-cute seven-year-old North Texan who plays her nephew, exit a limousine and navigate the crowded sidewalk. Ensconced in a salon-style chair a few feet from the set, Lewis, in an elegant evening suit with giant fake-fur cuffs and a retro pouf of auburn hair, submits to the attentions of a curl-brusher and a lipstick-dabber. Pronounced ready, she saunters over to Bauserman, whose mother feeds him a last bite of bacon and checks his teeth before dispatching him to rehearsal. As director Robert Harling watches intently, the two stars exit and re-exit the limo, dodge and re-dodge the shoppers; between run-throughs, Lewis gestures frantically to her hairstylist for a cigarette and Bauserman tugs in annoyance at his collar. Then, with the assistant director’s bellow of “Rolling!” the actual filming begins. Bauserman’s performance seems as effortless as Lewis’; at each cry of “Cut!” he throws his arms wide as if acknowledging silent applause.

After three takes, Harling pronounces himself satisfied, and the dream machine begins to wind down. Crew members whisk Lewis away, herd the extras to undressing rooms, disassemble the subway station, detach the out-of-state license plates, and load up the cameras. By ten-thirty, all that’s left of the set are piles of rapidly melting snow—and a few elated Houstonians pelting each other with handfuls of slush.

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