The experience of actually working on a film from even before the opening bell was quite a thrill. I had been told to go to Ralph Macchio’s house on Long Island, where he was still living with his parents, and I had to teach him 4 days a week, for 2 hours each day for the 2 months prior to shooting. This was a tall order, but lots of fun, as we had the script, and basically could interject whatever playing parts we wanted throughout the film.
His bedroom had basically turned into a little mini guitar collection, as we had my guitars strewn all over the place……..classical, electric, acoustic steel string and even resonator guitars were all employed in his learning process with me, and we’d have so much fun. He was like a kid (a KARATE kid!) in a candy store with all this stuff, and since he had never played anything before, except a little saxophone, I could really dictate what parameters we would be working within.
Of course, Ralph, with an actor’s ego, and plenty of drive to boot, was really expecting to walk on that set, wailing away on classical, blues and slide guitar, but even though I wanted that for him too, it was virtually impossible to make him a “real” guitar player in such a short amount of time. The best we could hope for was for him to be as believable as possible when “faking” to the parts that I played, and also some of the parts Ry Cooder ended up playing. It was like Ralph had to occupy a very unique place in his own world as a “partial” guitar player, and that having the knowledge he now possessed was enough for him to really be convincing as an actor who was playing the guitar.
Some things were really kind of funny, like he would go to gigs of mine, and study how I walked, held myself, how I carried the guitar case, things like that…. Anything that would give him the overall impression of how a guitarist really carried himself. We even went to what was Andre’ Segovia’s final NY concert a Lincoln Center so he could see how a classical player held himself, but that was in a way, quite funny, because at this point, Segovia was so elderly that he was all slumped in his chair while playing, and had the guitar so angled towards the ceiling it looked like he was ready to play lap steel! All Ralph could say was, “hey, it’s like he’s in his living room!”
So, needless to say, the Segovia concert showed Ralph more of how NOT to hold the guitar as a classical student/player! He needed the more upright rigidity and discipline that he was able to pick up from my advice, and from watching Bill Kanengiser, the man who played the classical guitar in the film, doing his thing! More next time..I love to write about this film, because it was such a rich experience, and something one rarely gets to do in this industry!
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