Molly Ivins' introduction is not the funniest thing in Austin
actor Marco Perella's first book. Considering that Ivins is often
described as America's funniest political columnist, that is strong talk.
But Ivins' introduction, in which she describes her long friendship with
Perella and how she encouraged him to become "An Arthur," will not cause
you to shake with suppressed giggles, to laugh out loud or to use your
sleeve to wipe away tears. But Marco Perella is that funny.
The hilarious, revealing, heartwarming stories in "Adventures of a No
Name Actor" are constructed around a simple frame: Perella tells tales of
his experiences as a co-star in feature films, made-for-TV movies,
commercials, industrial films, small theater productions and appearances
as a costumed character at corporate parties. Nearly all the episodes take
place in Texas, where Perella, a third-generation native, works almost
One recurrent theme is the conflict between Perella's acting ambition
and the fact that dramatic opportunities in Texas are limited. He
acknowledges that and refers occasionally to fellow Texans who have left
the regional acting scene to make it big on the coasts, but brushes aside
the question of why he doesn't do the same. His family and wife are here,
so he works here.
And he works more than you might think, in movies including "JFK" and
"Varsity Blues," in TV series like "Wishbone" and "Walker, Texas Ranger,"
and with some of the industry's biggest stars and directors. Kevin
Costner, Clint Eastwood, Drew Barrymore, Oliver Stone and many other
Hollywood luminaries populate these pages. In a neat trick, Perella's
recountings of encounters with the stars always seem to reveal the big
shots' basic human frailties, without being insulting, condescending or
envious. The straight man and butt of most jokes is Perella, who opens the
book dressed as a jester, all but drowning in the Guadalupe River in a
scene eventually cut from "Fandango."
The book depicts neurotic starlets, egomaniac action heroes,
near-insane directors and borderline sadistic stunt directors galore.
Perella has many adventures, in particular, with stunts. Mirrors explode,
showering him with razor-sharp shards. Cars careen, missing his
unprotected body by inches. Wind machines howl, the icy Guadalupe River
threatens to submerge him for good.
His face-offs with stunt directors over the miserly added stipend for
risking his body offer only slightly less action.
Through it all, incredibly, Perella maintains an earnest focus on the
acting craft. He is deadly serious as he describes how he works himself up
to cry over the ostensibly frozen, ostensibly dead body of a co-star who
plays his bad-guy buddy in "Black Snow," a never-released thriller shot in
But only Texans can truly appreciate some of the situations. Who among
us, for example, would even consider driving to sequential auditions in
Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- in one day -- and making it back to
Austin for an 8 p.m. curtain at Center Stage? Instructions for
accomplishing this feat are in the book, along with many good
Perella reportedly honed these anecdotes for years in letters and
e-mails distributed to his circle of friends, including Ivins. One hopes
he has another batch circulating now. It would be a shame if, now that a
no-name actor is about to become a name humorist, the chronicles of his
adventures were not continued.
Mark Henricks is an Austin writer.