Ann Drinan  

The New Haven Symphony Meets Robert DeNiro: Orchestra Musicians as Movie Stars!

Ann Drinan
June 22, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra recently spent 2 days filming a scene for Robert DeNiro's new movie, Everybody's Fine, at Woolsey Hall in New Haven on June 3 & 4. They needed a few extra players, so I commenced my film career by pretending to be a violist. (Hey, I do that in real life!) Here's the story, with photos taken by NHSO Executive Director Natalie Forbes.

- Ann Drinan

I received an interesting email recently from Marvin Warshaw, Principal Violist and Personnel Manager of the New Haven Symphony, asking if I’d be interested in being in a movie with the NHSO and Robert DeNiro. Well, that’s a no-brainer so I immediately replied in the affirmative. He needed musicians for both Tuesday and Wednesday, but my schedule only permitted me to do it on Wednesday.

Ah, the wonderful life of the movies – we had to be at Woolsey Hall on the Yale campus (where the NHSO regularly performs) at 7 AM and had to be available until 9 PM, with OT kicking in at 3PM. But we weren’t being recorded, just pretending to be symphony musicians, so the pay scale was pretty low.

My husband, Algis Kaupas, is a sound recordist for film and television based in New York City – he quit doing feature films a long time ago because of the brutal schedule. But he still has to be at work in the wee hours to set up before “the talent” arrives.

When we arrived in the President’s Room on the 2nd floor of Woolsey Hall on Wednesday morning, there was much greeting and hugging, as many regular NHSO musicians weren’t available and many of us subs hadn’t seen each other in a long time. We then found out that the 25 or so musicians who’d been there on Tuesday had done absolutely nothing but sit around and eat. (Good food but still…) They’d been told that the crew would be filming close-ups of musicians on stage, but it never happened. These folks weren’t too pleased at the prospect of hanging around the President’s Room for another long day.

NHSO on stage The New Haven Symphony onstage at Woolsey Hall (click to enlarge)

But after we all signed in and had some coffee, there was a call for the violins to go down on stage. (We were in rehearsal clothes but all had our concert clothes as well.) All the fiddles disappeared but then came trudging back. The call was for winds, brass, and percussion. So they all departed for about an hour, then came back and changed into concert clothes (with some pretty creative uses of space and cooperative lookouts).

Finally the call came for everyone to get onstage.

This produced quite a bit of hilarity because the production company had requested that we not bring our own instruments (except for oboes, bassoons, and piccolo). Instead, they rented instruments in NY for us to use – really, really cheap student instruments. I mean, really awful instruments. One of the violas had glue all over the neck – they had to pull off the finger tapes and had no alcohol to clean it! Several other violas were just violins with viola strings. My standpartner Craig is a redhead and his viola really matched his hair! Same for the winds and brasses – really horrible instruments.

So, when we started warming up, Marvin got up and called out, “Please, don’t try to tune your instrument. The strings are breaking and we don’t have any extras. It doesn’t matter – don’t tune!!” Now this was a first! The bow I was using must have just been rehaired because it made absolutely no sound. Perfect, given that I couldn’t tune the instrument at all!

Scott Cohen Actor Scott Cohen playing a conductor (click to enlarge)

We finally all got on stage (there’s Marvin looking out at the hall, and yours truly just in front of the basses). Scott Cohen is the actor playing the conductor, wearing a blue and white striped shirt. I noticed someone else in the audience wearing an identical shirt and finally realized that it was Maestro William Boughton, the NHSO Music Director who was made up to be Scott’s double. Here’s a photo of Maestro Boughton from lunch break on Wednesday (with his wife Jan and Carol Warshaw, Marvin’s wife and a fellow violist), and then his “real” photo from his website

William Boughton in makeup MD William Boughton made up to look like actor Scott Cohen (click to enlarge)

William Boughton William Boughton in "real" life (click to enlarge)

No wonder I didn’t recognize him! Hairpiece and no beard. But the same lovely smile.

Carol tells me that she spent the morning wondering why Maestro Boughton didn't show up for the shoot – she had decided that it was because we were using such awful- sounding instruments when Marvin told her that the double was indeed their Music Director. In the photo, Carol is explaining to Maestro Boughton and his wife how she truly didn't recognize him!

So then ensued some serious filming. The plot, as I know it, is that Robert DeNiro plays a widower who realizes that he has little connection to his adult children. So he takes a trip to catch up with them. Drew Barrymore and Kate Beckinsale play his daughters – they’re not in the scene we shot. Sam Rockwell plays his son and apparently he’s told DeNiro that he’s the conductor of his orchestra. Well, in fact, he’s playing bass drum.

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Comments (Click to Hide)

This is so cool. Thanks for the article and you go girl!!!!
Hope to see you this summer.
Leslie Ann
LeslieAnn on June 24, 2019 at 8:19 AM
Interesting perspective on how movie shoots are like rehearsing due to the repetition. What fun, and thanks for sharing the experience
Schmalenberger on June 27, 2019 at 11:18 PM

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