Don’t get me wrong: It’s great being on the show. Love Jay, love the audience, really. And this Josh…Hartnett, is it? He seems like a good kid. Reminds me a little of myself before I hit it big. I honestly think it’s great to see him up there telling Jay how “weird” it was to do his first sex scene and all, but I’m just a bit worried that some people might be a little put off by the fact that I am asked to “scoot over” while Jay Leno interviews someone else.
I know, I can hardly believe it myself.
Believe me. I will move over. Always do. I’m a professional actor, after all, so I’m accustomed to adapting to strange and completely unbelievable situations. Remember the time on ER when I saved that boy who was trapped in a flash flood while the local news crews filmed the daring rescue? If I could make that look realistic, it should be a piece of cake to convince 11 million viewers that I flew in from Italy just to sit quietly off camera and listen to Josh Hartnett tell stories—none of which involve cowriting the critically acclaimed Good Night, And Good Luck, mind you.
Look, I’m just happy that I got to show the audience a clip of a movie I directed and starred in, Leatherheads, and chat for a few with Jay about how “sophisticated” my performance was in Michael Clayton, which left theaters less than eight weeks ago. To even have the opportunity to get up there is absolutely amazing, and I still can’t get over the fact that so many people seem to think I’m good at what I do. Once again, though—no offense to Josh here—I can only lean casually into frame and deliver one of my disarming and self-effacing asides so many times before it gets a little, well, not cool.
I know asking the guest to “stick around” is tradition, but so was curing baldness with leeches until someone realized it didn’t make any sense at all.
Let’s just analyze this logically. Over there, you have Jay Leno, who doesn’t break eye contact with me the whole time I’m there, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be asking Josh Hartnett if he’s got any pets. Next, we have Josh Hartnett, who not only has to follow the crackling excitement over the first guest, but also has to convince the crowd that the new vampire movie he’s in is more interesting than the fact that George Clooney just pulled his pant leg down a quarter of an inch. Then there’s me—hey!—just hanging out slightly to the left of frame for the next eight minutes or so.
Don’t mind. Little old. Me.
Now, I understand why I was brought out first. It’s important to give the people what they want or they’ll switch the channel and start watching O Brother, Where Art Thou? on Showtime. But by now they’re thinking, “My, my, that George Clooney! What a class act. The way he still pulls pranks on his costars is so down to earth, and he just gives you this sense that he always knows the score. I find myself liking him despite—wait. What’s this? Why is he standing up? Is he going off to make another fantastic Steven Soderbergh movie?”
Don’t worry, folks. I’m still here, having a fantastic time clearing the way for a guy from one of those ‘70s shows. After all, I wouldn’t want to be the kind of well-respected celebrity who can be named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive twice but not have the grace and humility to share the spotlight with a nice young guy like Jake. Josh. Otherwise people might get tired of hearing about the challenges of choosing new and compelling roles for more than 25 years while keeping your integrity in a business that is basically dependent on either selling out or burning out. Or how to be known simultaneously as a sex symbol, a man’s man, and a genuine talent.
I’m sorry. I always blab on and on and make a big bore out of myself. If I could make this all better by wrinkling my brow, I would, but that wouldn’t exactly be fair, now, would it. Oh, well. Next thing you know they’ll be asking me to help the musical act carry their amps onstage.
And I’d do it. Would Josh Hartnett do it?