We saw Charlie Wilson’s War on Saturday. It wasn’t our first choice, but we ended up really liking it. Ned Beatty made a brief appearance as a committee chair in the House, and my husband had to hear for at least the third time about how I met Mr. Beatty when I was 12.
We were in Wildwood, New Jersey for the weekend, and as we were walking down the boardwalk, we were approached by a man with a clipboard. Were the three of us (myself; my sister, then 11; and a 10-year-old neighbor we’d brought with us) interested in appearing in a scene in a movie that was being filmed? My mom was immediately suspicious, but the man walked us over to a booth at Morey’s Pier and we all saw that he wasn’t kidding…there were cameras and equipment everywhere, and Robert Hays, who was starring, was about 8 feet away from us. The man told us that Ned Beatty was the other lead; now, my mom was really impressed. Our job was to play a game at the booth while Hays and Beatty shot a scene in front of us; we were background. My mom signed the release (she signed on our friend’s behalf too. At first they weren’t going to permit her to be part of the scene since she didn’t have a parent on hand to sign the release, but seeing a 10-year-old girl fighting tears of disappointment was too much for the director; he allowed my mom to talk him into putting her in the scene, too.) We did the scene 3 or 4 times, and ran back to my waiting parents when the director thanked us and sent us on our way.
My dad asked if we’d talked to Ned Beatty, and we said no, we just did what they asked us to do…none of us really knew anything about Ned Beatty (Deliverance was his best-known role at that time, and naturally, none of us had seen it); we were more impressed with Robert Hays, who was cute and had been on TV shows that we’d seen (Airplane hadn’t come out yet). My dad wanted me to go back and get Ned Beatty’s autograph, and I finally agreed to run over there and approach him. This wasn’t an easy assignment for me; I was not an outgoing child, and the idea of approaching any strange adult, much less a movie star, was horrifying to me. But I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, so I walked back over to the pier, where the director was talking with Beatty. I waited until they were finished, and Beatty turned around and was right in front of me. I almost lost my nerve, but I managed to stammer “Mr. Beatty?”
Yes, he said without looking down at me
Um, well, I was in that scene? With the balloon game? And I wanted to see if I could have your autograph?
He looked at me then…YOU want my autograph? Well, I’ll be damned…little girls don’t usually even recognize me…I feel like a Bay City Roller. Sure, do you have some paper?
Of course I didn’t; I was 12 and at the beach…but there were some napkins on a concession stand, so Beatty grabbed one, asked me my name, and scribbled his autograph. I thanked him and ran back to my family, waving my napkin, and my parents were almost as excited as I was…not just because of the autograph, but because they couldn’t believe I’d summoned the nerve to ask for it.
My dad looked at the napkin, and cracked up…it said “Dear Claire. It was nice meeting you. Please don’t blow your nose on this. Best Wishes, Ned Beatty”
I’ve Googled Hays and Beatty, and the only thing I can find that they appeared in together was this. The carnival worker part sounds right, but the release date would have been several years after “my” scene was filmed. I guess it was a very bad movie. But Ned Beatty is a very good actor, and he was a nice guy that day.