“It’s fucking ludicrous, that’s what it is.” Tennyson left the studio’s publicist in his trailer, irritated and more than a little insulted. Noah, his first assistant director, was waiting outside, and Tennyson signed off on yesterday’s dailies to be sent to the producers in LA.
“When did you want me to take the second unit and do the pickup shots?” Noah asked.
Tennyson handed back the pen. “Tomorrow before lunch should work. Don’t forget my notes.” With that done, he continued toward craft services on the other side of the massive warehouse that housed the set. But halfway there, the blasted publicist caught up.
Only a few crew members lingered on the set, preparing for the next scene inside the first floor of a simple home that had been built in front of a large green screen.
“I was only being polite, Tennyson. This isn’t just a suggestion.” The publicist heaved a breath, clearly out of shape. “We need to generate a bigger buzz. We’re two weeks in to production and hardly anyone gives a shit at home.”
One of the reasons Tennyson enjoyed filming in Vancouver was that he escaped the buzz.
“So set up the two leads,” Tennyson replied impatiently. “I don’t have time for this bullshit.”
Mr. Publicist huffed and placed his hands on his hips. “Considering Claire is America’s sweetheart, happily married, and Chris is gay, not even Hollywood would believe it.”
Tennyson gritted his teeth and folded his arms over his chest. He had to admit it was farfetched, but he refused to be a part of this. He had worked in the industry for twenty years and had an Academy Award to show for it; he was above goading paparazzi for attention.
Nobody cared about the director anyway, and that was a damn good thing.
“This is happening,” the publicist stated. “The producers and the studio are in agreement.”
Even Ash? Tennyson’s own brother?
The only reason he hadn’t insisted on producing—and therefore be able to control the project more—was because he trusted Asher, who was one of the producers.
“Who would you even set me up with?” Tennyson didn’t care he sounded pissed. “Claire’s the only woman my age.” There were a couple others, but their parts weren’t big enough to gain that awful buzz.
Tennyson must’ve misheard that. “Excuse me?”
“Sophie. Sophie Pierce.”
That wasn’t even remotely amusing. First of all, Sophie’s father was a chairman at the corporation that owned the studio, which, Tennyson might add, was most likely the reason Sophie had landed her part. Regardless, no father in his right mind would pimp out his daughter like this, no matter how fake the romance would be.
Second of all: “Are we thinking of the same Sophie? You mean the girl who plays Claire and Chris’s daughter?”
The publicist merely nodded, unfazed.
"Jesus.” Tennyson was torn between fury and nausea. “She could be my own daughter, for chrissakes!” And Tennyson wasn’t into barely legal women. Lately, he wasn’t into anyone, but that was neither here nor there. Sophie was only twenty-one, and to Tennyson’s thirty-eight she might as well have been a toddler.
She certainly acted the part at times.
“Because you would be the first older man who dated a younger actress,” the publicist deadpanned. “Be real, Tennyson. The age isn’t that much of an issue, and you have to admit she’s done well in this production.”
“That’s because she hasn’t had to break character,” Tennyson argued. “She’s practically playing herself.” Only, without the same background.
Sophie Pierce was a clichéd former child star. Rich, spoiled, moderately talented. And like many other children who grew up with parents in the industry, she had gone from a beloved sweetheart to a rebellious hellion who dated rock stars and woke up hungover with makeup caked all over her face.
She was always seen with the same dark, heavy makeup, whether it was for the film or not.
In the movie they were shooting, her parents were alcoholics who neglected their two daughters. The result was the same; Sophie’s character was unruly, foulmouthed, desperate, and irresponsible.
“Nevertheless…” The publicist didn’t look bothered at all. “The movie needs it. Sophie definitely needs it. Even you could use some publicity.”
“What?” Tennyson chuckled incredulously. “How on earth would this benefit me?”
He enjoyed a life of solitude when he wasn’t working. He could go off the grid for months, never leaving his beach house in northern California, and lose track of time while he immersed himself in scripts.
As reluctant as he was to admit it, his success wasn’t as spectacular as it once had been, but he was still a much sought-after director. And this project right here, the one they were working on right now? It was what Tennyson had been waiting for. He’d devoured the script and he’d been an active part of the development stage. It was Oscar material, and fuck if he was going to waste his time pretending to be dating a living, breathing scandal. If there wasn’t already a sex tape out there starring Sophie Pierce, it probably wouldn’t be long before one surfaced.
“Do you know why it’s been years since your last big award, Tennyson?”
Tennyson threw the man a withering look.
The publicist went on. “Because you’re the least approachable man in the industry.” He nodded. “You used to be a director kids with visions could look up to. You didn’t merely send in anonymous donations to charities you support. You took part and helped arrange dinners and functions. Remember Asher’s organization? You volunteered—of your free will, not because someone told you. You were humble. You arrived to interviews on time with a smile on your face. These days, you’re permanently undercover as an arrogant homeless person.”
“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?” Tennyson asked wryly, though he was reeling from the man’s speech. Jeans, T-shirts, ball caps, and a beard didn’t make a damn hobo, but the rest…was that true? In his quest for peace, had he become a careless hermit?
“You do some amazing work,” the publicist continued, ignoring Tennyson’s comment. “But you’ve taken the rest too far. Actors work with you because of your name and reputation, not because you’re nice to be around. As for Sophie…” He sighed. “That one’s pretty obvious. The girl needs to save face. She wants to be taken seriously and not get stuck starring in rom-coms for the rest of her life. This film is a big deal to her, and a relationship with a reclusive director should help convince the rest of the world she’s calmed down. She’s agreed to this, too.” He took a couple steps forward and clasped Tennyson’s shoulder. “I suggest you make dinner plans with Sophie. I’ll let the when and where slip to the media—and stop looking so constipated! It’s just for show. Christ. You don’t actually have to like her.” He started to walk away and then paused to call out, “And please, for the love of God, shave before you go out.”
Tennyson bristled, a small flame of petulant defiance flaring up in the midst of deflation and shock. “Who do you think you are, Mr.—” Oh, damn. What was the asshole’s name, again?
The publicist faced him with a smirk, as if this proved a point. “I introduced myself to you ten minutes ago, Mr. Wright. Surely you haven’t forgotten already. Or am I not important enough?”
He pivoted and walked off the set, leaving Tennyson angry and incredibly, incredibly rattled.
He didn’t like having his ego bruised, either.