Chris Klein and the cruel comedy of audition tapes.

Chris Klein and the cruel comedy of audition tapes. (photo)

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Poor Chris Klein. It’s bad enough that the guy has been reduced to appearing in stuff like “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.” Now, he has to deal with the fact that late last week someone leaked a tape of his failed audition for the movie version of “Mamma Mia!” online.

After some awkward small talk, Klein says, “Let’s go, shall we? Before I embarrass myself further,” then proceeds to embarrass himself further and farther and more intensely than most of us will ever do in our lives.

For three-and-a-half excruciating minutes, Klein absolutely butchers ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Flat notes, vocal cracks, intense stares to camera, eyebrows that defy logic and gravity by refusing to go down — it’s beyond terrible; it’s guy-on-“American Idol”-who-can’t-sing-but-who-gets-to-audition-for-the-judges-so-Simon-can-make-fun-of-him terrible.

Good sport that he is, Klein has made his own self-deprecating response video, in which he flunks auditions for “Twilight,” “Dreamgirls,” and more. But it doesn’t do much to erase the discomfort of the original. And while everyone’s falling all over themselves to make fun of Klein (including, let’s not forget, Klein himself), we should remember that most auditions are incredibly, incredibly awkward. Every actor has bad ones; most actors are just lucky that they don’t wind up on the Internet in front of millions and millions of people.

Even successful auditions can get awkward. Christopher Reeve scored the role of his life with a great reading of the rooftop flirtation scene between The Man of Steel and Lois Lane from “Superman.” But the poor guy was so nervous, he sweated through his tights; he spends almost the entire scene in the classic superhero hands-on-hips pose, revealing some not-so-super pit stains (the evidence is in the below clip, beginning around 2:17):

Seth Rogen was still an unpolished Canadian teenager when he auditioned for a role in “Freaks and Geeks.” Judd Apatow, the show’s producer, cast Rogen, then brought him along to his next show, “Undeclared,” encouraged him to write, and turned him into a movie star. It all started with this one very nervous audition. Look at the way Rogen fidgets and fixes his shirt; see the deer-in-the-headlights stare. Does this look like the audition of the future young king of mainstream comedy?

Or consider these two auditions by “300” and “The Ugly Truth”‘ star Gerard Butler, reading for the role of Dracula in “Dracula 2000” — or at least I think these are two auditions for “Dracula 2000.” Sporting a terrible heavy metal wig and guyliner, Butler is so hilariously over-the-top that if I didn’t know he ultimately got the part, I’d swear this was a parody à la Chris Klein’s face-saving Funny or Die sketch. Judge for yourself:

This is why there are casting directors. It’s up to them to see past these unrefined moments to the potential underneath. That doesn’t make the process any less strange or, at times, any less of a crapshoot. To wit, here’s a funny scene that lampoons that very idea from Shane Black’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” in which Robert Downey Jr. plays a robber who hides out from the police at a casting call with unexpected results:

Now, that is a great audition. But, please Chris Klein, don’t get any ideas and show up to your next one bleeding.

On the plus side, Klein’s fridge-nuking moment is about to be replaced in the public consciousness by another hilariously weird audition, this one featuring (and put online by) silicon-based life form Heidi Montag. In it, Montag tries to prove to Michael Bay that she’s ready to take over for Megan Fox in “Transformers 3” by clumsily shooting a pistol on a gun range. I wonder if she knows any ABBA songs.

[Photo: “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, 20th Century Fox, 2009]

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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