A Conversation At A Party, An Audition, A Break: Ryan Harry In ‘I Melt With You’
By: Elsa H. Partan
It is a pretty straightforward scene. A greasy-looking blond man with his sleeves rolled up above his biceps gets into a bar fight with the lead characters, played by Rob Lowe and Thomas Jane. In the end, Pool Player #1 breaks a pool cue over the back of Mr. Jane’s character.
It may be just a few minutes on screen for Pool Player #1, but it is a breakthrough for the actor, 2001 Mashpee High School graduate Ryan T. Harry, who moved out to California in 2003 to teach tennis at an exclusive resort and to make his way into movies.
When the film, “I Melt with You,” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last month in Park City, Utah, Mr. Harry was there, getting his photograph taken and shaking hands with the stars.
“Oh, it was awesome,” said the 28-year-old, reached by cellphone in California. “It was the highlight of my career so far.”
His family members who live in Mashpee, including his parents and grandmother, Fay K. Harry, are thrilled with his part in a movie and hope that it becomes a stepping stone for him. His sister, Chelsea Harry, is acting as his publicist from her home in Pittsburg.
Mr. Harry’s father, real estate broker Timothy C. Harry, said that he has been bursting with the news of Ryan’s latest movie success.
“It was to the point where he said, ‘knock it off,’ ” said Timothy Harry, laughing.
Landing the small speaking role required years of groundwork and a bit of luck, Ryan Harry said. Getting acting roles in Hollywood primarily consists of meeting powerful people at parties and making an impression, he said.
“In L.A., you go to so many parties, you wouldn’t believe it,” he said.
At one of them, he met Mark Pellington, the director of “I Melt with You,” a dark drama about four men on a destructive weekend binge. Mr. Harry got along with Mr. Pellington, and at the end of the night, Mr. Pellington asked him to send examples of his previous film work.
“I sent it to him that night,” Mr. Harry said. “He called back the next day, and a month later I got the audition.”
Once he got the part, he was told to keep his hair long and not wash it for a week or shave his face before the scene was shot.
The road to that audition did not start at an L.A. party, Mr. Harry said, but rather at Mashpee High School, where he played Demetrius in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a junior. He turned down acceptances to four-year colleges in favor of attending Cape Cod Community College, where he studied business and psychology and starred in a handful of plays in 2002 and 2003. A few influential theater instructors at the college allowed him to imagine pursuing acting as a career.
“P.J. McKey is a goddess of comedy,” said Mr. Harry, referring to Patricia J. McKey, an adjunct faculty member and instructor of theater at the college since 1992.
“She is, to this day, the best comedic coach and director I’ve ever worked with. She could work anywhere in the world, and she chooses to work on Cape Cod.”
Ms. McKey remembers asking Mr. Harry and a few other students at the college to come up with a rap introduction to “The Alchemist,” an English comedy from 1610.
“I remember him as being very gregarious and a bit of an imp, full of energy,” she said. “A lot of teaching acting is just giving people permission. I think he was already a clown and just needed someone to say, ‘It’s okay to be a clown.’ ”
Mr. Harry’s clowning abilities are apparent in the recent video “Bieber Fever,” which was selected by comedian Will Farrell’s website Funny Or Die. In a very silly sequence, he plays a fanatical devotee of the teenage pop star Justin Bieber.
Mr. Harry has also starred in some short, independent films that are now in post-production. In a western called “Red Gold End Game” he plays Deputy Tim Cole, and in “Fare,” he plays the lead. That movie is about a man and a woman who never meet but impact each other’s lives nonetheless.
Support from home has been an important part of making it through the ego-bruising auditions that are typical in Hollywood, he said. Mr. Harry’s sister, speaking on the phone from Pittsburgh, said that surviving in the film industry requires a limitless supply of confidence. She tries to provide any cheerleading she can.
“In that business, there are a million people telling you your body isn’t good enough, your hair isn’t good enough, you skin isn’t good enough,” Ms. Harry said. “You can’t let it get to you.”
As ego-crushing as an audition can be, movie reviews can be devastating. An Internet search for Mr. Harry’s latest movie yields multiple scathing reviews, including one with the title, “Sundance: ‘I Melt with You’ featuring Jeremy Piven, Thomas Jane, and Rob Lowe behaving badly, is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.” The reviewer, Owen Gleiberman, goes on to say that 122 minutes is too long for a movie to dwell on the sex, drinking, and drugs that leads to the demise of the four lead characters.
Despite the bad press, the independent film was immediately picked up at Sundance by Magnolia Pictures and should come to theaters later this year. Mr. Harry was also philosophical about the brutal coverage.
“I think it’s a great artistic piece,” he said. “What one person thinks is trash, another person thinks is treasure. There is definite meaning behind the film, but if you don’t like it, no problem.”
Getting a role in Mark Pellington’s movie was a bit like getting a promotion to a new position, Mr. Harry said. “You get into smaller and smaller circles.”
He added that there seems to be a magical transition moment for young actors in Hollywood. You never know what is going to tip the scales in favor of stardom, he said.
“It’s one of those businesses where everyone looks down on you until they want your autograph,” he said.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.