The Night and Day Spent at the Museum


Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle
writer tom lennon's interview with extra
writer tom lennon's interview with extra

Thursday, May 14, 2009 turned out to be a beautiful yet muggy day in Washington for the premiere of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.The day spent at the Smithsonian Castle for press interviews was full of high energy, comedy and dramatics.  The logistics it takes to smoothly interview and prepare the well known cast including Stiller, Wilson, Adams, Williams, and Gervais proved flawless to the outsider. With a 911 pace, the crew fetched Starbucks, fresh lip balms, huge bags of nuts, and anything the stars needed. Robin Williams, while seeing the streets of D.C. filled with onlookers and especially one person on a Segway, he joked that Segways are just another form of wheelchairs used in old age. Williams was energetic throughout the day and night. You could hear his outbursts of entertainment, while the rest of the interviewers and crew succumbed to laughing hysterically. To see the movie stars lined up for a photograph outside the Smithsonian Castle (if you are wondering, the Castle is the original Smithsonian and now Welcome Center.  Not everyone knows but we should point out that there are 19 museums plus 9 research centers that makeup the Smithsonian) was impressive. One of the local camera men poignantly said, “That’s a lot of money right there!”  Also, that’s a lot of ego. D.C. is used to the equation ego + power=politics. Today it was ego + starpower=hollywood.

The cast went on that night to the World Premiere screening of the movie plus the after party. It was fun to see the Mandarin lobby full of recognizable faces dressed to the nines.

The next day brought more of the same: getting ready, errands and interviews. After a full morning and then several hours of downtime, it was time to prepare for the night at the museum.

While walking the labyrinth of hallways in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. to get to the elevator, I spotted the lead actor, Ben Stiller, of Night at the Museum:Battle of the Smithsonian. He was heading out for the press junket at the Air and Space Museum to meet with the national and international press and the other actors including Owen Wilson, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, and Ricky Gervais. A large man dressed in black intercepted our pathway by politely directing me to the elevator and pushing the “Down” button for me. Okay. Traffic control for could be crazy fan. Not I, however. One of the most important parts of being a discreet makeup artist is to definitely not ogle at the stars. I quietly and without hesitation entered the elevator. Guess who came right along for the ride. Yup. Ben Stiller with his publicist. As the doors closed,  Ben glanced at the paperback book (Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years) attached to my makeup luggage. He asked immediately, “Good book?”. I said, “Yes. You can turn to any page and start reading any entry and you’ll laugh.” Ben replied, “(Michael) Palin. That guy, who did the around -the-world movie.”. “Yeah, I love that movie.”, I said. He mumbled, “Python years…yeah Python.” You sensed that Ben has a lot of respect for Michael Palin as many comedic actors probably do. With that Mr. Stiller was whisked through the foyer of the Mandarin as I heard someone say, “Hey, that’s Ben Stiller…yeah Ben Stiller.” The comedic food cycle completed with one respecting another, who respected another and so on.

From there we all proceeded to the Air and Space Museum at 6:00 P.M. for a literal Night at the Museum’s press junket. Five hours of questions from the press with little or not break. That’s a lot of talking for the actors, director and writers. Everyone hung in there. We don’t know if there will be a NATM III, but we do know that the foreign press loves D.C. As I was being shuttled back to the hotel at 11:20 after 18 hours that day and 3 hours the day before working, the driver offered that we drive  by the Lincoln Memorial. Cute. The shuttle was full of the Japanese press and myself. What could I do? “There’s only one of me and the rest of you. Sure. Let’s go.”, I said. So we lumbered off into the night to see the gorgeous light fall on the impressive memorial that really looks surreal at night. Surprisingly, visitors are allowed access to the front steps of the memorial at night. I thought to myself. That’s where I draw the line. We did not get out of the van to take pictures!


2 thoughts on “The Night and Day Spent at the Museum

  1. Thanks for the shout out to the rest of the Smithsonian museum family outside of the Castle! So many people think if they’ve been to the Mall they have seen all of the Smithsonian, but not so.

    1. You’re welcome. For a fun day, readers should check out the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum, which is located next to Union Station in D.C. Ask to see Owney the dog.

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