Let’s jump right in.
Act One: Setup
I used to act in commercials as a kid, and this got me a nifty membership into the Screen Actors Guild. The years passed and I maintained my membership into my teenage years. When I was 19, I received a letter letting me know that I had been randomly chosen (after about 13 years of membership in SAG) to be part of the group that nominates movies for the awards. Every SAG member can vote for the SAG Awards, but only a few can nominate the movies that other members will ultimately vote for. I’d be able to attend free screenings and exclusive Q&As with Fancy Famous People and I was pretty stoked.
I said yes and attended some Q&As. Saw Eddie Redmayne, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski. Hotties. Appreciated good films. Snacked on snacks.
One event popped up in my email inviting me and a guest to an Argo screening in Hollywood at the Pickford Center (which is associated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). It said to show up at six for a mixer with snacks and mingling and that at the end of the movie there would be a Q&A with possibly some of the cast and crew. They had me at snacks.
I invited my mom and she didn’t want to go. Neither did my boyfriend. They both had things to do. I was a sophomore in college at this point so I too had things to do but the difference was that I did not want to do them. I invited my friend Robert and he was like “aight, cool”, and we were off.
Act Two: Who The Hell Are You?
Some context: Robert and I were two 19 year old broke nerds (now we’re 23 year old broke nerds. Oh, the sands of time). We wore jeans, sneakers, and casual tops to the event. We thought we were going to gorge ourselves on food and then watch a long movie, okay?! We didn’t know! Oh God. We didn’t know. We knew the building would be nice because of the academy affiliation, so we wore nice casual tops. JC Penney and shit. I remember that my jeans were light blue, I wore black and white sneakers, and my shirt was striped and too short for me. I looked like the little brother in a Pixar animated film.
Robert and I showed up and there was a bouncer at the door who gave us a face that can only be described as “really guys, are you serious?” and sighed. I handed him my ID and gleefully announced that we were there for “the Argo thingy” because I was and still am insufferable. Robert and I stood there for a good five minutes while the bouncer triple checked his list and whispered to a Fancy Lady With A Clipboard and Mr. TheOtherBouncer. Resigned, they realized that it was in fact me and my papers were legit (like in “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z) and they had no choice but to let us in. They checked the contents of my bag (mints, Revlon ColorStay lipstick, and approximately twelve dollars) and we were finally allowed in. Robert and I walked through a tunnel with a red carpet on it and stomped all over it like heathens with our heavy Sketchers-wearing feet. We got in line and waited for the doors to open. This was when we began to notice that everyone was dressed to the nines and we smirked at each other. Jeez, what a bunch of tryhards. It’s just snacks and a movie.
Act Three: It Was Not Just Snacks And A Movie
The doors opened and the line began moving. If I could go back to this moment, I’d grab Ellie and shove her into a Ross Dress for Less gown and tell her to network. I’d tell her to not freak out and be cool. I’d tell her to save me some coconut shrimp.
Unfortunately, time travel is not quite a thing yet. I’m working on it.
Robert and I entered through the doors and we marveled at the gorgeous room and all the food and beautiful people. The room was draped in red and gold and there were long tables on either side laden with desserts and fancy food I’d never seen before (yes, I’d never seen hors d’oeuvres in the flesh before. I’m a poor kid from LA. Come on now). I looked ahead of me toward the bar, wondering if Robert and I could score some booze. As my eyes refocused, I realized I was looking Bryan Cranston right in the eyes and he was about four feet from me.
I can’t capture with words what my brain was doing. All I can say is that everything moved in slow motion while Enya played in my head. I was not someone who was starstruck easily, but I hadn’t had any chance to prepare for this and it was all a surprise to me. I had kept my cool around someone like Matt Damon because I knew I was going to see him and had looked forward to it, but this was an entirely different situation. This picture comes the closest to describing what was happening in my head at that moment:
MOTHER. FUCKING. HEISENBERG?!?!?? WHAT?!??!!?
It was 2012; Breaking Bad was extremely popular and I watched it religiously. Also, I had grown up watching Malcolm in the Middle. This was absolutely nuts and I was not emotionally prepared to suddenly be stuck in a room with this man.
I realized I had been staring at him for a good thirty seconds and immediately panicked. I looked to my right quickly and saw the most handsome man I had ever seen up to that point in my life (and beyond, let’s be honest). He was broad-shouldered, tall, and so good-looking that I felt like I was staring at the sun. I was staring at one approximately 10 foot tall Ben Affleck in the flesh. I was always more of a Matt Damon girl, but the moment I saw Ben Affleck I knew that I was forever changed. I wanted to ride that man like a horse into the sunset. Too much? No, buddy, not enough.
I will forever be proud of the fact that I didn’t flat-out faint at this point.
I realized I’d lost Robert and began looking for him. I searched for him in a daze and found him standing wide-eyed at one of the buffet tables, stuffing macarons in his mouth with glazed-over eyes.
“E… Ellie… there’s…” Robert raised his finger like E.T. and pointed toward the distance. I glanced over my shoulder and realized he was pointing at a very orange George Clooney.
I looked back at Robert, who was trying to make himself look as small as possible. “I’ve never even seen a famous person on the street,” he whispered, all but curling into a ball, “and now they’re here…”
I sighed and looked down at my blue jeans and sneakers. “Yeah,” I muttered, looking back up and seeing all the Fancy People mingling with the other Fancy People, “I fucked up.”
Act Four: Shame Endurance
Have you ever had people look at you with disgust or through you like you’re not there? Have you ever had this happen for two straight hours in the same room as the cast and producers of Argo?
I have. So has Robert. I think that’s probably it, though.
For the next two hours, we endured a marathon of shame. Technically it was two hours, but it felt like at least eight. I want to be clear that it wasn’t the cast staring at us; they were too preoccupied talking to like ten people at once and looking glamorous. The real stares came from the other folks that decided that they were famous by association and would treat Robert and I, aka The Little People, like shit. They ignored us if we had the gall to make a small talk remark and gave us repulsed looks whenever they got the chance. The waiters and servers just kind of pretended we weren’t there and gave us a wide berth when they walked around with hors d’oeuvres. Robert and I ended up hanging out at one buffet table and then slowwwwwly making our way to the other one and then slowwwwwly back, pretending we weren’t quickly depleting the mini-cupcakes and brownie bonbons meant for a hundred people just between the two of us.
Then came the anger. Why were they treating us like this? Why were we so ashamed and why were they looking at us up and down and then scoffing? Just because of clothes? I, Ellie Guzman, was a due-paying SAG member who had been chosen for the committee and I was just as entitled to be there as everyone else, and Robert was my guest that I was told to bring and he deserved to be there too! We weren’t less than just because we were poor and underdressed and the only two Latino people in the room aside from some of the waiters (not that Argo was particularly respectful of Latinos since they had a white guy play the Latino lead but anyway! That’s another topic!) and maybe some white-passing ones who didn’t stand out like us. Hell no! I was going to talk to Bryan Cranston, so help me God.
Act Five: My Apologies to Bryan Cranston
I dutifully marched myself over to Bryan Cranston, who was about halfway across the room and talking to just two other people. This was my chance. I butted myself into their little triangle and he gave me a little nod, but I quickly looked down at the ground and realized that I had lost all ability to move any of my muscles.
He was interviewing with some guy from Vanity Fair and there was another dude mooching off of the interview for his own publication, and I just kind of stood there. I literally just stood there. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there was drool coming out of my mouth. I stood there, transfixed, listening and waiting to get a word out but knowing that I would be too chicken to say anything, and ended up staring at Bryan Cranston for what was probably ten straight minutes without saying a word and then slowly slinking away once my legs regained feeling. Not a proud moment.
Act Six: Finally, The Movie
They opened the doors to the theater and at this point Robert, for some horrifying reason, decided that he was going to eat all of the remaining food on the buffet tables. He started stuffing leftover food in his mouth and, compelled by hunger and shame, I too began rushing up and down the table and stuffing every goddamn tiny biscuit and little weird egg thing in my mouth. I like to think that “Bad Reputation” just played in the background the whole time while I ran around consuming cake pops like I was in an eating contest.
Once Robert and I realized we were essentially the only two people left in the room, we made our way into the theater and got extremely shitty seats. It was fine though because by this point we honestly just wanted to go home. We watched the movie and it was okay, but it was hard seeing the actors and remembering that we had just weirded out everyone in the film and the theater in the past couple hours. After the movie there was a Q&A and I don’t remember a single thing from it. I did get this picture though, at least:
The Q&A ended and everyone began filing out back through the damn ballroom hall thing. As we were leaving I saw John Goodman walking toward us and I blurted out the only thing I could think of to prove to myself that I could indeed talk to these people.
“I loved your work in Community, Mr. Goodman!”
John Goodman stopped in his tracks and gave me the saddest look any human being has ever given me in my life. He sighed heavily.
Robert and I went home and never spoke of the event again.