I’m torn; on the one hand, I’ve been remiss in writing about this absurd, wonderful, and constantly surprising relationship I find myself in. On the other hand, I can’t let the passing of my number one film icon go unremarked, so this post will be a bit schizophrenic.
I couldn’t possibly have chosen a better moniker than The Unicorn. Everything about this girl, and our relationship, is absolutely (in my experience, at least) unique. After only four months (and this number boggles both of us so completely that we’ve actually had to sit and do the math on several occasions to convince ourselves that it really is only four months) our lives have blended together into a seamless, effortless single entity that works in a way that’s completely new to me. It works.
I’ve always had great, strong, enriching relationships. My exes are mostly still my closest friends, and having someone who makes life fuller by being there than it could possibly be alone isn’t a new thing for me. This time, though, it’s all new. Where my other relationships (to stretch a sappy metaphor) always felt like we were two distinct halves of an awesome whole, with The Unicorn, we just feel like one entity. It’s seamless. And it’s stunning.
It really shouldn’t work; given the difference in age and background and upbringing and pop-culture zeitgeist, we shouldn’t get along at all. And yet, with zero effort from either of us, we’ve become that couple. It’s revolting, and we both love it.
This has meant I’ve had very little excuse to be my normal, miserable-bastard self. Recently, a shitty stretch of no work got suddenly worse with the latest moratorium, and I was looking down the barrel of serious, crushing poverty. The Unicorn would gladly give me money, but I just can’t do it; between my white trash pride and my age and my stubbornness and the simple fact that I’m a fucking man, I just can’t stomach taking money from anyone, much less my girlfriend.
The cloud has since lifted, but the money isn’t the point. Even at the depths of my financial despair, I was happy. In years past, I would have been near-suicidal. But rather than letting work rule my life, I’m setting hours, keeping them, and when we curl up on the couch to watch a movie at night (or make a mess out of the dungeon), everything is suddenly fine.
I really don’t know what to do with it.
Right after Thanksgiving, we took a little weekend trip to Seattle. She’d never been, and we both have friends up there. It was fantastic. we did all the tourist stuff… Pike Place, the Needle, the Underground Tour. We also wrecked our hotel room several times a day, and went to dinner with her friend Lew, and my friends Mike and Lisa (a girl I’ve had a crush on since high school who is still astonishing).
And all of it was fun and effortless. I really couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. I just have to not fuck this one up. And maybe being happy (it’s strange to even type it) explains why I was hit so hard by the news of Peter O’Toole’s death yesterday.
It’s impossible to explain the scope of O’Toole’s influence on me. While it was Star Wars that gave me the acting bug, it was Lawrence of Arabia that made me want to be a filmmaker. David Lean’s masterpiece has always topped my list of best films, and when I’m forced to answer the inane question about what my “favorite movie” is, I often answer Lawrence. I first saw it as a child in the worst way possible; on a tiny television, in it’s destroyed broadcast cut.
And I was enthralled by it anyway. In the years since, I’ve devoured every restored and updated version, and it warms my heart that The Egyptian keeps a screening of Lawrence in its rotation. The film is a masterwork, but the real appeal is obvious to anyone: Peter O’Toole.
When I got old enough to start hunting down his other performances, O’Toole became the first actor whose work I would actively seek out. This lead me to wonderful crap like The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, and genuine works of art like Becket and The Lion in Winter. I’ve been obsessed with both, particularly Lion, ever since. I’ve done the play three times. It’s one of the only shows I still want to do, now that I’m old enough to properly play Henry.
And while Katherine Hepburn is radiant in Lion, the real light of that film is O’Toole.
To this day, I have a soft spot for several edgy, mediocre films simply because Peter O’Toole is fucking brilliant in them. The Ruling Class. The Stuntman. (Eli Cross… duh.) Creator. Lord Jim. What’s New Pussycat. Great Catherine. Man of la Mancha.
And while I cherish his last truly masterful turn in Venus, that film hits a bit too close to home. I knew while watching it that this film about an aging actor dying on his own terms was the last time we would ever see O’Toole in command of the screen, and it was bittersweet.
I sat with The Unicorn last night at watched My Favorite Year, resisting the impulse to quote every line of the movie (which I can easily do). When the final moment between Benjy and Swann came, I had tears in my eyes, because I’m ridiculous.
And so, in honor of the film icon who shaped my life, I’m going to spend the day quoting Alan Swann and Eli Cross and Henry II. And remembering.