80,000 word memoir of a life spent acting, and then, not. Lisa Jakub's 22-year career in acting began at the age of 4, and quickly snowballed into a nonstop schedule of print ads, commercials, voiceovers, television shows and feature films. She was one of the few actors in Hollywood she knew who had never bussed a table. But while people around her were dying to be in her shoes, she was dying to go barefoot. Lisa left L.A. in search of a meaningful life. It is definitely a memoir of a child actor, but this is also a story of a journey of coming-of-age and self-discovery that would be relevant to anyone who has chosen to take the path less traveled.
Synopsis - "I realize that my life is unusual when my 3rd grade classmate starts charging kids to show them where "that girl from TV" lives. I had been "discovered" four years earlier, while walking through a mall in Toronto. It all just snowballs from there.
I do everything from hawking KFC on giant billboards to hand modeling for the Canadian Egg Board. At age 11, my mom and I venture to L.A. and move into the Holiday Inn. My only friends are the two pigeons who wander in from the balcony everyday, perch on the lampshade and beg for crackers. My manager teaches me to cry on cue by telling me to "think of dead puppies." He times me with a stopwatch.
After a few months of auditions, I book a role in the film Rambling Rose with Robert Duvall. On set, I'm in a freak accident and break my back. But the show must go on, so I finish the film completely drugged and wearing a body brace under my costume. I recover just in time to attend the film's Royal Premiere in London with Princess Diana, who tries to set me up with her son. (Spoiler alert: that didn't work out.)
I do a TV movie with a writer who asks us to housesit for him for several months. It's a nice break from living in hotels or a 400 square foot apartment in a corporate housing complex that is populated with other struggling actors. The only hitch is that it is the Beverly Hills mansion where the Menendez brothers murdered their parents. People come to yell and hold up signs at the gate. I try to explain that I have very little to do with the outcome of the trial.
Then Mrs. Doubtfire happens. Suddenly, fans are everywhere: malls, restaurants, public bathrooms. I just want to do my job, I'm not sure how to navigate this very public life. I spend my days with a Hell's Angel named Fuzzy, who acts as my bodyguard. My high school, frustrated by my lengthy absences, asks me not to return. Robin Williams writes them a letter, imploring them to support my balance of work and education. They don't let me back in, but they do frame the letter and hang it in the principal's office.
When I am 15 years old, I buy a house in L.A. I'm desperate for everyone to like me, so I say "yes" to whoever asks and my house becomes a refugee camp for creative types. Fourteen people move into my two-bedroom house. I am still lonely but at least there are lots of people to jealously mock me when I have a meeting with Frances Ford Coppola.
I do the film Independence Day and my fate is sealed. Still, the term "movie star" makes my skin crawl. My actor friends are jealous of my resume; I am jealous of their passion. I try to escape to remote locations but even the locals in rural Honduras recognize me and call me "Señorita HBO." I consider leaving the industry, but what else is a high school dropout with no other experiences going to do?
I am an incompetent ingénue. I give interviews to a line of reporters at a premiere without noticing that the SMALL sticker is still pasted on the chest of my Gap sweater. I black out with panic when fans approach because I want them to believe the façade of course I love this life. I produce a short film that showcases at the Cannes Film Festival. Even that "success" doesn't make me happy. In an act of self-sabotage, I stop preparing for auditions. I daydream about working in an office.
Although everyone thinks it's crazy, I move to Virginia in pursuit of an authentic life. I struggle to find purpose, since my few skills are useless in the real world. I go to college and learn I am worth something outside of movies. I travel to Africa and learn to accept and appreciate all of my experiences. I learn to be still and present, instead of constantly striving for the next job or the next complement from Steven Spielberg. I marry the love of my life. I become a writer. I finally answer the question no one bothered to ask me when I was four years old what do I want to be when I grow up?"