It seems appropriate that our "After Hours" year would end with Hugh Jackman, perhaps the nicest man working in movies today, acting like a giant dick. Ever since I got way too up-close-and-personal with John C. Reilly in June 2010, we've prided "After Hours" on being a home for the unexpected, awkward and deranged celebrity interaction. There will be a record 44 (!) "After Hours" episodes in the can for 2012 by the time we turn the calendar to 2013. (Yes, we have one more very special episode premiering December 27 that should not be missed.) In celebration of the fact that we're all still here (those Mayans were such idiots, am I right?) and of a great year of celebrity buffoonery, here are some special awards I'd like to bestow.
Best Improvisation (With an Inanimate Object) - Tom Hiddleston Perhaps the most fun I had on a shoot all year (it certainly was the longest) was with the mad genius that is Tom Hiddleston. We scripted "Loki'D" to be a fun riff on Tom's "Avengers" persona, of course, but what we never expected was that Tom would be so game, so open and so consistently hysterical. The coup de grace was a small improvisation in which he called his fake mustache Wendy, which proceeded to help spur on an astounding Internet meme. Go on, google "project Wendy" for fun and marvel at the creativity out there.
Best Erotic Reading - Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron (tie) Sure, the boys of "Snow White & the Huntsman" read gamely and admirably from "50 Shades of Grey." (Well, Sam Claflin at least. Chris Hemsworth barely could get through a line.) But it was the ladies who sold it. Kudos to Kristen and Charlize for letting their inner goddesses roar.
Best (and Most Dangerous) Prop - Tequila! It all began so innocently. Sometimes we put some random props on the set of an improvised bit, hoping they will inspire something unexpected and fun. Lesson learned. Take the "Male Bondage" that ensued with Mark Wahlberg. Place a bottle of coffee-flavored tequila around Wahlberg and get ready for a world of hurt. It's not every man who could egg me on to do four shots in 20 minutes. Late in the year we brought the dreaded drink out again for a red-carpet send-off to the "Twilight" cast. To be fair, I gave the cast a choice of how they wanted to celebrate the end. Good to know for the future that Ashley Greene, Elizabeth Reaser and Casey LaBow like themselves a little red-carpet lubrication.
Best Performance of an Old Man in the Future - Ethan Hawke In what I humbly feel is one of our most underrated shorts of the year, Ethan Hawke and I play two men cursed by the fates to remain apart. Hawke's committed performance culminates in a haunting portrayal of an aged version of himself in the year 2062. If your eyes didn't water as he screamed for his robot butler, I don't know what your problem is.
Best Vocal Performance - Liam Neeson As you might have heard, Liam Neeson is a man with an unusual set of skills. He can kick the ass of any would-be kidnapper, train Jedi knights and teach Jodie Foster how to use a toilet (that happened in "Nell," right?). Neeson can also lend only his voice to a bit and still leave us in stitches. Is your IT guy as obsessed with porn as Liam?
MVP - Michael Shannon 2012 kicked off with an episode of "After Hours" that earned instant-favorite status for many of us here. Sure, Michael Shannon isn't as famous as "After Hours" regulars like Matt Damon and Charlize Theron, but his talents are without compare. In "Adorable Things" we revealed at long last that Shannon is the cutest thing this side of a basket of puppies. And then in "The Escort" we learned that he will go all the way for a good time.
Best Unsung Heroes - Joel Hanek and C.J. Smith Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't call out these two deranged gents. Without the smart and silly devotion of Joel and C.J., "After Hours" would be but fanciful daydreams in my demented brain. Give it up for writer/producer Joel Hanek and the man who chops it all up into an expertly timed delight week in and week out, C.J. Smith.