Eduardo Fajardo was a very good actor, well-known in Europe, with years of experience. He was flying around playing the heavy in a picture with Stewart Granger at the same time he was doing Mission. My most important stuff was with him, because we were the antagonists, and from the beginning I sensed he was wiping me off the screen. So I showed up to watch the dailies (over the director's objections, as usual), confirming the impression.
How was he doing it?
Sometimes subtly, by stepping into my light during a tense two-shot. Block someone’s light, they disappear. Or (on my lines, of course) he’d stare off as if he found something fascinating in the far distance over my left shoulder. Or, less subtly, he’d scratch his balls or pick his nose. Anything to keep the focus on himself. Malatesta never said a thing.
Eduardo and I were pretty friendly by then, so I called him on it. He threw up his hands. “Arturo,” he said, “I can’t help it. It comes automatically to me. You’re not a very good actor, you know, and it’s hard not to take advantage.”
I guess he took pity, seeing my expression. “But the camera loves you,” he added, putting a hand on my shoulder, “and no doubt you can learn. Listen. Develop an image in your mind. You’re a fly-swatter and I’m the fly. You’re just waiting for me to land. It’ll show in your eyes.”
I guess it helped. If it changed my performance (the reason some directors don’t want actors to watch dailies), it was early enough in the picture to pass for plot. My character starts out low key, before turning intrepid. At least, that’s how it played out.
Excerpted from FLASHBACKS, the authors autobiography. www.arthansl.com