As an actor and writer in New York it’s only natural that stability in my life is not a thing. I have moved from one room to another and bounced from Brooklyn to Queens and to tons of places in Manhattan before I became roommates with Dylan.
I had to make a quick getaway fast from a place I was subletting in Astoria Queens when I found out that the person I was paying rent to the past three months, was not paying the landlord. So one daring daytime escape and a plea on Facebook for a temporary place to stay later, all of my belongings and I found ourselves at Dylan’s, a friend who lived nearby who was willing to me crash there for a while.
Dylan worked the door at a comedy club I performed at in Midtown and we became friends. Dylan is autistic and has Aspergers Syndrome which makes him an excellent doorman. He is focused and great at the tasks of seating, ticket taking and stage arrangement. He’s also is very personable.
What started out as just a few days turned into a few months and during that time Dylan and I spent a lot of time together. We watched movies constantly and one of Dylan’s quirks was that he couldn’t help but become a walking IMDB during movies shouting out the bios of every actor who appeared.
That’s Mitch Ryan, he was Jim Carrey’s boss in Liar Liar, that man played the guard in The Green Mile, dead, dead, he played Jennifer Garner’s father in Volcano, dead, played the lead prosecutor in the first season of Law and Order…
And so on.
I thought it would be a fun project, and a good distraction from constantly watching TV, if we tried to write a screenplay together. Dylan was all for it and we landed on writing a dark comedy combining his love of horror movies and character actors, with my comedy background.
Character Assassin was born.
Character Assassin focused on a movie buff named Willie Lasko who was so obsessed with his favorite actor, he started murdering real life character actors to ensure his favorite would continue to get work. We worked on this for three months, and after all that time we had a pretty good 90 page script that was funny, dark, and totally original as the main character was loosely based on Dylan.
A month later we rented a theater, and I hired a bunch of my actor friends to do a live reading. It was very well received. Dylan’s parents came out and thanked me for getting their son involved in a project like this. “You have no idea what you’ve done,” his father told me. His mother cried. They told me when he was growing up in the 70’s they didn’t know what autism was, and they didn’t treat it in any way. They had no idea why Dylan was different as a child, but now they see what he is capable of.
(Enter James Rebhorn.)
In the Character Assassin script, our hero was obsessed with the real life actor James Rebhorn. While not a household name, he is a household face. He has been in everything from My Cousin Vinny, to Meet The Parents and most recently on the TV show Homeland. We picked James because Dylan is also obsessed with him having grown up in the same town of South Orange New Jersey. He met him several times working at a liquor store there and would talk about his upcoming projects. The actor was always very kind.
I mentioned it would sure be great if we could get a copy of the script and the live reading to him. Dylan perked up and said there may be a way. He had a friend who worked in the post office in his home town, knew where James Rebhorn lived, and would bring it to his house for a bottle of whiskey. The whole thing was very covert, but a week later the script was delivered with a cover letter explaining what it was. Nothing would come out of it we were sure, but it was exciting that it happened.
The unexpected happened!
Less than a week later I received an email from none other than James Rebhorn. He read the script! And we knew he read it because he went into great detail about it. He thanked us saying he was both flattered, and a little embarrassed, but wanted us to know how much it meant to him. He joked that he’ll warn his actor friends to look out for Willie. I couldn’t wait to tell Dylan, I knew when he found out he would be over the moon, and I was right. He was so excited! We both were.
We started emailing back and forth with James, updating him on any script changes or just to say thank you. We got up the nerve to ask if he would read as himself if we did another staged reading and he agreed. We were making big plans to get sponsors, rent a bigger theater and really advertise. I was making changes to the script and making it as good as it could be for our special guest. Most important, it gave Dylan the confidence to try his hand at standup comedy.
The dream was coming true, and then…
James said he had to go to Utah for a week to film Homeland but we could all get together for a drink when he got back to talk about it. The dream was coming true, not only for me to work with an actor in an original screenplay I wrote, but mostly for Dylan who had no idea something like this could happen to him. We waited not knowing that would be the last time we would ever hear from him.
I was dressed as an astronaut entertaining kids on a space tour at the Museum of Natural History when I got the call from Dylan, “We have a huge problem…it’s the worst,” he said. Dylan was at the movies when he was scrolling through his news feed on his phone to see that character actor James Rebhorn had died. Stunned, I ended the tour with some made up fact about meteors and met Dylan at a bar near our apartments. I felt crushed. We were so close to doing something amazing, and we had lost a new friend…someone Dylan knew from his neighborhood, and someone I felt I knew longer than I actually did because of the years of watching him on screen.
Things changed for us after that.
Dylan got depressed and stopped doing standup. He started questioning why things never work out for him, and all the hope he had of being able to represent people with autism as a screenwriter flew out the window. By this time I had my own apartment, and we didn’t really hang out as much after that.
(Enter Mrs. Rebhorn)
A few months later when I received another email. Mr. Rebhorn’s wife told me James was deeply moved by the screenplay, and incredibly touched that he had fans that really appreciated his work. She invited us to his memorial which was being held in a theater he worked closely with in Manhattan. So Dylan and I dressed up and off we went.
We felt honored but very out of place in this sea of character actors you know from that “thing” but can’t quite place. All of the sudden Dylan was in a real life movie. He could hardly contain himself.
That’s the dad from Step Brothers, that’s the principal from Revenge of the Nerds, he’s on Blue Bloods, she was the daughter in Taken…
I had to tell him to be quiet during a few of the speeches, but it was pretty overwhelming.
Why were we here?
After the service, we were in line to pay our respects to Mrs Rebhorn. Why were we here? How did this happen? Will she be surprised we showed up? To our shock, she looked us at and said “You must be Rory and Dylan.” She recognized us from the DVD of the reading. She hugged us both and again told us how proud and happy James was to have a screenplay based on his work. It meant a lot to him. And to her.
She hugged us again and told us to keep in touch and update her on the script. We thanked her again and went to the bar to contemplate everything that happened. Dylan seemed better. I mean, we wrote a great script together and if we mailed it any later to James Rebhorn he would have never seen it. Even if it never gets made, I told Dylan, the right person saw it at the right time. And we were invited to a private and exclusive event in his honor. That meant the world to us.
(Enter James Rebhorn, again.)
Dylan is back doing standup at open mics talking about his autism and I’m writing another script. We’re still very good friends and toy with the idea of revisiting the Character Assassin script as it’s something we’re both proud of. He is still a film buff but one thing has changed. Now if you watch a movie with him, you may hear this:
That was the referee in Rocky 4, that guy played Sam Rockwell’s parole officer, dead, dead, taxi driver in Airplane, that’s James Rebhorn…he was a friend of mine.
Dylan Ash and Rory Scholl are friends who met working at a comedy club in Manhattan. Pooling their talents together and love of movies, they wrote an original screenplay which was presented live at the Krane Thater in New Yorks East Village. They both have cats and a love of sweets. They can be seen at comedy clubs and delis all around Queens. Follow their journey on their Facebook Page.
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