Did he explain why he gravitated towards younger assistants? “I think he wanted someone young and impressionable — someone wide-eyed and naive. Someone he could mentor and nurture. I was not that. I was doing my job and I was doing it really well, but I was not fulfilling that particular need of his.” Was it a typical 9-to-5? “No. But unlike a lot of people of that caliber, G was very clear in my interview that this would be as close to a 9-to-5 as he could swing. Occasionally, he would need me to work hours outside of that, but I was getting paid — and it was always overtime. He was very fair in that way. He made it clear that I wasn’t signing over my whole life. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that at 6 p.m. you stop worrying about someone else.”
Did your first impression of him shift as time passed? “No — I felt just as uncomfortable on my first day as I did on my last. When he said he needed me to be inside his head, he meant it — and I came to realize that it was a sort of scary head to be inside of. I had a work phone and every time I got a text, I’d have a panic attack — I was so concerned, because he was so pedantic about how everything was done, so even if I knew I’d done everything right, I was always worried.”
I had a work phone and every time I got a text, I’d have a panic attack — I was so concerned, because he was so pedantic about how everything was done, so even if I knew I’d done everything right, I was always worried.
Were you afraid of him? “Yeah. He was never wholly satisfied with my performance as assistant. And I think that goes back to his inclination that I felt beyond the role. I wasn’t impressionable enough, I didn’t boost his ego enough. I think a part of his feeling good is having a person to slightly nurture — I grew up in this industry, I’m fully jaded at this point — I just was not interested. I was interested in a paycheck and doing my job well. He wanted an apprentice. I wasn’t that!” Did you have to sign an NDA before taking the job?
“No. There was just a mutual agreement that I would exercise discretion — that I guess I’m sort of throwing out the window currently — kidding. No, but my discretion was really meant to go toward the projects that he was working on during my tenure.” What was your salary? “It started at $48,000 and went up to $55k after six months. Plus health care. It was agreed upon at the start. I was pretty excited about the health care, because a lot of assistant jobs these days don’t come with benefits and full salary. G was really good about that kind of thing.”
Most outrageous request? “He was going to a wedding and I had already arranged his gift to the couple: A week in Rome, flights, hotels, spending money, everything — a pretty amazing gift to begin with. But it wasn’t enough apparently, because at 11 a.m. on the morning of the wedding, G calls me. He was leaving in an hour to drive upstate, but said he needed a few extra items and that he would text me the list: A red balloon tied with white yarn, two pairs of matching gladiator sandals (made in Italy, which is actually a very difficult ask), a wheel of Parmesan cheese, a very specific and expensive bottle of Barolo, a pack of Parodis, which, by the way, is a practically defunct brand of Italian cigars, a classic glass ashtray, and an old copy of The Aeneid. Oh, and all of this wrapped in a presentable way.
The list: A red balloon tied with white yarn, two pairs of matching gladiator sandals (made in Italy, which is actually a very difficult ask), a wheel of parmesan cheese, a very specific and expensive bottle of Barolo, a pack of Parodis, which, by the way, is a practically defunct brand of Italian cigars, a classic glass ashtray, and an old copy of 'The Aeneid'.
What was the workspace like? “He has this big beautiful office in Tribeca — and it was a strange part of the job, being in that space. I was always there alone, for one. Which was weird and isolating. And I never felt totally comfortable — it lacked the comfort of home. And it was confusing when he wanted me there versus when he didn’t. Like when he was there writing, he’d need me to leave, because he needed to be alone. But then when there would script meetings there, he liked having me around, which made doing my job difficult, because it was distracting! Plus, I always felt like I was on the outskirts (the office was one large room) looking in. "One of the weird things about the job was how little time I’d spend in a room with him. Apart from the script meetings, I was very rarely with him. It was all over the phone. I never saw him write.”
Were you involved in his personal life? “You had to know and be liked by his dog. The dog liked me — I actually really liked the dog. Nice dog. And his wife had to approve — you dealt with her a bit. I mean, I had keys to the apartment, so I was involved in their space. In terms of personal tasks, there was no coffee-fetching or laundry-getting.”
You had to know and be liked by his dog.
You said you grew up in this industry — how did that affect the way that you see celebrity? “I think the reason that I’ve been hired and hired again has to do with with the fact that the notion of celebrity doesn’t totally faze me. I’m used to it and the circus that surrounds it. When I was 12, I went on tour with my dad (he’s a musician). It was the first time I’d ever been alone with him for an extended period of time. And I remember before I left, my mom told me to make sure to look after my dad. Take care of him, essentially. I remember making him peanut butter sandwiches — always making sure he had eaten.
I think the reason that I’ve been hired and hired again has to do with with the fact that the notion of celebrity doesn’t totally faze me.
I got this epic stream of text messages. The most vitriolic messages I’ve ever received. Nothing like, 'Fuck you.' Like way worse.
“Towards the end of my time with him, I was given the task of proofing a new edition of his most famous script. It was just pure joy. The play is just genius. I remember reading it and thinking, This is it. And whatever it takes to get to this point, to be able to produce something like this is worth it. It’s such a brave play and so unlike anything I’ve ever read.”