Unfortunately, when your favorite actors are snorting lines on screen, they aren't doing actual cocaine.
You probably knew that, but it was still fun to imagine. I liked to think that every time Jeff Bridges was pulling from his roach clips in the The Big Lebowski he was actually getting high. But it was more than likely oregano. At least according to this fascinating New York Post piece on how prop masters handle drug use on movie sets.
Take cocaine. To get the look right, they'll use different combinations. One for when it's cut up, one for when it's snorted.
“It’s usually cornstarch, but you have to put a bit of baby powder into it, because starch is too sticky and heavy,” says Gillian Albinski, the property master on “Homeland,” who is responsible for dealing with most of the items the actors touch.
If the actor is going to snort the “coke,” however, a different substance is required.
“I always use powdered lactose,” says longtime prop master Mychael Bates, who worked on 2011’s “Horrible Bosses,” which included scenes of cocaine use. “You can snort it for real, and it doesn’t affect you. It’s just a milk product.”
And sometimes, when actors are snorting, they are actually acting.
The prop masters will sometimes coat the inside of the coke straw with Vaseline. When the powder is snorted, most of it sticks to the straw instead of going up the actor’s nose.
So lame. Then they have to just, what, pretend to be really excited? Why not do the real thing? Well, when it comes to pot, apparently actors try to.
“I’ve worked on shows where actors have wanted to smoke the real thing, and I was constantly fighting to take away their real bags,” Albinski says. “Oregano smells so much like the real thing, you have to check carefully to make sure they haven’t switched it out.”
The lengths these prop masters go to add detail is amazing.
[She] even had to attend to small details, including dirtying the bong water. She added a bit of Coca-Cola to darken it, then crushed a piece of a cigarette to put flecks in the water.
That's true. If I saw a character with a spotless bong, I'd know something was up.
[Via New York Post]