A day with directionCody Saurdiff never imagined his wildest dream would come true. But it did. He got to hang out in a hotel room eating cupcakes and pizza with a guy in a T-shirt, shorts and a bathrobe.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Cody Saurdiff never imagined his wildest dream would come true. But it did.
He got to hang out in a hotel room eating cupcakes and pizza with a guy in a T-shirt, shorts and a bathrobe. What more could a 16-year-old boy wish for?
Of course, the fact that he was eating junk food with his idol Kevin Smith, a famous film writer, actor and director, in a penthouse suite in New York City with a view of the Statue of Liberty – after spending an entire day watching Smith direct a film and getting to act in a scene himself – was the icing on the cupcakes.
“We got as much out of that day as we possibly could,” said Cody, son of Bob Saurdiff and Barb Saurdiff, both of Alexandria. “I spent from 10 a.m. to midnight with my hero. I felt so fulfilled.”
How Cody got there wasn’t so fulfilling. But typical of this easy-going, eloquent teen, his quirky sense of humor and his positive attitude helped him take the bumps on the road to New York City in stride.
Making the best of it
“I just kind of accepted it for the most part,” Cody said.
Brave words coming from a kid who just whipped cancer – twice.
Two years ago, Cody was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The tumor was removed and the cancer did not spread. About a year and a half later, a cancerous lump was found in his abdomen.
The lump was removed, but this time chemotherapy was in order. Complicating this treatment was the fact that Cody doesn’t have “a very good heart.”
Born with a heart defect called tetralogy of fallot, Cody had heart surgery at 6 months old and “pretty much grew up around doctors.”
His five chemotherapy sessions caused him to miss the last two months of his sophomore year. But he didn’t let the nausea and hair loss get him down.
“I thought I could have some fun with it,” he said of losing his hair. “Eventually I had to shave my head. I invited everyone I knew into my basement and I had a friend shave my head. I tried to make the best possible out of an awful situation.”
In the meantime, Bob was trying to do the same thing. He wanted to do something special for his son, so he turned to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for advice – never imagining that Cody would qualify.
“I was looking for more help than having them do it,” Bob said, thinking that Make-A-Wish was only for terminal illnesses. “But they called back and said he was qualified and his wish was granted.”
Cody didn’t hesitate at all when his dad asked what wish he would like granted. He wanted to meet Kevin Smith – writer, actor and director of some of Cody’s favorite movies.
Referring to his family as “film freaks,” Cody had been exposed to all types of film in his childhood. But Smith’s movies called to him, and made him want to write screenplays himself.
“He has a quiet and intellectual humor he has drawn down to a level that people can understand,” Cody explained. “His ideas are really fun but really out there. The guy is so articulate. I’ve always thought his work was the best thing in the world.”
Only two months after Bob contacted Make-A-Wish, Cody received a letter saying his wish had been accepted. Two weeks later, it was already set up.
“Kevin Smith said yes right on the spot,” Cody said.
On July 23, Cody, his parents and brother, Dillyn, took off for Minneapolis. The next morning a limousine arrived at their motel to transport them to the airport. And when they arrived in New York City, another limousine was waiting.
“You wouldn’t believe what they [Make-A-Wish] went through. There was a limousine service everywhere we went and contacts everywhere we went,” said a grateful Bob. “Someone was with us to help throughout the whole trip. We pretty much didn’t have to do anything but show up.”
The first day in the Big Apple, the Saurdiffs played tourist – visiting Manhattan, Park Avenue, Central Park, The Museum of Art, Ground Zero and Grand Central Station.
But that paled in comparison to day two of Cody’s big adventure – when he visited a movie set, met his mentor and acted in a movie all in one day.
“That one day made it the best trip we have ever had,” Cody said.
A regular guy
Cody wasn’t expecting much. Smith was a busy man. He was in the middle of filming a movie titled A Couple of Dicks. The teen figured he would visit the movie set, shake hands, exchange a few words, and be on his way.
He was sorely mistaken.
It started with a car accident and a bald guy.
“This car came screeching to a stop, and Bruce Willis got out. It turned out to be Bruce Willis and a stunt double,” Cody said, noting that because Willis is bald, so were all the stunt doubles. “I was right at home. Everybody was bald.”
The Saurdiffs scored the best seats on the street, right behind the director’s chair. Then came Smith.
“He had a big old smile, waved to us and talked to us for a bit,” Cody said, impressed with Smith’s kindness and genuine welcome. “Then he leans back and says, ‘Hey, do you want to be in the movie?’ ”
The Saurdiffs were amazed to learn that Smith had rewritten part of the script to accommodate a part for Cody.
In the scene, Cody plays a teenage student driver who hits Willis with a car. Although it would be a 20-second scene, the Saurdiffs spent eight hours on the set.
After he was done filming, Cody got out of the car and the film crew gave him a standing ovation.
“They took a shining to Cody,” said his proud dad. “They loved this kid. He was holding cameras and everything. They couldn’t do enough.”
“Everyone there was super nice,” Cody agreed.
When the filming wrapped up, a satisfied, overwhelmed Cody expected to shake hands and say goodbye.
Then it got even better.
“He invited us to go to his editing room,” Cody said incredulously.
“And of course, we were so busy, we said, ‘Well, maybe,’ ” he joked.
Smith showed the Saurdiffs the editing room and explained the process. He ordered pizza and shared the cupcakes his daughter baked. He listened to Cody’s cancer story and listened to his opinions. And he sat and joked around with them.
At 9:30 p.m. it was finally a wrap. Cody had experienced the best day of his life.
“I had a crush on him before, but I fell in love with him afterward,” Cody joked. “Anything I experienced with him that day made everything about him better, if it could be better.”
The Saurdiffs had one more day to tour New York City, but it was anti-climactic. Not even seeing the Rockefeller Center or getting bumped to the front of the line at the Statue of Liberty held a candle to the previous day.
“We did have this really good hot dog,” Cody teased, pondering the highlight of his New York adventure. “It was something. I was mesmerized by the taste.”
But the best hot dog he’d ever tasted couldn’t even compare to his day on the movie set and everything he learned. And it wasn’t just about making movies.
“I realize how some people in this world can be,” he concluded. “Make-A-Wish did everything they could for us. Kevin Smith did everything he could for us. They were the nicest people we could ever imagine.
“I learned a lot about the goodness of people’s hearts.”