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A Brief Tribute to Una Damon / “Deep Impact” Bored Me

Stephanie and I watched Deep Impact on Netflix about a week ago. Steph seemed to recall that it was an okay movie, and I’m always eager to conquer another film in my unending quest to watch everything, so we strapped ourselves in for two hours and ten minutes of some of the blandest non-drama ever to be set against the backdrop of the Apocalypse.

Less than halfway in we were both starting to play with our phones or otherwise disengage from the film.  But unlike most times I get distracted, I actually was invested in something specific rather than aimlessly messing with the Internet.  Or rather, someone: Una Damon.

She appears in Deep Impact as a bit player in all of the news room scenes, usually standing next to Tea Leoni and looking forlorn.  I saw her pop up on screen and I immediately thought, “That attractive Asian woman looks familiar.  Where do I know her from?”

Of course!  She was Leila, the tragically doomed girlfriend character of Joey, the comic relief character from Deep Rising!  Wow, two “Deep” movies back to back… this is the sort of mindless coincidence that clearly deserves attention until the end of this sentence.

As far as bit characters go, I think Leila might rank in my top ten.  She’s barely in Deep Rising and she’s among the first to be killed.  (Is that a spoiler?  I don’t know if there’s such a thing when you’re discussing formulaic creature features.)  But for the brief time she’s on screen, she has a lot of charisma and captures a lot of attention.

Deep Rising, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, is a violent monster flick about a band of modern-day pirates who raid a cruise ship, only to discover that it’s infested with dozens of hungry tentacle-creatures.  When the film opens, you see the captain of the ship (Treat Williams) being tired and cranky while his crew – mainly just Una Damon and Kevin J. O'Connor – finds him insufferable.

At first you think Leila might be another Vasquez-type hard-ass lady character because she’s tough and kind of gritty.  But then you find out she’s in a thing with Joey, a putzy weirdo, and you start to wonder at how they found each other.  What would a Vasquez see in a Joey?  I guess she just really appreciates a good sense of humor?

I don’t know whether it makes sense to play the race card or the gender card or any kind of card, but I do wonder why the movie decided to give Leila the short shrift for screen time.  After her introduction, the movie immediately forgets that they had a compelling seed of a character and then sacrifices her at the altar of slasher films.  Which is not to say that it’s a bad movie – I loved Deep Rising.  I just wish they decided to do more with Leila instead of rack up the body count.  There was a huge potential there to make her more than a bit character, especially in light of her affection for Joey.

Anyway, after checking out Damon’s credits on IMDb, I realized that she hasn’t really ever had a solid role.  I didn’t see anything on her resume that seemed like a lead in a major film, nor any recurring roles on television shows.  But she had been working fairly consistently until 2007 when her resume abruptly ends.

I haven’t done any follow-up research on Ms. Damon, so I don’t know what she’s up to now.  But I always feel a bit of heartache when I look at an entry like this.  She was obviously doing what she loved for many years and was a borderline success story – not a star, but she was getting regular work.  And now… who knows?

Is she still acting?  Did she quit to become a stay at home mom or pursue some other career?  Did she just get frustrated with the politics and bullshit that come with every audition?  Was she just tired of reading the same stupid part over and over again?

Whatever the reason may be that her IMDb entry ended, I admire her for the few parts I saw her in.  There’s not a lot you can do with a bit part.  By definition, they are tiny and meant only to move the plot forward.  But she plugged away at them for years and actually starred in some good stuff.  (I’ll take a dozen Deep Impacts if it means we get one The Truman Show.)

So here’s to you, Una Damon.  Whether you’re still working or you’re not, you did a great job with what you had, and your persistence is (was?) an inspiration.  I can only hope to keep at my writing for the same amount of time.