3 Fierce competition

"Please stop at the theater entrance."

Renly regained his scattered thoughts and said to the taxi driver. After the car came to a halt, he paid the fare and quickly stepped out.

Staring at the vast queue in front of the theater lobby, Renly's steps involuntarily slowed down. Just as George had said, countless people in this world aspired to become actors, but the number who truly succeeded was exceedingly rare. This was a path strewn with thorns, an uncertain path, a path where even those who threw themselves into it might not succeed.

Looking up, the cloudless sky was clear and the golden sunlight poured through the baby blue sky unimpeded. The towering, densely-packed concrete jungle of Manhattan Island in New York couldn't prevent the restless heat from blooming resplendently on solid ground, causing dizziness.

Anxious emotions gradually subsided with each long exhale. In this second life, he would seize the opportunity. Renly took a deep breath, expelling all his thoughts. He left his skateboard with the doorman, then walked briskly into the lobby, standing at the end of the line, joining the queue.

Rami Malek tugged at his collar, attempting to catch some fresh air, alleviate the unease and anxiety in his chest. But he quickly realized it was futile.

The roar of engines from the street window, the raucous shouts of passing pedestrians, and faintly, the deafening sound of street performances at the crossroads... Agitation, countless agitation, surged like a dam breaking through a vent, rushing down like a torrent. Under the sunlight, the dancing dust seemed to be caught in a hurricane, revolting violently.

All of this formed a stark contrast with the silence in the lobby, suffocating.

Rami involuntarily took another deep breath. His lungs seemed to wheeze like a bellows, but it was of no use. The inhaled oxygen didn't seem sufficient to sustain his brain's operation. He felt like he was about to faint.

Today was the fifth and final day of auditions for the TV series "The Pacific".

Although "The Pacific" was just a TV series, it could definitely be said to be an opportunity that every newcomer actor dreamed of. Produced by HBO, it was a companion series to the classic "Band of Brothers", the most expensive TV series in history, co-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Every factor highlighted the significance of this series, nearly solidifying its destiny of success.

Similar to "Band of Brothers", "The Pacific" forsook well-known actors and chose numerous newcomers, third or fourth line actors to star. Taking "Band of Brothers" as a reference, there were at least over a hundred characters with lines in the show, and the core cast numbered in the double digits. This not only meant an opportunity from heaven, where every actor would win a fair chance, but also signified fiercer competition. Perhaps it was a case of one in a hundred or even one in a thousand.

Throughout the entire North American continent, there were over four hundred thousand registered actors in unions, yet less than ten percent of them could secure steady work. What's more, an opportunity as splendid as "The Pacific" was not something anyone was willing to miss. Rami was no exception.

He was already twenty-eight years old, having navigated Hollywood for nine years, and had even appeared in commercial successes like "Night at the Museum", but his career hadn't shown much progress. What he needed now was a breakthrough, a stepping stone for his career to move forward. He hoped "The Pacific" could be that stepping stone.

Nerves reached their peak, and Rami couldn't help but start to tap his leg. He knew it was a bad habit, but he couldn't restrain himself. This unconscious movement helped divert some attention, preventing him from suffocating himself.

"Tap," a light pat on the shoulder came, causing Rami's muscles to tense instantly. He spun around abruptly, even stepping half a pace backward, like an overly startled rabbit.

Soon, Rami realized he had been overly nervous, resulting in an exaggerated reaction. Seeing the awkwardness in the other person's lips, his cheeks flushed slightly. The young man standing behind him appeared to be a college student, with soft sunlight gently streaming down through his short, wavy chestnut hair. Under the dappled reflections, one could faintly make out his narrow eyebrows, sharp as drawn swords. A straight, high nose bridge exuded a sense of elegance. A few strands of lazy, disheveled hair hung over his forehead, outlining a hint of clarity, like the mist rising gently from a clear lake surface.

"Ahem." Rami cleared his throat twice, concealing his awkwardness. "Um... can I help you?"

"Sorry." The young man offered an apologetic smile, his voice as light as a cat's, carrying a touch of hoarseness. "Forgive my rudeness." The standard British accent carried a charming elegance, and within his gentlemanly demeanor, there was a hint of childlike innocence. The afternoon sun seemed to grow brighter.

Rami waved his hand repeatedly. "No, no, it's me, I overreacted." Recalling his near breakdown from nervousness just now, Rami felt a little embarrassed. He scratched the back of his head, unsure how to proceed.

The young man simply shrugged casually, a smile playing on his lips. "I just wanted to ask, on average, how much time does each group spend inside?" He pointed at the queue ahead, where it was getting shorter, hinting that Rami should move forward.

Rami regretfully tugged at his lips and quickly took a few steps forward to catch up with the line. Then he turned around again. The young man in front of him seemed completely unfazed. On the contrary, he seemed rather carefree. Wearing a white collarless shirt paired with light blue trousers, he exuded a hint of the aura of a French bohemian artist, which made Rami envious. "Five people per group. Each group takes about ten minutes on average. However, the previous group took around fifteen minutes, probably because someone caught their eye, so the audition took longer." The concern in his words inadvertently leaked out, capturing the heart again with anxiety.

The young man broke into a radiant smile, patting Rami's shoulder. "Don't worry. Everyone has their own opportunity. Only you can determine the outcome." The natural confidence and ease he exuded managed to calm Rami's inner agitation slightly.

"Next group, please prepare." The voice of the staff came from the entrance, explaining incessantly, "Wait here at the entrance. After I open the door, give me your information, then enter in order and stand at the center of the stage. Next, the casting director on-site will give instructions, and you should follow them. Please refrain from making loud noises! No loud noises!"

"There should be about three more groups before us," the young man nodded toward Rami, ascending the final flight of stairs. He glanced ahead casually, nonchalantly rolling up his shirt sleeves to his elbows. He brushed the stray strands of hair falling onto his forehead to the back, the effortless movement exuding a certain charm.

At this moment, Rami finally realized the young man was truly tall. He himself was five feet nine inches (175 cm), yet he was still over half a head shorter than the other. The other guy seemed to be at least six feet two inches (187 cm). While they stood on the stairs before, he didn't feel it much. But now, standing on the same level, Rami felt somewhat overshadowed by his presence.

Sensing Rami's shift in mood, the young man turned to look at him, offering a friendly smile. This prompted Rami to meet his eyes properly for the first time. The young man's narrow eyes were hidden beneath his handsome brows. His dark pupils resembled the sea after a storm, deep and vast.

The young man extended his right hand, offering a polite greeting. "Renly Hall, pleased to formally meet you."

"Rami Malek." Rami found himself oddly awkward, hurriedly shaking the young man's right hand. He wasn't a greenhorn fresh out of the gate, but standing before this young man, there was an illusion that he had stepped out of the confines of time. It was as though he, not the young man, was the aspiring actor who hadn't yet graduated from university.

In this tense moment, the concept of time seemed to lose its meaning. After an indeterminate period—ten minutes or thirty minutes—the door opened once again, and it was finally their turn. Rami's brain seemed to stall momentarily; he didn't have time to react. Then, he saw the young man subtly blink his eyes, raising his right hand as if shaking hands with the air, as if saying: The opportunity is always in our own hands.

A smile tugged at the corners of Rami's mouth before he even realized it. He turned and followed the pace, hastily handing his personal information to the staff at the entrance. He and the other actors from the same group entered the gate in single file, followed closely by the young man.

Following the queue, they ascended the stage. The expansive theater filled their vision, the solemnity of the grand red and navy blue decorations exuding a sense of reverence. The elaborate carvings and luxurious chandeliers hinted at the past glory of the space.

In the front rows of the stage, a small group of people, about a dozen, sat in the third and fourth rows. They were of different heights and sizes, and they were the behind-the-scenes decision-makers who held the fate of the actors. The lights in the audience area were off, and only the halo of a table lamp supported a small window of view. At the edge of the aperture, a square-faced man was whispering with the man with the sideburns. It was none other than Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg!

Never in a million years did Rami expect that these two Hollywood giants would actually appear at today's audition venue. This was truly an unexpected surprise.

Typically, the audition stage would have the casting director, assistant director, and executive producer—this was sufficient. The truly big-name producers would have other work to be busy with, especially pyramid-tier individuals like Tom and Steven, who had their schedules packed year-round. Sometimes, even after the entire show wrapped up, actors might not get a chance to meet those top-tier producers.

This also meant that today's audition wasn't solely for "The Pacific". If they could leave a deep impression on Tom and Steven today, then the future held endless possibilities!

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