Pittsburgh native Paul Cohen makes a brief appearance in Brad Pitt’s new movie, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
You can watch the movie a thousand times, but you still won’t see his face anywhere in the film. Instead, it’s Cohen’s hands that get all the attention.
Cohen, who has been playing the piano since age 7, plays the piano as Brad Pitt’s double in the movie. However, when the movie made its debut Dec. 25, all that was shown on the screen were his hands.
Cohen, who plays private parties around town, is part of an Internet agency called Gig Masters. Every now and then they send out e-mails for parts in movies or other forms of
“I got an e-mail from them regarding an agency in California looking for someone to play the piano for this movie,” Cohen said. “They were looking for someone my height and weight. I clicked on it figuring what did I have to lose. If I had had to put a stamp on it and mail it, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
A week later the agency called Cohen and asked him to come in for an interview. However, the agency didn’t realize he was from Pittsburgh and didn’t think they would fly him to Los Angeles.
“There are 20,000 guys in L.A. that can play the piano,” Cohen said.
But another week went by and Cohen received another call asking if he could send a photo of his hands to the studio.
After giving his hands the OK, the studio sent Cohen sheet music for the part. He practiced and interviewed over the phone while playing the music.
Director David Fincher liked what he heard and instead of taking a local piano player, Cohen was on his way to L.A.
“They picked me up in a limo, took me to my son’s house and the next day I reported to Sony studios,” he said.
Although Cohen didn’t get to meet Pitt, the studio treated him just like he was a famous movie star in his own right. He got his own small trailer, and was sent immediately to makeup — for his hands.
When he was on set he had to wear clothes that were part of the movie, just in case they used a scene where you could see more than his hands.
After just one day of shooting and 13 takes, Cohen’s work for Sony was complete. He got paid a standard musician’s fee and spent the rest of his time with his son.
Cohen’s son, who is a writer and producer in Los Angeles, got hold of an advance copy of the movie, so Cohen got to see it before it hit theaters.
Sure enough, there were his hands.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)