Mayo Gastroenterologist’s Not-So-Secret Hollywood Life

If you pay close attention, you may get a glimpse of Mayo Clinic's David Fleischer, M.D., in the blockbuster movie "Venom," thanks to his close relationship with the director: his son Ruben.

At Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, gastroenterologist David Fleischer, M.D., specializes in diagnosing and treating esophageal disease. But in the new movie "Venom" (which is setting box office records for a film released in October), he specializes in something a little different: helping land rockets owned by antagonist Carlton Drake's Life Foundation on planets far, far away for, let's just say, somewhat questionable reasons.

Dr. Fleischer explains his surprising role in fictional flimflammery like this: "From the outside, the public thinks the Life Foundation is this great scientific place with a goal of curing cancer and saving the world, when in fact Drake is really just trying to secure DNA from Venom to help him create a new superpower form of life that will take over the world," he tells us. "You couldn't very well send rockets to these planets unless you had a trajectory specialist, so I'm one of the trajectory specialists who work for the Life Foundation."

And while you might think a trajectory specialist is a key role in a science fiction movie, you'd be as wrong as Drake's motives. "There are a couple of times in the movie — if you don't blink for more than one-half of a second — where you can see my character, Tobias Denney. And when they roll the credits at the end, it says 'Trajectory Specialist, David Fleischer,' which is how you know I really am in the movie."

Still, he is in a Hollywood movie. And this isn't Dr. Fleischer's first foray into the life of a movie extra. "I've appeared in two other films," he tells us. "I played Bus Rider No. 4 in the film '30 Minutes or Less' and Photographer No. 2 in 'Gangster Squad.'" And while each is different in its own way, every film Dr. Fleischer has been in, including "Venom," has had one very familiar common denominator: his oldest son, Ruben, as director.

"Ruben's always been willing to let me make small cameo appearances in his films, and I'm very appreciative of that," Dr. Fleischer says. "It's a great way for me to get a first-hand look at what his life is like, and I'm just very proud of him."

Dr. Fleischer tells us that when he and his wife, Karen, make an appearance on one of Ruben's sets, it's not specifically to audition for a part. "It allows us to get more insight into his life as a director," he says. "It also gives me a great opportunity to see how Ruben interacts with the actors and the staff of the movie. During each movie, I make a point of talking with the actors and asking them what it's like working with Ruben. What I hear is that he treats everyone on set with respect, and that's the most important thing for me."

Even so, Dr. Fleischer admits he's not immune to the Hollywood bug. "Of course, the other reason for being on set is because I'm a ham and I like being in the movie."

And that is why you'll see Dr. Fleischer ever so briefly appearing on the wrong side of (fictional futuristic) science in the fantastical "Venom," which you can read and learn more about here. You can also read more about Ruben and his ascent into Hollywood directorial success here. Then leave a comment below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.