I realise that this is posted five days early. But this is due to my unexpected requirement to pay a visit to Los Angeles on Sunday - won't be back in London until Friday 22nd September.
It's unlikely I'll have the time or the inclination to log-in to my blog whilst there, so here it is - Part Two of Operation South Downs.
December 13th 2000:
Things are certainly moving apace; numerous personal recollections documenting the direct and indirect effects on the lives of those involved in the great floods are coming together in a coherent structure which will form the backbone of my documentary.
The day to day grind of everyday existence of those affected has been disrupted to an obviously extreme degree by the power wielded by mother nature in all her awesome glory. That one can utilise that same material as the basis for a blockbuster screenplay of the natural disaster genre, is most welcome.
I envisage its premise as being very similar to ‘Twister’ but without the cows swirling across the sky – though having said that, if one could provide proof that this has in fact occurred as a direct or indirect result of the adverse conditions, then I should surely include it.
December 21st / 22nd 2000:
A very welcome visit by (name deleted) from the U.S. has only confirmed my thoughts and ideas on the particular matter of a great British production.
Certainly, monies will no doubt have to be forthcoming to a greater degree from our American cousins if the project can be gotten successfully off the ground.
I was assured the following morning that belief in the project was solid and all-encompassing. I’m now extremely confident that a British made production is a distinct possibility and has the potential to rival anything that Hollywood can throw at us.
January 19th 2001:
This has been a glorious day, wonderfully capped off by the signing up of Wales’ most famous son, Anthony ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, for the leading male role.
My meeting with him in person was our first encounter but was destined not to be our last. Now it is down to me to put to him my proposal.
I shouldn’t have been so nervous, for he was extremely gushing when I presented to him the briefest of synopsi, and in fact nearly fell off his bar stool with the excitement of it all.
On the strength of his involvement our hopes have been greatly enlivened.
It is now our belief that we will be able to gather together the cream of British film talent for a rollercoaster ride through the East Sussex countryside.
January 26th – February 2nd 2001:
It is unfortunate, but rumours of Jones and Douglas being involved in our film project, was sadly only that…. a rumour. They did, however, profess their disappointment at not being able to participate due to a previous engagement.
It is true, however, that Julia Roberts has expressed an interest in playing the Hopkin’s love interest.
It is with extreme regret that we had to turn her down due to her not being able to convince with an East Sussex brogue. Very disappointing given that she’s an absolute corker, and more so in real life I can tell you! The upside is, is that we’ve managed to save a few million squid on fees.
(It was pointed out to me that Miss Roberts is very much a major box office draw, and yes, she was willing to work for a substantially reduced fee for the privilege of working with Hopkins.
Jane Horrocks, had even been tentatively signed up to dub Julia’s voiceover, but alas, it was not to be.
February 6th 2001:
Some major re-writing required on what is now my fifth draft of the screenplay.
It is now a joint effort with (name deleted). Can't say that I get on particulary well with the fellow!
Sixteen hour days are beginning to take their toll.
Also, a full realisation that there will be a requirement for a few hundred extras over the summer of 2001, now definitely agreed as to be filmed on location in East Sussex.
A few conditions have been drafted up specifying the necessity of each film extra to be a certificated swimmer, for those scenes where a large number of persons are forcibly swept down the River Ouse. Wet suits will of course be provided. We would have preferred the dry suit variety but found that the very nature of their construction causes them to be visible under everyday clothing.
February 8th 2001:
In respect of the requirement for extras; we need to draw up a disclaimer due to the real health risks involved (other than drowning). This is due to the very real but very small risk of serious infection by the natural contamination caused by raw sewage in the floodwaters.
Should be a wonderful experience fro them, something they can tell their grandchildren about and certainly it will be a better organised experience than those equivalent scenes experienced by extras, during the filming of “Titanic” where a number of extras, and more importantly, Winslet and Capriot, nearly drowned.
February 12th 2001:
I previously enlightened you as to the involvement of Hoppy in the starring role, where, in fact I should have stated that his involvement at that stage wasn’t officially “official” as per the “official” meaning of the word “official.”
I had my knuckles severely rapped on that one, I can tell you!
Seems that the gentleman’s agreement of a gob of spit skilfully directed at the palm of one’s hand and slapped into the hand of another, equally enhanced by a gob of same, is not sufficient to “ do the deal.”
To say I was extremely miffed at this revelation is an understatement! As far as I was concerned, the ”damp handshake” was a legally binding agreement! Fortunately, Hoppy, being the gentleman that he is, thought the same as I and signed on the dotted line the very next day.
As to his starring role, he’ll play the part of Parsons Linklater, ex-lifeboat captain, “retired” to the sleepy little town of Lewes, these past number of years. Through the gradual telling of his story in Act One, all will be revealed as to his very last operation as lifeboat captain, where a fatal drowning “accident” occurred; he being implicated in its great and awful tragedy.
Of course, our hero is completely exonerated in the ensuing court case, but not before it has left the indelible imprint of failure, etched on his brain.
And so there we find him, prematurely retired, trying to put the past behind him when his skills are once more called to the fore in the devastating floods that land literally on his very doorstep. Will he “bottle it” or will he come to the rescus and save the day? You’ll need to see the film to find out.
February 16th 2001:
A number of persons have expressed their dismay at our turning down Julia Roberts in the female lead. Wholly understandable given her acting credentials and her special place in the hearts of the British audience. As I have stated elsewhere, her abilities to play a character other than that of the American persuasion, sadly proved her eventual downfall.
Further to that, I’ve been inundated with bouquets of flowers and numerous phone calls from the very sweet Miss Horrocks, who you may remember had been “pencilled in” to dub the voiceover for Miss Roberts. It seems she has friends in high places. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I’ve been “persuaded” as to her suitability for the leading lady, namely Parson’s Linklater’s love interest, and the phone calls and bunches of flowers have now thankfully ceased.
I have to say my wife is now sadly talking to me again, having been sorely convinced of my involvement with the said Miss Horrocks. Words were exchanged which could not be printed here for fear of causing offence.
As to Miss Horrocks, she may be a wonderful character actress and an accomplished chanteuse - thankfully her vocal prowess is not required on this occasion – but her fissog leaves a lot to be desired in terms of capturing the desires of the male cinema going public. This has entailed additional expense in terms of the make-up budget and computer generated enhancements (CGI) in order for her to be transformed into an acceptable leading lady.
You have to understand that her first scene with Hopkins is when he drags her “bloated corpse” from the Ouse and instinctively performs the kiss of life upon her cold blue lips. This is a vital scene in their introduction, when she coughs up a gob of brown Ouse water, opens her eyes and seeing her saviour, immediately falls in love with him, and he likewise with her.
As you can imagine, she needs to look completely captivating even though she’s just been swept down river and swallowed a whole bucketful of rancid Ouse. This has called for a hefty appliance of superior quality foundation cream, not to mention the extra-firm hair gel to keep her “bob” in place.
Thankfully, developments in make-up technology have progressed enormously in the last few years, thanks mainly to “Titanic.” - witness the remarkable way that Miss Winslet remains a complete dish even after being submerged in the icy cold water, and all thanks to the make-up department. I know it will be an even harder task with Horrocks, but I’m convinced we can do it and that our make-up team will be “up there” when the nominations are announced.
Part Three to follow next week.