Wednesday, October 11, 2006

John Hannah on the mend.

John Hannah is expected to leave The Priory next week, having responded well to treatment.
He no longer holds any bitterness towards the makers and creators of 'Rebus' - the TV detective show currently starring Ken Stott, where formally he was the star.
He has expressed his great excitement at starring as the new 'rival' television detective 'Trebus' - blatantly based upon Ian Rankin's original 'Rebus' creation but with distinct differences in character.

Read the full story here:

Rebus Shocker!

Model assaults man with phone.

I thought I’d relate the unfortunate tale of a dear friend of mine, in light of the current news item concerning a certain dark skinned model with attitude.
My friend too had the misfortune of being at the receiving end of a telephonic device, directed at his bonce by an overpaid model.

You may think this not such a serious incident as the one currently in the news, given that the telephonic device which bounced off my friend’s head was in fact a mobile phone and not a landline phone, as was the one involved in the recent court case. However, the incident to which I refer occurred 15 years ago when mobile phones resembled bricks and were capable of inflicting a comparable injury to a brick if thrown with similar force.

My friend was placed in somewhat of a dilemma by the offer of compensation by the model in question. You see, John (not his real name of course) is not blessed with any admirable physical attributes that would attract the opposite, never mind the same sex. In fact, it was rumoured that he was still a virgin, even after having reached and passed his 40th birthday.
The dilemma to which I will relate, was in the form of a choice of recompense not normally of a type offered in court. You see, the model in question created a ‘Michael Miles’ situation when she put it to John to ‘take the money or open the box?’

John, at this particular juncture in his life, had found himself in serious debt through no fault of his own, and the offer of what was a substantial four figure sum, was the answer to some of his prayers. Yet the attraction of ‘opening the box’ proved too strong a temptation for him and he forewent the chance of paying off his debts; instead preferring the imagined delights of the flesh.

It is only now, 15 years later, that John approached me, relating this episode in his life.
You see, John believes that he was ‘diddled’ all those years ago, in relation to his expectations, having decided on the meatier option of recompense.
I have no wish to divulge details here of the exact nature of his complaint, but I can reveal that he intends to seek financial reparations for the original injurious nature of the assault carried out on him all those years ago, even though he originally opted for the more salacious option of compensation.
Unfortunately, he foolishly contacted the model in question, to make it known to her that he was pursuing this course of action and was most taken aback by her vehement response.
She said something along the lines of it ‘not standing up in court either.’

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Operation South Downs - Part 7

May 21st 2001:

I suppose one must look at the positive aspects of a Hopkins musical score.
In the two weeks since his official appointment as composer, he has in fact “composed” himself in as much as he has ceased all consumption of alcohol to concentrate on writing the score and other musical accompaniments.

An upright piano has been installed in his trailer – he would have nothing to do with the latest, modern, musical composing technology; instead favouring the actual piano from the bar where he first broached the subject of his appointment.
It was an expensive purchase for what was basically a piece of old junk. The landlord certainly knew what he was doing when he sold it to us for one thousand pounds cash. And the fact that two of the keys didn’t actually work didn’t seem to concern Hopkins one jot! He just said that he wouldn’t bother using those particular notes in his score.

You have to admire his energy though. After a hard day’s filming, Hopkins would immediately depart for his trailer and wouldn’t be seen until the next morning.
One could hear the tell-tale plink, plink, plonk of piano keys being depressed, wafting forth from his trailer.

Initially, I too was being “depressed” at those very sounds that assaulted my ears and beat my musical sensibility into submission. But over the period of a few very short weeks, a musical pattern began to emerge and establish itself and in fact, one found oneself involuntarily humming those very same notes whilst involved in the day to day grind that is the film-making process.
Could it be that the world too would find itself humming those self same notes, much as happened with that Horner’s horror stuff on “Titanic?”

June 2nd 2001:

Eventually, Hopkins left for London to begin musical arrangements, with a promise that he would return with a short orchestral recording of his score, for us to listen to.

June 17th 2001:

Hopkins returns from London.

And so it was that found us in a small local tavern in Lewes (we had pre-booked the premises for the evening for a private gathering, at no small cost, for the purpose of listening to Hoppy’s score, all thirty seconds of it, or so we thought!)

Suitably lubricated as we were, Hopkins had skilfully built up the tension and apprehension before allowing for us to be bewitched by his composition.

I ventured a relaxed smile; probably my first for many a week. After all, things were really beginning to come together for the first time. In fact it was really beginning to feel like one big happy family on set. I was quietly confident.
Even Horrocks had deemed it a suitable period of elapsed time since the “pensioner’s muff” incident, and had even exchanged a few short words with Hopkins, outwith those words scripted for her on film.
This was an absolutely fabulous turn of events that couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time given that, within the week, we were due to return to London to film their most intimate moment together when their love for each other formulates itself into a physical coupling.

Forget “Don’t Look Now” and other supposed erotic encounters on film. This coupling is destined to be cinema’s most daring and moving.
Damp cinema seats are destined to be the norm after an evening experiencing the thrills and delights of our great production!
Only one small possible blip however.

Hoppy had decided to partake of a “small” amount of Harvey’s “Lizzie” – a particularly heavenly but strong potion, disguised as ale - by way of celebrating his no small musical achievement. His first tipple for a number of weeks I may add.
I felt a small concern but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Only that I had trusted my instincts.

I will say here and now that the Hopkins musical score and other musical embellishments have proved to be the most astounding and awe inspiring of creations, having the effect of reducing most of us to tears at their very raw emotional content.
That he will gain a statuette is a foregone conclusion. Even two being a definite possibility, especially if the crucial chemistry between himself and Horrocks develops further.
It is just so very unfortunate that on that particular evening events took a downward spiral that were to have an initial negative effect on the Hopkins/Horrocks relationship that hasn’t been suitably rectified to this day.

It all relates back to that extended train journey to Harvey’s Brewery where the champagne flowed so freely.
I remember having been in a carriage with the film crew, giving them the benefit of my experience as to the form and structure of the documentary they were filming, when a loud screeching assaulted our ears most violently.
We immediately looked out of the window as it sounded very much like the screeching of the brakes, though we felt no tell-tale change in the speed of the train.
We shrugged our shoulders and continued our discussion, ably lubricated by a drop of bolly. But the awful screeching sound continued in bursts until such time as I decided to investigate further.
It is at the point where, on passing the carriage containing Depp, Hopkins and Horrocks, that I witnessed the “pensioners muff” incident that resulted in Hopkins being knocked unconscious.
I of course put all thoughts of my original concern at the violent screeching sound to the back of my mind, as I wrestled Horrocks to the ground.

I remained in that carriage for the remainder of the journey, having completely forgotten my original investigation, more interested in keeping the peace between overly lubricated celebs. In any case, the screeching assault on my eardrums had ceased and did not repeat itself for the remainder of the journey.

It is only now, that I am fully aware of what indeed that sound had been. I should have realised as I’d heard it on a further occasion, but at closer quarters. It was that awful whining, disguised as singing, as produced from deep inside the Horrocks gut.

In any case, this is what happened:-

Having very skilfully built up our expectations, Hopkins stood up and called for silence.
That moment had come for our being introduced to what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the worlds’ greatest film scores.
Anyway, the room fell silent as the lights were dimmed until we were almost in complete darkness, save a few candles that had been lit specially for the occasion.

At first nothing, an eerie silence and then a gentle tinkling sound, very much likened to the sound of a gentle brook flowing over ancient rocks, worn smooth by the centuries of flowing water. And then the “tinkling” sound gradually became the “tinkling” of a piano, a series of notes, repeated in a formation that all in the room had become familiar with - that self same combination of notes that all on set had been humming since our having been wafted by those very same notes floating out from the open window of Hopkins trailer all those weeks ago.
Gradually, the gentle brook became a raging torrent as the full force of the orchestra was introduced, one instrument at a time; our little brook now in full flow and seemingly unstoppable.
All the while the “theme” – those few very hummable bars – formed a continual repetition as the music unfolded before our ears.
And then came what sounded like something very primeval; the impression of animals wailing, of birds screeching; a haunting sound overlaying the main theme.

In the eerie blackness of that public house I began to feel very much alone, a fear tightening across my chest, as the music took me to places I’d never been before.
I was suddenly there, experiencing the horror of those terrible days and nights of flooding that must have been experienced by those who were unfortunate to have been its victims.
As I sat there, transfixed by Hoppy’s awesome creation, I vowed to capture that moment in time for at least the next few months in order to impart that feeling within the further creation of our great film.
Then all of a sudden I let out a short involuntary scream as a hand grasped mine tightly. The tension that Hopkins had so wonderfully manipulated had also obviously gotten to another. I could feel the fear from that hand as it gripped mine, its cold and clammy moisture penetrating my pores and imparting an unmistakable chemical message. It only served to instil an even greater fear in me, right down to the very marrow in my bones.
Then just as suddenly, the lights came back on. And with that, the hand of Horrocks quickly unclasped from mine.
I swear everyone in the room let out a short nervous burst of laughter on being released from the hypnotic torment that was Hopkin’s finest creation.
I noticed a few glistening cheeks, a few short brushes with the back of a hand to remove a stray tear. My own cheeks, lightly moistened, were likewise unglistened.
Then almost as if commanded by another, we all stood up and broke into spontaneous applause.

If only the evening had ended at that particular point. But no, old Hopkins had one more musical item up his sleeve.
It was, in fact, young Depp who was inadvertently the indirect cause of the violence that was to ensue. But that in no way excuses the actions of Hopkins or indeed Horrocks in the unfortunate incident to follow.

Over the previous months, young Depp had been gaining a reputation as one who drinks very little but acts as if he’s drunk a great deal.
Unlike most of the team on set who were British, his was of American birth and like most of his great nation, their inability to quoff even the smallest amounts of real ale without any visible effect, is not to be lauded.
Obviously being teamed with Hopkins was, in retrospect, not the best of casting combinations of star and co-star. The benefit of our experience on “Operation South Downs” should be borne in mind by all casting directors on future projects.

It is completely acceptable that one so young and inexperienced an actor as Depp should feel in awe of one of the world’s greatest actors in Hopkins, for to emulate his acting abilities is bound to be to the young fellow’s future advantage.
But to try and emulate the drinking “talents” of Hopkins could be likened to Depp paddling a li-lo across the English Channel in a race to reach the French coast, against Hopkins sailing a multi-engined speedboat.

And so this very evening found Depp matching Hopkins, pint for pint of “Old Lizzie.”

As the applause died, we all rushed over to congratulate Hopkins most warmly on his musical accomplishment. Even Horrocks was most gushing in her praise.
He thanked her graciously for her contribution and promised a mention on the musical album to that effect.
Horrocks was most touched at this gesture of friendship and even I myself could feel a warm glow inside, not wholly attributable to the liquid contents of my stomach.
I left them to “bond” further as I made my excuses and departed for the gents.

As I was relieving myself I could hear the faintest sound of something most awful, emanating from the region of the public bar. Awful as it was, it was familiar to my ears as that self-same sound as one had previously heard on that eventful train journey to Lewes, and only now did I make the connection with that other occasion on which I’d heard it.
As it turned out, I couldn’t have picked a less opportune moment to empty my bladder, as on my return to the bar I was greeted with the most awful scene.

All persons had departed from the premises, bar just the three. One stood over the other two, both very much maintaining a horizontal position upon those ancient floorboards.
A line of fearful faces outside, pressed up against the windows, looking inwards on that awful scene.

It was only the next morning that Gloria from the Costume Department related the full and exact events to me.

June 18th 2001:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Operation South Downs - Part 6

April 11th 2001:

One of the strange contradictions in our modern world is our ambiguous and rather strange attitude to the animal kingdom and its subsequent elucidation as to the equally strange attitude we have to our fellow human beings.

To explain further:-

It was a very unfortunate occurrence, the tragic drowning of one of the film extras, one of our American cousins, while filming the crucial scene where Parsons Linklater (Hopkins) makes first contact with Jules Crabtree (Horrocks).

You may remember from my previous writings, that Parsons Linklater, ex-lifeboat captain, “retired” to the sleepy little town of Lewes these past number of years, drags a bloated “corpse” from the River Ouse, instinctively performs the kiss of life upon its cold blue lips and thereby saves the life of young Jules Crabtree. An extremely crucial scene in the development of the plot, not to mention the development of their relationship.

Anyway, it was at this time that the unfortunate ‘extra’ was to be one of many “foreign bodies” being swept downstream in the background as the kiss of life was being performed on the Horrocks character.
And swept by he did, face down in the mire!

I was watching behind camera as he swept by, just as Hoppy was blowing oxygen into Horrocks’s ample lungs. Initially I was most impressed by the extra’s improvisation and dedication to the job in hand and asked to be introduced to him afterwards by way of congratulating him on a fine piece of acting.

My fine words in his ear went unheard, as by the time I was introduced to him he’d unfortunately expired.

I had a terrible night of anguish over this unfortunate incident and wondered what I could say to the poor chap’s parents who were flying over from the U.S. the following day.

April 13th 2001:

Meeting the parents of the dead extra. Can't remember his name.
It was with great trepidation that found me expressing my great sorrow at the very great tragedy that had occurred on the death of their son and the even greater tragedy that would occur if they did not let us use the very piece of film where their son had so gallantly given his life for the sake of our great project. It’s what he would have wanted surely?!

To cut a long story short, an agreement was reached whereby the parents will be credited as executive producers on the film and their son will receive a star billing immediately after Depp but before Horrocks. A small price to pay for such glorious drama I’d say!
Anyway, the “incident” did not effect filming and indeed failed to alter or change the filming schedule. We carried on in the true British tradition!

April 20th 2001:

This following week we were filming another scene, only this time live cattle were to be swept down river as the Ouse swept over fields and carried them off and through the town of Lewes.
For authenticity, we used real cattle, taking every precaution as to their safety and wellbeing.
In fact I had even stipulated that said cattle should be supplied from those that were due for slaughter within the week. This way, should there be an unfortunate accident, then at least we could be happy in the knowledge that they were going to die soon anyway.

Sure enough, it had to happen and it did. A bloated cow (not Horrocks Ha! Ha!) was washed up outside an antique shop in Cliff and that’s when all hell broke loose. Within a few short hours we were invaded by the Animal Liberation Front and numerous other “animal lovers” carrying placards bearing rude words with inferences as to our illegitimacy.
Anyway, the police were called in and water cannon were utilised in the dispersion of the riotous mob! Serves the buggers right I thought.

Little did I realise then, that heading the mob was none other than our very own Franco/American cousin Depp.
Seemingly he’d been in floods of tears over the death of the cow and had locked himself in his winnebago, drowning his grief with bottles of Ouse booze.
By the time the liberation types had arrived, young Depp was inebriated yet again and had decided to join in with the “peaceful” protest!
He seemingly grabbed a placard, and started screaming and shouting as to the poor orphan calves left motherless by that cruel twist of fate.
He was one of the first to be knocked flying by the blast from a water cannon. Nobody recognised him as young Depp of course. One has to realise that the normal everyday appearance of Depp is one of extreme scruffiness; old filthy and torn jeans, unshaven fissog, floppy knitted hat, baggy, moth-eaten jumper et al.
In fact, even as he was being dragged screaming and kicking to the local police station, his identity was still not realised.

I, of course, would have apologised most profusely at my most feeble kick to his testicular region as he was being dragged away by the police, if I’d known then of his true identity. But as I’d kicked out without that knowledge, I felt it better left unsaid. Anyway, I had been most upset at the interruption to filming and had naturally lashed out, little realising that those very testicles belonged to the king of grunge himself.

April 28th 2001:

It was a week later before Depp returned from hospital to the film set, his left testicle having been pushed back down into its natural location.
Fortunately, due to his alcohol induced protest, his memory of the incident remained blurred. I just hope that my admission here does not in anyway effect our mutual admiration and respect for each other. An incident best forgotten. In fact, I wish him well with his continuing fertility tests. Best of luck old chap!

Anyway, to get back to my point on the human psyche:-

The “cow” incident as I shall refer to it, resulted in protests continuing on set for a number of days, which resulted in a complete disruption to filming, only ceasing after a substantial donation to some animal charity was agreed and a dedication was formalised for inclusion in the opening credits of the film. What a palaver I’ll tell you!

Anyway, if I’ve learned anything from the past few weeks it is this. If there is a death on set, just pray that it’s a human one!

After the incidents hereby referred to, it was decided to unburden ourselves of the services of that most esteemed British company “Farm Animals for Filming” (FAF) and use “human animals” instead.

My beloved Gloria from the Costume Department was persuaded back on set to rejoin the “dream team,” in order to construct buoyant cow suits for our film extras to don for those scenes requiring flailing cattle to be swept down river.
I challenge you to distinguish the real cattle from the human kind when the film is released to undoubted worldwide acclaim! Better prepare your speech now Gloria, it’s a dead cert!

It’s truly amazing the way things fall neatly into place. I’m convinced God is watching over me, fully realising himself that “Operation South Downs” will be his favourite island’s greatest film.

May 5th 2001:

Let me breach the subject of the musical score for the film.

We had pencilled in the wonderful John Barry to compose a rousing, dramatic, musical masterpiece suitable for such a brilliant and stunning British film as ours was promising to be. In doing so, I had immediately envisaged our third oscar nomination.

Unfortunately, the musical talents of Barry’s were not deemed “suitably ‘American’ enough” for our influential financiers of the that persuasion. They had instead, approached that Horner chap after his “success” with that dreadful Titanic!

I was mortified at this possibility! How could Jack Horner suitably capture the very essence of our own very British drama with his slushy, syrupy musical leanings?!
No, I would not have it! I will put my foot down!!
I do realise that Horner was born in GB but as far as I was concerned he was now a fully fledged American!
No, our composer had to be British!……or at least Welsh, as it turned out. At least Wales is not quite so far from Britain as the US of A!

To explain…..

That very evening I was in an extreme state of despair, which was not being alleviated by the quoffing of copious amounts of Harvey’s finest, at one of Lewes’s prime drinking establishments.
To make matters worse, I had young Depp as my companion for the evening and he was consuming alcohol at an unnatural rate, which was not the sensible thing, given that he was still on medication for his swollen testicle.
The combination of his medication with large amounts of beer was beginning to have a profound effect on his mind and body to an extreme degree. Luckily he lost all control and fell down on the floor unconscious.
Anyway, as the evening wore on, a drunken Hopkins turned up and I made the mistake of burdening him with my particular predicament of finding a suitable composer for the film’s score and other musical embellishments, to challenge the financiers’ proposal of James Horner as musical director.

Hopkin’s eyes lit up. He could write the score he insisted. He begged, cajoled, even got down on his knees on the floor next to the prone body of young Depp and grabbed my leg, pleading for the chance to prove himself.
He even said he’d do it for nothing!
He then stood up, swaying slightly, grabbed my arm and staggered over to the old “joanna” in the corner of the bar, dragging me over with him.
He then sat down on the piano stool and started playing.

Now for a man inebriated as he was, lacking in any apparent co-ordination of limb, his playing was a revelation. I can only assume that the beer, having found its way into his legs with such apparent ease had not yet reached his fingers. He played Chopin with such feeling that I was transfixed. Even young Depp seemed to rouse momentarily before finally succumbing to the power of an alcohol chemical cocktail.

How could I possibly refuse Hoppy’s request to write the music for the film?
Anyway, I fully realised that the decision was out of my hands, so just to appease him I said I would put it to the backers the very next morning, that Hopkins would write the score, knowing full well the derision that would greet my proposal.
Little did I realise the folly of that decision.

You have to understand that Hopkins is now a fully fledged American citizen, commonly referred to over the water as “President Hopkins.” He can in fact do no wrong in their eyes.
This I hadn’t realised when I put it to them that Hoppy had offered to do the score for free; an involuntary laugh passing my lips as I pronounced it to them.
Anyway, that is how we ended up with a Welsh American actor as musical composer on one of Britain’s all-time great movies.