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:

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