Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blink And You'll Miss It

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type…

My latest movie went on general release in cinemas last week.

I say “latest”, but if the truth be told, it’s actually the only movie in which I’ve ever starred. Mind you, “starred” is a slight exaggeration since my appearance was just a small but integral part in the film. And by “small but integral”, I mean, of course, that for four freakin’ freezing cold days during December 2004, I secured a job as an extra in the latest remake of Greyfriars Bobby.


[Quick aside: If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Greyfriars Bobby is a famous tale from the 19th century about a wee dog in Edinburgh called Bobby. After his master (a policeman) died, the dog lay on and kept watch over the grave located in the churchyard of Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby became something of a celebrity for his faithful loyalty and was a folk hero in the eyes of the poor people at the time, especially after he painted his face blue, strapped on his big sword and lead a rebellion against the greedy landlords and the English. We’re all very proud of him here in Scotland.]

I’d love to tell you that I landed the plum role of ‘New Towner no. 4’ after a fierce audition battle with Ewan McGregor who happened to be home for Christmas and was looking for a little filler work. However, it’s probably more accurate to say that my agent at the time – lovely Linda from the Job Centre – alerted me to the fact that the producers in Stirling were casting for extras and would probably be able to accommodate “an unshaven, long-haired lout like yourself.”

Being an extra – or as we say in the show business world, a ‘supporting actor’ – is the least glamorous job I’ve ever done in my life, but one for which I found myself supremely qualified. My talents for sitting around all day reading the paper, drinking tea and wondering when I’d next be fed were given full scope to express themselves during the long hours of the shoot. When called to action on the set though, I got into character immediately, ready to deliver the nonchalant nods with brooding intensity.

My first big action scene involved walking across camera from left to right and then up a few steps into a building. As the 3rd assistant director outlined the crafted performance he was looking for – “walk from here to here” – I pondered the motivation my character would require to undertake such a journey. Am I late for an important meeting at my wine club? Should I carry my briefcase under my arm or not? Do I suffer from a 19th century malady that requires the merest hint of a limp?

When the director finally shouted ‘cut’, I knew I’d nailed the scene in one take with a walk of incredible authenticity, the stride of my left foot almost always following one by my right. The production team staring into their monitors obviously agreed because they didn’t come over to tell me any different. The film’s editors however, didn’t appreciate the subtlety of the performance and mercilessly dispatched it to the cutting room floor. Bastards.

No matter, because I still had a shot at an Oscar nomination with my turn in the dramatic courtroom showdown which concludes the film. In the scene, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, played by Christopher Lee, arrives just in time to save the heroic wee dog from execution by granting him the freedom of the city. As the camera pans round to capture the crowd reaction, the look on my face is a mixture of genuine awe and harrowing anguish. I don’t remember for certain but I think I might have been bursting for a pee at the time.

Greyfriars Bobby is now showing in all good cinemas (and some rubbish ones) across the country and is one of those movies that the whole family can enjoy, mainly because of the cute wee dog. Rumours that I also make an appearance in the adults-only version “Greyfriars Boabie” have been greatly exaggerated.

Now where was I? Oh yeah. “I have so many people to thank for this wonderful honour. The Academy voters of course, my agent Linda, my mum and dad…”

Other stuff for the newspaper here.

5 Comments:

At 13/2/06 11:57 pm, Anonymous wendi said...

and to think that i meet this greatness one day! ;-)~

 
At 14/2/06 10:55 am, Blogger Gordon said...

I KNEW I should've gotten your autograph last year, would be worth.. ohh... 50p by now!! ;-)

 
At 14/2/06 10:17 pm, Anonymous deborah said...

You kept me laughing all the way, I especially liked 'long-haired lout' from the lovely Linda ....

comment from me because Lesley is away so have DT's

 
At 15/2/06 7:05 pm, Blogger DC said...

Neil,

Nice one - pity about the cutting room floor.

I note you didn't describe your , ahem, casting session.

Why don't you post the publicity stills, it'll save us the bother of going to see the film!

DC

 
At 17/2/06 1:10 pm, Blogger svetlana said...

you can show us your red-carpet walk tomorrow... don't forget your dark sunglasses.

 

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