“You must drive slowly Henri-Paul, you must drive slowly!”
It wasn’t my name but it amused this particular director to call me that.
I was at the wheel of a monstrous Humber Pulman with a nervous popular actor in the back who had his own concerns. “Have you driven one of these before?”
I helpfully pretended to be drunk which, I must admit, initially failed to relax him and he started to pre-fix his questions with the word “Seriously….” He’d previously been pretty much ignoring me so at least this was a conversation.
The day hadn’t started well; I was told that there was no longer a trailer available for me so I’d have to go in the Extras’ Bus. No more snoozing in my own space, watching TV, hearing polite taps on the door asking me if I wanted coffee or hot food.
I’d been told at around 11am that I was to drive the car at some point and was taken out in it shortly after by a very amiable guy from the car rental place. He showed me how to double de-clutch and warned me that changing down a gear while going down hill wouldn’t be possible without some fairly drastic breaking first. I managed to steer it around the narrow streets of the small town (having a huge steering wheel helped) and got back to base for a cold breakfast and a long wait.
Hours went by, nobody told me anything. I was a little edgy about driving the car, it was a wonderful thing but really big. What was the scene going to involve? The director was not exactly the laid back type. He turned up in the Extras’ Bus and greeted me in his usual fashion “Ah, Henry-Paul how are you?” “Oh, not bad, looking forward to driving the car later…” I quasi-lied. I’m going to choose the word. “perturbed,” here, our director stared at me perturbed and blinking. He clearly knew nothing about it and what he knew now, “perturbed,” him.
As the November day wore on I had a nice chat with a couple of extras on the bus, sat in a room of the historic house with a veritable host of stars who, surprisingly to me, didn’t really talk together that much, was asked for my autograph by somebody who clearly liked to cover all the odds (I hope it’s worth something to somebody someday, I really do) and waited and waited. Nobody told me anything and, once we got to 10.30 at night I began to think that I had been on edge for nothing, it was surely too late to do anything now. 11.00pm – right, must be going home time, I’m going out of my mind with boredom. It’s bloomin’ cold too. 11.30pm – “Can we have Sam to drive the car now please?” Yes, that’s right, I’ve waited around 12 hours for this and it’s been less than fun to be honest with you. I hadn’t expected it all to be fun but, fun is one of my favourite things and it had not been readily available.
The Humber was so powerful that no accelerator was required to get it moving, just a gentle letting up of the clutch. The clutch wasn’t really, “progressive,” in the way that car drivers now enjoy and the car must have weighed about a third of a ton. Nonetheless I thought I made a pretty good fist of it and carried my passenger safely up the drive. Then I had to get out and let the car hire guy reverse it back down.
“You must drive slowly Henri-Paul, you must drive slowly!
As I had just let the clutch up and used no accelerator I wondered how that might be achieved. I had a few more goes but was evidently failing to provide the right effect to the exasperation of our director. (copy and paste the above dialogue half a dozen times.)
I made a special effort, the car stalled and wouldn’t start again. We went again with the weary but stalwart crew pushing this beautiful wheeled behemoth of a bygone age along the gravel at 1 mile per hour – perfect! Now we can all go home…..
The trailer where I left my own clothes has been towed away – to Wales apparently, this from a weary crew member who seemed a bit vague but was obviously heavily sleep deprived and was unable to give any more guidance as to the whereabouts of stuff generally. A bit of wandering into every trailer eventually did the trick, in one I found a wardrobe lady asleep under a mound of clothes.
There was a question of the money. I deemed some 20s stuffed into an envelope to be insufficient recompense, particularly as I had been promised PACT rates. “Are you a member of PACT?,” I was asked.
“I’m a member of EQUITY,” I replied.
“All right, do him like the London lot Chris.”
Oh the LONDON actors eh?
Money for the awful hair cut (how can you make a receding hairline look even worse? Shave the remainder on top smooth as a billiard ball)
Money for unscripted speech –
Money for driving the car –
Money for the overtime –
Good old EQUITY.
A two month wait for the money but it added up to more than double what I would have been paid on the night so worth the effort at 12.45am after a very long day.
“Thanks for driving the car Sam,”
“You’re very welcome”
There was just one more thing for me to do and, it’s something that non-actors may not understand, “Any chance of another day’s work?”