Friday, February 19, 2010
Up The Back of the Wardrobe
And so, my ongoing - and frankly ridiculous - brush with fame.
Now you may know from infrequent visits to this dastardly pink site is I do like a nice, beared man in the same manner of some gentlemen like a finely turned ankle, or how a serial killer likes a power tool sale at Home Depot. So when I was approached by the lovely Tara in that burger place to be an extra in a film because she liked my beard, it never occurred to me that I'd then be surrounded by handsome young things with glorious facial topiary. And when I called in for my costume fitting, I would, at one point, be shown to a room with a plethora of semi-undressed gentlemen of a movie-star level of beauty, all in their pants. I was like Kubla Khan tipping up over the rim and seeing the crystal pleasure dome Xanadu. Or, darling reader, I was like the lion in the pit of Daniels.
I was introduced to the costume department, all glorious, who then proceeded to strip me down to my underwear and spend two hours having clothes thrown over me like a student bedroom floor. Now, if you've never been dressed by anyone, it is a strangely intimate yet sexless moment, hands smoothing here and lifting there, followed by a stepped back appraisal before removing an item of clothing and handing you another. And yet after an hour of this, you seem to forget that this is going on about you, like you've left your body. I remember reading an interview with Alice Krige, who played Star Trek's Borg Queen, saying that in between takes at least five people came over and started touching up her make-up, fixing the suit and whatnot, and you just rise above it. I didn't believe her, but it's true. You do forget that people are pawing over you, all these hands everywhere. Although I was more moved by the following quote that said she wasn't able to be taken out of the suit to go to the bathroom whilst filming. She initially dehydrated herself, but this didn't work out - so the costume team cut a slit in the base of costume's foot for her to use as an 'outlet'. Yes, a multi-million dollar movie, and here's one of the stars having to piss herself while standing over a drain.
After two hours, we'd settled on a look: dark tweed trousers, braces, waistcoat, Gladstone collar, grey/yellow cravat, and top hat. It is, frankly awesome. A very beautiful costume. I think I would like to go shopping in it. And I was told that I would be attending the gavotte scene. Well fancy! And as I'm feeling educational (it was the Gladstone collar), I'll tell you a gavotte is a mid-tempo French folk dance - which I hope I'll just be watching as my coat is very tight. Worryingly so. I think I'm going to be ram-rod straight in my chair. Otherwise I'm going to be fluttering my fan on the sideline, standing up, my button will pop off and hit Robert Pattinson in the ear, and my trousers will fall down just as the French vicar walks in. All very 'Carry On', not really Period Drama.
Something else: on each room I went into, I kept hearing a low whisper on my entrance that went something like "...something-something-something Richard." Clearly my vain head was thinking 'my word! I have a character name!' At this point, I'm plotting my motivations for being at the gavotte; I'm thinking I'm a gentile excommunicated from my family, who's taken an interest in seedier parties - and needlepoint. Weeeelll, I'll need a subject that I can at least blag a conversation in, won't I? But despite all my fanciful thinking, I was later overheard in make-up (Make-up! How hilarious!) that I was actually taking over the position of an extra called Richard who'd traitorously buggered off to do some background stuff on the new Harry Potter - hence the dark tone whenever his name was mentioned. So out went my preprepared character and in came my title of Gavotte Attendee #111. Ah.
With costume sorted, it was bagged and tagged with my number, stored on the rack ready to be transported to the location - which I still don't know, and don't even know when we're filming. I just have to wait for a text message to summon me. And with that, I was tossed back into real life.
As I walked out the door, the charming assistant functionary grabbed my arm and steered me towards his desk. "You get £35 for the fitting," he said, handing me a form to sign.
£35 to dress up in front of strange men? Well, if I'm being honest, back in my heyday, I was used to far less money for doing exactly the opposite...