In the past 18 months, I’ve been lucky enough to work as a background artist on a few movies, almost none of which are ready for release yet – 47 Ronin, Rush, About Time, Maryland – but did work on one particularly special movie which was released recently.
In November 2011, I embarked on possibly the greatest Bond Experience ever – I was booked to work on the 23rd Bond movie SkyFall; initially at Ascot Race Course which was doubling for Shanghai Airport, then at Broadgate Tower and finally at the world famous Pinewood Studios where I worked for a week on the Macau casino scene.
It was during the week at Pinewood that my participation went from merely taking part in the background to a fully featured albeit non-speaking role! Those of you who have seen the movie may have spotted me – the slightly intense (possibly upset) looking assistant manager who gives Bond his briefcase of cash – how often is anyone going to be able to say that they were in the 50th anniversary Bond movie, played in a scene (and not just walked through) AND also managed to face down James Bond and survive?
How or why I was picked is still a mystery to me so I put it down to being in the right place at the right time. Suffice to say I thought I was in trouble for walking ‘too loudly’ seeing as the set was made of wood and everyone had proper shoes on, so there was a lot of clippy-clopping around!
The Crowd ADs, all 4 (!) of them called me from the upstairs part of the set to come down and a little voice in my head began telling me that I was in trouble for making too much noise. One by one, they size me up and tell me ‘you’ll do’ until I get in front of the 1st Assistant Director, Michael Lerman who simply states ‘you got my vote’. All the while, my mind is wondering what I’m about to do.
What I’m about to do is get directed by Sam Mendes himself, who asks me if I’m ok handing a briefcase to Daniel beside ‘Chewie’, who’s playing the Casino Manager. After a couple of run throughs, I’m suddenly set upon by various costume handlers and make up artists who primp and preen me ready for my moment in the sun!
So bundled into the casino ‘office’ in a space that was slightly cosy, we wait for Bond to approach the counter and hand the dragon chip to the cashier. She pops off out of sight and we begin to pretend that we’re discussing something at which point, Chewie opens the door and out we come.
‘Don’t look down or make out that you’re intimidated by Bond’ is the next advice from Sam, so off we go again and this time it seems the door gets stuck! Two more runs and it seems we’ve managed to nail the entry into the scene and it’s lunch – for everyone but me it seems. I manage to wolf down some food before being called into a closed set for a number of close ups and alternate angle shots.
It’s at this point I get to find out roughly what 4m euros feels like in weight, at least in movie terms when they decide they want to run through with the hero case (empty) and the real case (full) and weighing somewhere around 25-30kg!!
90 minutes later, my ‘bit’ is done but I get to spend the next 4 days on set walking around and generally observing the movie being created. Whilst I didn’t quite get to hang out with the main cast – Daniel, Naomi and Berenice were all on set, I did get to hang out with some of the minor cast members and speak to the doubles which was cool.
Was I nervous? For sure – I could have done with one of Bond’s famous shaken-not-stirred Martinis to calm me down!
Come midnight on 21st April and principal photography was completed and everyone applauded the effort we had put in. The cast would be off to Turkey to shoot the pre-credit sequence but my time as a ‘Bond villain’ was done.
As with most things that are shot, there are trims made and I didn’t even dare think that my part would be retained the way it was, but during post-production, I was informed that my bit had been mostly retained and I would be on screen! The icing on the cake was yet to come as unbeknownst to me, I had also been given a screen credit for my efforts! I’ve now been to see the movie several times – friends and family quickly become quite excited when something like this happens and it is pretty strange being in a cinema watching one of your favourite characters and suddenly you pop up…it’s almost as if real life has invaded this piece of fantasy and everything is blurred.
People have been congratulating me on managing to get into the movies, some have asked me ‘why so angry?’ whilst others have asked ‘is that it?!’ (to that question, I’ve replied ‘how many extras do you know even get to have that much time on screen?’) Old friends have gotten in contact, whilst friends from all over the world have been telling me they’ve seen me. I get the odd double take from people on the street, but so far, life is largely unchanged at least on the surface.
So, this is Sid Man, aka Floating Dragon Assistant Floor Manager, signing off his Bond experience!