Friday 29 March 2013

Pointless Celebrities

I thought, having done University Challenge, Eggheads and Mastermind, that my quizzing days were done, but two weeks ago I got an email asking if I'd like to do 'Celebrity Pointless' - the next day!
Well it meant more money for the National Autistic Society and a few bob for me, at the risk of possible deep embarrassment, so of course I said yes.

It was a 'Record Breakers' episode, so had Linford Christie (current 100m British record holder), Sally Gunnell (current 400m hurdles British record holder), Janet Ellis & Andy Akinwolere from Blue Peter (longest running TV series), the tallest man and woman in Britain (7'7" and 6'10") and me and Kellie Bright from the Archers ( world's longest running drama series).

I'm not telling the result - but we weren't embarrassing (apart from me getting rugby world cup date wrong - aaargh).

Garrotted in Budapest

An actor's life is varied. Sometimes there is no work at all and you live in terror. Sometimes it's grindingly hard work and boring, sometimes you have to swallow any sense of pride you may have and prostitute yourself for money - but then sometimes you get to have fun.

I've just got back from Budapest, playing General Arthur Ogilvy in 'Dracula'. A very early call for an 8 o'clock flight saw me very tired at the studio at midday, where I met the stunt co-ordinator and my garroter  Tibor.

Having satisfied them that I could die sufficiently well, I was driven to an apartment hotel of great luxury, where I spent the afternoon preparing the audiobook I was in the middle of recording in Hackney (see previous moan).

A long walk down the Danube, remembering the last time I was here, with my father in a campervan in 1968, before a delicious room service meal and an early night.

A late call the next morning for a costume fitting with fellow General, the delightful Peter Woodward, and the afternoon was our own. I walked in sub-zero temperature to the Szechenyi Baths and Pool, heated by thermal springs and as used by the Romans. On arrival I was persuaded to have my feet eaten by fish, an extraordinary experience, with very little seeming effect.

I then went into the pool which really was like going back in time. With no clothes to betray the period, it really could have been Ancient Rome - an enormous complex of baths of every different type, saunas, Turkish baths, then an hour long massage.

It was 3pm and I felt I needed to see something of Budapest, so I thought I should bite the bullet and turn into a tourist - I got onto a red London Big Bus, sitting on top in the cold, as I was so hot from the baths. Within ten minutes I was frozen and after an hour I had to get off because I had lost all feeling in my lower body.
I must have walked about four miles back to the hotel and never warmed up. An amazing city and I want to go back and see it properly - maybe for some dental tourism.

Another late call the next day and after fitting sideburns and moustache I was ready to be garrotted.
The studio system in Eastern Europe means there are hundreds of crew - I don't think I've ever been on a film set with so many people. I'd never met the director, nor my fellow cast, apart from Peter, so after short introductions it was straight into a rehearsal. I had a lot of lines, a lot of business pouring tea, then had to die convincingly and kick over a table in the right direction, then lie dead not breathing while the rest of the scene took forever to finish.

I then did it again, and again, and again - I reckon I must have died over 25 times. What a totally absurd way to earn a living. Then out for a lovely meal with new actor friends including the utterly charming Robert Bathurst, late night as couldn't sleep for adrenaline, then plane back with new chums to finish the audiobook in Hackney in the evening.

I'm sixty in June. One of these days I won't be up for these adventures, but I hope that's a long way away.