The Patriot 4

FOOLS' PARADISE

THE MAKING OF "THE PATRIOT" (4)

The Making of "The Patriot"
(7 Thrilling Pages)

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with some hair dye. I ask if this is the strangest job she has ever had to tackle. Not by a long shot. How about putting curlers in a horse's mane? I get the impression there are a lot more stories here, but I have to get a move on. I'm due on set.
   For me, as an actor, "The Patriot" is opening a lot of doors.  No, I mean literally. Valet Number 1 and I spend the whole day opening two large doors through which a succession of actors strides purposefully and repeatedly. This is not as easy as it might sound. Well, all right, it's almost as easy as it sounds, but there is some skill involved.  This is especially true in my case, as I am the valet entrusted with the job of taking Tavington's hat. While this is an honor and definitely one in the eye for Valet Number 1, it is fraught with difficulties. Tavington is a man of action and, furthermore, in an ugly mood. He therefore strides very fast, and considerable agility is required to grab the hat, open the door, step back, step forward and close the door again without colliding with anyone or tripping up a highly paid actor. I am grateful for the stark contrast between the real Jason Isaacs and his screen persona, as he patiently rehearses the routine with me. When we shoot the scene, I rise to the challenge, and everything goes smoothly, right down to closing the doors silently and without them creaking open again. (More astute movie-goers equipped with telescopes or opera-glasses might spot a finger holding the doors closed).
   Valet Number 1 and I have lunch with the officers. There are about ten of these, whose job is to stand around in groups and make the set look like a military headquarters. Like many of the extras, they are re-enactors or other enthusiasts of military history. Many are ex-military. Some have scathing remarks to make about the lack of historical accuracy in the production. Tavington's coat has too much red and not enough green, wouldn't I agree. I nod and mumble disapproving noises through my barbecued chicken. Tut, tut. Shocking! My thoughts are on the food. Movie people eat well.

   After lunch, I meet Tom Wilkinson, the veteran English actor who will be playing Lord Cornwallis. Tom is probably best known in the US for his role in "The Full Monty," but he is an accomplished stage actor and his performance in the amazing BBC production of Dickens' Matin Chuzzlewit is possibly the most wonderful acting I have ever seen on the small screen. With all due respect to Mel Gibson, this is the star I've been looking forward to meeting. It's his first day on the set and he is sitting alone in the sunshine in front of the house, looking ill at ease in his general's uniform and powdered wig.

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Tom Wilkinson as Lord Cornwallis - "has been to Edinburgh."

He picks up my accent and asks if I live here now. I tell him I moved here from Edinburgh. He stares at me and asks with what seems genuine astonishment and concern, "Why?"
   "I love it here," I reply. "It's so beautiful."
   "Is it?" he asks. " Is it really?"
   "Uh, yes."
   "I've been to Edinburgh," he says.
   He smiles again and we stand in silence for a while, neither of us able to think of anything else to say, me because I am somewhat in awe of the man and he, I think, because he is shy.

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