The Patriot 5



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

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At The Movies

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Saturday September 31st, 1999.
   I almost ran over a racoon this morning, right outside my house. I have never seen one in the neighborhood before, but then I'm not often on the road at 4 in the morning. I need several coffee stops on my way through Newton, Maiden, Gastonia, York and Chester, arriving at Fort Carolina at 6.25.
    I stand in the cow pasture with Valet Number 1 drinking coffee. There are no cows although there is occasional evidence on the ground of their previous occupancy. The smell mingles strangely with a distant scent of marijuana. It's cold. People move around in clouds of steam. We are already in costume and make-up. This morning I sat next to Jason Isaacs in the make-up trailer. He struck me as a friendly down to earth chap, and I felt guilty about not ever having heard of him before.
   We've been standing around now for about an hour outside the trailers, when an Assistant Director stumbles upon us. He seems astonished to see us there and practically shoves us into a van. We are wanted urgently up at the house. Our acting career is about to begin in earnest.
   As I hurry up the steps and into the house, I am surprised to find that someone has thrust an old-fashioned cut-throat razor into my hands. Tom Wilkinson is sitting in an ornate wooden chair. On a table beside him, there is a porcelain bowl, a towel and a mirror.  Roland is there, of course, fussing about the light. Several people are carefully positioning a camera in front of the chair.
   In the unlikely event that Roland Emmerich is reading this, I would like to make a suggestion. Ro, if you're going to ask an extra to shave a leading character with a cut-throat razor (even a blunt one), give him more than 30 seconds warning.  Someone, in my panic I didn't register who it was, possibly an assistant assistant director, took my fingers and wrapped them round the razor, muttering a few encouraging words about how I would soon get the hang of it.
I didn't get the hang of it. What I got was cramp in my fingers and a few dirty looks for almost shaving off Tom Wilkinson's nose. The situation was retrieved by one of the hair ladies, who actually knew how a cut-throat razor should be held. In a few seconds, she had me brandishing the darned thing like a trained barber, thereby saving my face and probably large chunks of Tom's.

The cast watches in admiration as Valet Number 2 wields a cut throat razor.

   Keen students of film will notice that the valet's shaving style improves markedly as this scene progresses, changing from short nervous jabs to long smooth confident strokes. By the end, I am one with my razor, man and blade in perfect harmony. I wish we could start again. We can't of course. Got to move on.
   While the set is being rearranged for the next scene, I spend some time clearing up a misconception that has somehow taken hold that my name is Gilbert. Kim, the 1st Assistant Director, an otherwise brilliant and charming man seems incapable of remembering the name Gavin. He is most apologetic, but he still calls me Gilbert. This has confused Tom Wilkinson. "If your name's not Gilbert, why did you let him call you that."
   "Oh, I don't know. It didn't seem worth holding up the whole scene until he got it right."
   He nods his head gravely, but then adds, "I wouldn't have let him call
me Gilbert."
   Ironically, now everyone
except Kim thinks my name is Gilbert. This is because he has been the one giving me all my directions: "You stand here, Gilbert….longer strokes with the razor, Gilbert." This is at least partially due to Roland's technique of directing extras, which consists of referring to them only in the third person and indicating his wishes through an assistant, even if he is standing next to you and the assistant is on the other side of the set. "Ze valet should stand here" - he gestures with his cigarette - "and zen move across here vith the shaving brush."

This summer

With this fabulous VALET NUMBER 2 BEACH TOWEL
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(Shown actual size. Download and print on a plain white towel. Note: a special printer may be required.)

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