The Patriot 7

FOOLS' PARADISE

THE MAKING OF "THE PATRIOT" (7)

I have plenty of time to reflect on the strangeness of the situation. Valet Number 1 and I are the only people involved in the shooting of these scenes who are not highly paid stars or movie professionals. We are totally replaceable and owe our participation purely to luck. I have an eighteenth century face, Robert just happened to be in the vicinity of the Production Office when they needed a valet. Between takes, I stand next to Roland as he directs, listen to Mel Gibson telling stories about Sean Connery and generally float about on the fringes of the beautiful people.
   Valet Number 1 and I might owe our participation to luck. Others owe theirs to good old fashioned nepotism. Not only are the first and second Assistant Directors brothers, but they have arranged for their father to make a cameo appearance as one of a group of Generals milling around Cornwallis' HQ. Well, why not? He looks the part and is, it turns out, a most charming man, clearly very proud of his sons.
   During the day, the number of stars present on set dwindles, but there's still plenty of door opening to be done. Finally, as evening approaches, all the human stars have gone and Valet Number 1 and I are opening the doors for the dogs. In the movie, they follow Mel Gibson out of the house. In reality, of course, they follow their handler, responding to precise commands of when to get up and when to run towards the camera. Well, eventually they do. Everyone is tired, including the dogs and it takes them ages to get it right. We are in danger of losing the light altogether, when at last Roland is satisfied and the valets and the dogs can go.
   It's a strange way to end my movie career, opening doors for dogs. I feel deflated as I hand in my costume for the last time. Michael, the Assistant Director, thanks me for my work as he signs my time card. I thank him back and climb wearily into my truck for the long drive home in the dark. Three hours later, I'm lying on my bed when the phone rings. It's Michael.
   "We screwed up," he says. We need you tomorrow.
   "I can't," I say. "I have appointments the whole day. For my real job. There's a guy coming in from Switzerland. I can't stand him up."
   Silence. Michael is thinking. "You know, I think it will be all right. Cornwallis could easily have had lots of valets. We can get someone else."

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

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Doing all his own stunts: The author required several operations after practicing on himself with the cut-throat razor.

   After he hangs up, I try to sleep. I can't of course. The thought of someone else playing my role is tormenting me. I have visions of the camera dwelling on the face of the impostor for long seconds of screen time, of Roland saying "I love zis valet's face much more than ze other one, why don't ve give him a few lines of dialogue", of this false servant being catapulted to stardom on the strength of his performance in Lord Cornwallis' tent, accepting the  Oscar that should have been mine for best Performance in a Servile Role…. I reach for the phone and call Michael's number.
   "Michael, I hate the idea of leaving you in the lurch, if you really need me…"
   "It's OK." He says. '"We've already got someone. Don't worry."
   And that's that.

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