to ITV’S The Chief I did a few. Then I changed my agent, or rather agents. While I was doing extra work I had two agents, both from Norwich. I then had a chat with actor and vocal coach John. Sorry, another of those “I can’t remember his surname” deals. He told me off for doing extra work. His view was if you are an actor then act, don’t stand in the background and watch other people do it. “And for God’s sake, go and get a proper agent…one in London!”
So I did.
It took a while as it seemed there were a lot of “me’s” out there already. I got a lot of notes back thanking me for asking but they already had someone like me on their books. I then lucked upon Ronnie. Ronnie was an ex-juvenile actor whose wife had been a regular on the old Archers Radio programme. They were both delightful people and Ronnie took me under his wing.
I got my CV aka resume and picture put in the casting “bible” Spotlight. I did not get any work after I shifted to a London agent. But I did get more auditions. I got a call from Ronnie who told me that Leon Vitali the casting director for Eyes Wide Shut (and Stanley Kubrick’s right hand man) was sending me a script. The part was for a gay hotel desk clerk who interacts with Tom Cruise. The part was played eventually by Alan Cumming, an excellent actor that I did not mind losing out to, even if he did get the part because (as rumour had it) he had worked with Nicole Kidman before.
The script was about three and a half pages long. I dutifully memorised all my lines and Tom Cruise’s. I also did a bit of groping around for a character. Was the clerk to be uber camp? Or just a hint of camp? Or not camp at all? I had to wait for my audition with Leon to find out.
Leon was terrific. Even though I was the last audition of the day, he was full of energy and suggestions. He finished by saying that just a hint of camp would be great and was I ready? With Leon playing Cruise’s part we started. I have to say here that the fact I was able to audition at all was quite remarkable. I was waiting for back surgery and on so many pain pills, it is a miracle that I was able to memorise anything, let alone three pages of dialogue. Still everything went well until the last paragraph of my spiel. I kept messing it up and after three attempts, I lost my temper. Slamming down the paperback romance that had been my prop during the audition and filling the air with expletives that would have made a sailor blush. All of this while the camera rolled on.
“Don’t break character,” Leon quickly shouted. I immediately shot him a look that would have withered rock. Veins were popping in my forehead and throat, I must have looked homicidal at the very least. I calmed down while Leon handed back my prop and we started again. This time I nailed it. Although, as I said before, Alan Cummings got the part.
Six weeks later I got another call from Leon. He said that Stanley wanted me to audition for another part. I was a bit confused as I knew that Eyes Wide Shut was going through post-production. It turns out it was for another film, that Stanley would be doing later. I said sure, send me the script and we’ll do it. Leon said there wasn’t one yet. So I said okay just call my agent and set something up. My agent did not set anything up. It was his opinion that as Stanley already had me “perfoming” on tape he knew I could act. His response was, “So hire the man already.”
Leon told me all this on the phone. He explained that Stanley did have the audition tape that had been sent to him. But Stanley’s method of filing was to put the tapes in boxes and wardrobes. This practice meant that the tapes were hard to find. So in effect Stanley had lost my tape. I said okay, forget Ronnie, just let me know where and when I have to show up. We left it at that. Time passed and I would occasionally ring Leon to see what was going on. The last time I talked to Leon, he told me that the project had been “put on the back burner” for the moment, but that he would call me as soon as the project was hot again. Time passed and one day I turned on the television to find the news was full of Stanley Kubrick’s death. I was gutted.
I felt a little like the female actress who finally gets an appointment with a huge casting director because he has found a part for her. She shows up in his office the next day for their appointment only to be told by a tearful receptionist that he died the night before. “But we had an appointment today. He had a part for me.” The receptionist apologises and explains that they are all very shocked. “Well,” the actress asks tearfully, “Did he leave any messages about me?”
Years later, I am reading a book about Stanley Kubrick. It talked about Leon and about Stanley’s filing system (it really did consist of wardrobes and cardboard boxes). It also pointed out that if Stanley was interested in you he would have you come out to his house with Leon and he would do an audition tape of whatever improvisations he and Leon could come up with. I also found out what the next project was that Stanley would have been casting for…A.I. Artificial Intelligence. So when I talk about the folks I’ve met and almost met, I always tell the Stanley Kubrick story.
The “I got this close to auditioning for him” story.