Name dropping Pt 5 or Van der Valk pt 2

After my huge disappointment at not having  Peter Snow write a part for me in that episode of the New Van der Valk, life went on as normal. I kept doing adverts for the AFN guys and presented (for a very short time) a program called Why and How. But I was no longer having to rely on the chaps at AFN for acting work.

I had done a commercial for Tonka Turbo Tricksters with the production company Fireside Productions. I had gotten that job because the casting folks were the same ones who had hired me for Murder Story. I had been cast as a motorcycle cop even though I had shown up late on the day of the Amsterdam auditions. The train was late, something unheard of in Holland,  which in turn made me late, an unforgivable sin in the entertainment industry. I know, it cost me a job years ago when, despite running at the speed of sound, I was late by two whole seconds for an interview in an office building just off Sunset Blvd. But regardless of that obvious faux pas, I was the fair haired boy and I was given another audition in Rotterdam the next day.

My champion at the casting company was Patricia. Patricia called me to let me know of work on another Van der Valk. I rang and talked to Ian, the chap who I had dealt with on the other audition. The pay wasn’t very good, but I did not have to perform for anyone this time. It involved about a half days work so I said yes.

When I arrived I met the other two chaps I would be working with. The first was Ian Gelder another jobbing actor who I have seen in many other shows. He was friendly and welcoming, not mention good fun to work with. The second was Frank Vincent Ogilvy a Scottish actor working mainly in Holland. We would also be working with Melanie Thaw, the adopted daughter of that great actor John Thaw, and Richard Huw, who was making a name for himself in the UK.Ms Thaw was lovely. A stunning blonde with a willowy figure and full of grace and charm. She came up and introduced herself to the three of us. “Oh, you must be the actors I’ll be working with today. Pleased to meet you, I’m sure we’ll have a good time today.” Frank and I were stunned as she shook our hands and then wandered off to find the director Jim Goddard. The reason we were so surprised by her actions is that in this particular episode we were literally part of the furniture. Ian was a gangster type and we were to be seated with him in a disco. That was it. Now Richard Huw’s attitude towards us was more in character. He ignored us completely. If he did spare us a look, it was one of utter disdain. Not so nice.

It was on this shoot I discovered the joys of continuity. I had been given an option of smoking in this scene. There was already a huge cloud of smoke from the dry ice machine. This was a dance floor in a bar in the 90’s. Smoking socially had not yet been banned. I thought, hello! No waiting for set-ups, filming, or anything else to have a smoke. How wonderful, I thought.

I was wrong.

John Thaw
John Thaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Due to the number of re-takes required because young Richard kept fluffing his lines, every time they started filming again, the continuity lady stopped everything. The reason was my cigarette, or rather the length of it. When she checked the monitor, she found that it was at the wrong length. Either too long or too short. This turned out to be real pain, until someone found a pair of scissors so I could cut the cigarettes into varying lengths.

Despite this setback, the day was great fun. The director had a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush and made Melanie fall about laughing every time he gave a “blue” direction. Because the location was in a real bar and it was Franks birthday, we got given real single malt Scotch whiskey in our glasses instead of the usual apple juice. Ian was paranoid in case the director found out. But as far as I know he did not.

By the end of the day, I was barely able to breathe, my back was killing me from the awkward position I had sat in for the scene and I was slightly tipsy. Just as well I had taken the train down. I also had two new contacts and their phone numbers for future work opportunities. Jim Goddard had graciously given me his and I had gotten the assistant directors number as well.

Name dropping, pt 4

Van der Valk, Season 1 DVD box cover
Van der Valk, Season 1 DVD box cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got another call from my friend at AFN to tell me that they were casting for the new Van der Valk series that was so popular in England. The crime series followed the Dutch police detective Van der Valk as he solved various crimes. He was played by the late actor Barry Foster. You might know him as the killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. A brilliant actor he had helped make Van der Valk a hit in the seventies.So once again I went down to Amsterdam to meet with the assistant director and to my surprise the writer.  Of course the most surprising thing was that the writer was none other than Peter Snow. Peter had been a mainstay on British televisionfor years. He was a presenter and he also used to show how the general elections were going. A very nice chap to meet and to talk to.I was going for a non-speaking roll. The set up was this: A nightclub owner has just had his opening artist murdered. He has had a close relationship with the artist for years. He is desperate to talk to anyone in order to take his mind off his distress. I was to play a beer delivery man who doesn’t want to talk at all. We auditioned in pairs. I played the delivery man to my partners nightclub owner. We got given our directions and the camera rolled and we started.I pushed in my imaginary trolley full of beer. The nightclub owner started talking awkwardly to me. I shot him a glance and ignored him. Cut! “Michael?” This from the director. “Yes.” I replied. “You just don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to murder him! Can we tone that look down a bit?” Much laughter from everyone in the room including me. “Sorry. I’ll try to lose the Homicidal Look.” I did my bit again, this time with no interruptions and we were then switched around. I would be the nightclub owner this time.

I was slightly lost. What did a nightclub owner do? I decided that as we were in Holland and that this nightclub served beer, it would sort of be like a pub. If there was one thing I knew about it was pubs and publicans. So we got set up, cameras rolled and… Action! I started wiping down the imaginary bar and polishing imaginary glasses. The delivery man strolls in and I say “Hello mate, you all-right?” Very English old boy. Immediately every head in the room swivelled in my direction. Uh-oh, I thought, I’ve either done something very good or very wrong. Not sure of whether what I had done was either I continued being the English publican for the rest of the scene. When we had finished, the director asked if I would mind very much doing that for the rest of the actors auditioning for the delivery man. So I did…about twenty more times.

At the end of the day, the folks that had been cast were told what they would be doing. When they got to me the director said, “Sorry Michael we have nothing for you today.” Before I could say anything, he finished with,”But Peter liked what you did so much as the nightclub owner, he is writing you a part in the show.” I was flabbergasted. I looked dazedly at Peter and he was nodding his head in affirmation. The director then asked if there was any time when I would not be available for shooting. I said yes, we had a NATO tactical evaluation in the first week of June. My new boss had never gone through one before and I needed to show him how things worked. The director nodded and wrote something in his notebook. “Okay, Michael, thank you. We will call you when Peter is finished.”

Peter Snow, Television presenter
Peter Snow, Television presenter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never heard from the director or Peter again. It turned out much later that the time period  I was not available for was right when they would be shooting that episode.I did get to work on Van der Valk eventually but not on that episode and in a part not as big or exciting.

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