Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber Share Disrespect for Bill Clinton

Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber Share Disrespect for Bill Clinton

Just when it seemed that Miley Cyrus could not possibly stretch the boundaries of bad taste any further, she decides to share Justin Bieber’s disrespect for Bill Clinton. Only Cyrus doesn’t just spout a few naughty words whilst looking at the former president’s picture on a wall. That is not risque enough for the former Hannah Montana actress. The 21 year-old singer has gone all out for her Bangerz tour and she “recreates” a scandalous White House moment live and on stage.


The Chief, British Rail, and My End

the chief

I had mentioned doing an episode of The Chief in a previous post Name Dropping Pt 6 Stanley Kubrick, that was the last of my “extra” jobs for my duo of agents in Norwich. It was actually a great morning out.

It paid over £125 for just a half days work and I was “upgraded” from background artiste to getting a bit of business to do in front of the camera. The episode was going to be the opener for season 3 and the plot centred round a bomber. I played an Inspector from the CID who showed a picture of the suspect to an informer and then passed him a few pounds for his trouble.

The Chief was actor Martin Shaw‘s next long running TV series. Shaw, who had made a name for himself in the long running 1970’s television show The Professionals, played the second fiddle in the show until season 3 where he was promoted to the Chief position of the title.

Typically, I did not get a chance to meet him or any of the other “names” in the show. I did get to work with a Shakespearean actor who was appearing in Norwich at the time. He was a lovely chap and we rehearsed our “bit of business” over and over until we could do it without dropping either the photograph that he was meant to look at or the money which I was meant to give him. The director was very pleased that we’d rehearsed on our own and the shot was done in two takes, the second in case the angle was wrong.

I then shook hands with my co-worker and they moved a bit further down and did the second scene without yours truly. I was done. I’d had a glut of bacon sarnies, met A.J. Quinn the director and both of the assistant directors and spent a very pleasant summer morning in a riverside pub in Norwich. Most importantly my ranking as an extra had gone up the scale.

I don’t know where the paperwork is, in a file somewhere I’m sure as I always saved these types of things, but you got a sheet with your pay packet that explained what you did for the production. There were three different “ranks” of extra. It numbered from one to three. A one had nothing to do but be there, either standing about or sitting, you were used to “fill” the scene. A two had something to actually do and you got props to play with, in my case a 50 pound note and a photograph. A three had a line or two. Each rank paid a bit more than the others with the “one” paying best.

*I may have the “rank” backward (it was a long time ago) but the breakdown is correct regardless of the order*

After the job, I’d managed to acquire a London agent and I wrote both agents to let them know I did not require their services any longer. There was no wailing and rending of clothes at my departure, they had a long line of folks who were eager to work as a supporting artiste. The only thing my absence from their books really meant was that I was out of work for a very long time.

My new agent helped to get my mush into Spotlight which was (and still is as far as I know) the UK casting director’s bible. We splashed for a ½ page ad and I waited for the offers to come flooding in.

Part of my half-page ad in Spotlight…a million years ago.

I did get a few offers, but the business was going through a slump. I got a call out for one of those “cinema” adverts with no luck. I’ve already written about my close call with Stanley Kubrick; and I won’t even mention the “vocal coaching tape” I did for what I later found out was to be a porn film.

I did get to meet a few folks and my agent was doing his best. I got a call out of the blue from him. He has a client that had shortlisted me for a role in a Japanese company’s training film. I would go to a hotel conference room in South Kensington and walk around the room carrying a briefcase and delivering my lines in my “native” tongue. According to my agent, it was dead certain that they would pick me.

I was over the moon. I grabbed my one suit and got it cleaned. I checked on the train times to London. I could either go the night before and crash at my agent’s house or I could take a train in the morning. Morning was more convenient and it was decided that night that my daughter would accompany me.

I am pretty sure that I have written about this day before, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. So I’ll trot the abysmal mess out one more time.

By the time I’d argued with my then wife, gotten my daughter ready and took the bus down to the train, we had only one train we could get to London and still meet the audition time. We broke all speed records purchasing the tickets and we were the first people on the train. As we settled ourselves the train started powering up to draw away; then it stopped. It powered up again and it stopped. This went on for ten minutes.

Finally the train stopped making any noise at all and a member of British Rail’s staff came down the aisles and told everyone that as the dining car was broken, this particular train would not be going to London; everyone would have to take the next train. Sorry for the inconvenience, blah blah, blah didi blah.

I was horrified. The next train was not due for another twenty minutes. Add that to the train journey and the time spent crossing London through the underground to Kensington and there was no way that I was going to make the audition in time. Panic stricken, I grabbed my daughter Meg up and ran with her to the nearest pay phone.

I rang my agent and explained the situation. The other end of the phone was silent. I could feel his anger (well rage really) and disappoint me all the way through the phone. “There’s nothing for it,” he said, “I can’t ring them as they’ve started the auditions already. If you show up late they won’t see you. We’ll have to give this one a miss.” He then rang off without saying goodbye.

I then got my ticket refunded and Meg and I slunk home. I was more depressed than words could describe and I was in the blackest of moods. A shot time later, my agent’s wife died and I went to see him and express my deepest sympathy, she’d been a lovely lady and had been in the original cast of the radio show The Archers.

My agent treated me to tea and we had a long chat. He was amazed that my then wife did not support my forays into the business and I believe that the wheels started turning in his head even then. Not long after he sent me a short note to ask about new pictures for Spotlight. My missus insisted that we could not afford any new photos and that was that.

I spun some yarn about it being too pricey my end and said that the next time I was in London I’d find a cheaper photographer. My agent wasn’t having any of it. He sent me a letter two weeks to the day after my porky pie (lie) about the photos. He dropped me. I was not surprised. The lovely man had paid for my advert to run for another two years after I’d place the initial advert. With me earning absolute bugger all, he’d gambled that I would find work and give him a return on his investment.

To say that I was suicidal is not an understatement nor is it an exaggeration. After I received his letter, I sat down and put all my back pain medication out in front of me. I opened every packet and put them in little piles; one for the diazepam; one for the codeine; one for the Tramadol; and two more for the muscle relaxants and the anti depressants.

Before I could take too many, my then wife asked me what she was supposed to tell our daughter. That stopped me. I knew that what I was doing was wrong and unfair, not to mention pretty damned stupid. So I stopped and we rang the hospital to get my stomach pumped.

I had not taken many so the pump was unnecessary. The shrink who talked to me asked was it a cry for help and I said yes and left it at that. It was more than a cry for help though; it was a wail of anguish at a dream ended; a scream of anger and disappointment so deep that I never really recovered from it. I did not die that day, be it was the end of me. I was never the same nor could I even try to be.

When I hear the phrase “the living dead” I smile. I know exactly what they mean, I lived it. But time heals all wounds and eventually I rediscovered my need to be creative and my first love, writing. I am no longer a living dead person and the journey of rediscovery is long and slow but, hopefully, worth the trip.

Down but not out…yet.

Maximum Overdrive (1986): Maximum Schlock

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

I still remember getting quite excited when I heard that Stephen King was going to make a film adaptation of one of his own books. Well, the short story Trucks, to be exact, and I also remember thinking, “At last. An adaptation of a King book that won’t deviate wildly from the source, like Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining for example or John Carpenter‘s Christine.

Of course the pinnacle of the most laughable adaptation has to be the abysmal Salem’s Lot by Tobe Hooper.It’s still hard to believe that the same man who brought us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre so totally ‘balled up’ Salem’s Lot. I won’t go off on a tangent about the casting or the asinine decision to make Barlow look like Nosferatu.

But the winner of the all-time worst adaptation ever goes to the execrable The Lawnmower Man (1992). This film really didn’t bear even a passing resemblance to the short story it was adapted from.

When you consider the amount of adaptations that have so totally missed the mark it boggles the mind. And apart from the surprisingly good film version of  King’s novella The Mist, most of the film versions of King’s books have, in a word, sucked.

I will not get into a discussion of how ‘good’ Kubrick’s The Shining worked as a horror film. There’s no question that the film was good, but the casting alone (which worked for the film) was a polar opposite of the characters that King created. This changed the feel of the story so much that Kubrick could have changed the names of the characters and the film. Saving the studio the money spent on movie rights to the book.

I also won’t allow myself to waste time on the old argument of, “But King’s books are so cinematic! How can they be hard to transfer to film?” We all know that there are a lot of things that just don’t transfer well, character’s thoughts for instance. Perhaps the best example is from The Shining itself and those problematic hedge animals.

As for Maximum Overdrive with it’s AC/DC soundtrack and it’s slightly schlocky script, I will stand right up and say I liked it. When I found out that King was such a novice that he did things that didn’t follow cinematic rules, I loved it. Because the film still works. And yes, I know that King himself has admitted that he was so strung out on coke that he doesn’t really remember much about filming it. In answer to that I will trot out the highly popular movie ‘The Blues Brothers.’ If there was anyone out of the entire cast and crew who weren’t strung out on coke, I’ll eat my metaphorical celluloid hat.

The film looks like it sounds; bright, harsh, shiny and metallic. In fact the cinematography ‘looks’ like it was filmed in the 1970’s. I don’t know who had the final edit, but overall the film fits together well enough and it is entertaining despite what the nay-sayers will tell you.

The plot is pretty straight forward. The earth passes through the tail of an comet and all mechanical and electrical machines develop a mind of their own and turn against their makers. The results are a brilliant mixture of hilarity, (King, in a cameo at the beginning of the film, is called an asshole by an ATM machine) black humour and irony.

Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive (1986)

A group of disparate people get trapped in a truck stop  and are forced to work as slaves to the various vehicles that stop to be re-fuelled. Stalwart character actor Pat Hingle plays a suitably nasty bit of work who employs ex-cons at slave wages to increase his profit margins at the truck stop. Emilio Estevez plays the latest jail-bird who works for Hingle and who has big enough cojones to fight his opportunist boss every step of the way.

The acting jewel in the crown though is Lisa Simpson herself, Yeardley Smith. Smith’s distinctive voice and her diminutive stature has always been a comic attribute and her performance in Overdrive is both comic and a little touching.

The film did pretty good upon it’s release, although arguably it was  probably down to the fact that ‘maestro of horror’ King was the helmsman of it. But the film is darkly humorous. It is more interesting to note that even the original author had to deviate a bit from his own ‘cinematic’ short story.

Although the film garnered two Razzie award nominations for worst actor (Estevez) and worst director, King did a pretty good job, coked out or not. It would be interesting to see how a King directed film would fare now since he’s conquered all his personal demons. King himself has stated that he wouldn’t mind trying it (directing) again.

Like I said, I love the film. Just the novelty value of it being a  “King does King” vehicle (if you’ll pardon the pun) makes it special and worth a look. If you manage to catch it on late night television or stumble across it in a sale bin at your local DVD store give it a try. It will at least make you chuckle and might even make you think a little about machines and their effect on us.

I will happily admit that it’s the only time that a ‘Green Goblin’ outside of the Spiderman universe kind of freaked me out. I still think the HAPpY ToYZ truck is a little scary, how about you?

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

The last of the name dropping posts.

Mikes Film Talk

My biggest break came after we moved back to the UK. I had been fronting videos and was trying to find work as a VO artist. I also was doing the odd supporting artist gig. From BBC’s Lovejoy

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…

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Name dropping pt 6 Stanley Kubrick

My biggest break came after we moved back to the UK. I had been fronting videos and was trying to find work as a VO artist. I also was doing the odd supporting artist gig. From BBC’s Lovejoy

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.

Cover of "Eyes Wide Shut: Music From The ...

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.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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