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20th September 2009

I just saw a wonderful film called ĎThe Hurt LockeríÖ..do see it if you can. Itís about a US soldier who disarms bombs and other explosive devices in the Iraq War. He is fearless to the point of recklessness and I suppose the point is he loves what he does. He likes being a soldier and taking the most unbelievable risks. Itís a terrific film and astonishingly it is directed by a woman Kathryn Bigelow, who does an amazing job. How can a woman direct a film about men at war? I donít know, but she does and clearly understands her characters, the story and its background.

There was another film, last year ĎStop Lossí about the Iraq war, a sad, desperate story of men getting home, only to be sent back immediately to the war, because of the shortage of troops. This was also directed by a woman, another fine Director Kimberley Peirce, who directed the Award winning film ĎBoys Donít Cryí. Neither film has done well at the box office, I suppose because films about ongoing wars arenít popular. I wonder why. Do we all want to play ostrich and pretend it isnít happening, that there really are men and women out in foreign countries giving their lives in conflict?

I can understand the arguments with the politicians who put them there in the first place. But why ignore and in some ways denigrate the fighting forces. They are doing a job, just like anyone else. I hate war, what normal person wouldnít, but I do feel a great deal of compassion for the men and woman fighting. Is that politically incorrect? Nonsense, if that is the case, we should be ashamed. I think we should see the films about the wars just to remind ourselves of what is happening and not play ostrich.

I see that there is now a Production of ĎBen Hurí onstage which is amazing. With all our health and safety rules I donít see how the Production can show any of the thrills and drama of the original film. It was another extraordinary experience with the most incredible climax of the chariot race.

I dated (forgive the old fashioned expression) the actor Stephen Boyd for a while. He played Messala, Ben-Hurís enemy, in the movie. The race took many months to prepare and film, the stunts were all orchestrated by the legendary stunt director Yakima Canutt and Stephen and Charlton Heston did much of the drivingÖ.. taught by Yakima Canutt.

Stephen said their hands were raw and bleeding at the end of each day and they would have pure alcohol poured over them, when they had finished filming for the day, so that the hands would harden, heal a bit and be ready for the next dayís work. Donít know what health and safety would say about that!!

We live in such a sheltered society in many ways now, that many young people donít learn the sort of common and street sense that one learned as a young person in earlier generations. I think it must be much harder for some of the young soldiers who end up going to war. In former times most soldiers and sailors came from backgrounds where survival and thinking on your feet was the order of the day. I found that many of the actors in the US were more street wise or should I say life wise, than many of the actors in the UK, who had started their lives in more sheltered environments. In fact I think that this is what makes certain actors have that extra air of danger and daring about them, which helps push them up the ladder of success. Actors like Peter OíToole, Richard Harris, Robert Shaw, John Thaw spring to mind.

I am busy preparing for the first short film I am producing with my old friend Patricia Doyle, in October. Itís getting very nerve wracking and exciting. I donít want to write about it too much. Donít want to jinx it. I know thatís silly superstition, but thatís the way we actors are! More soon!
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