I’ve always told my students that they need to decided what they are willing to do on screen or stage, and what they aren’t because once you are pressured with an offer you might end up doing something you regret. I am certain that nudity is not something that I am comfortable with, but I had never considered being clothed in a shot with other actresses who are nude. And by the time I found out that this is exactly what I would be doing there was no turning back. And to be completely honest I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I do know that I, as a clothed actress, was treated very differently on set by the male crew members than those who weren’t.
Two aspects of the shoot were entirely new to me, the first was the nudity. In light of how exceptionally conservative coke and been when it came to what we ladies were and were not showing it was quite a shock for me that no one was trying to cover my cheeks in between shots, or make sure that my cleavage was not showing. The second aspect was the pyrotechnics, as we were shooting an action series. One of the sequences we shot involved a large gun fight and explosion during the evening. Personally I like to think it was because of my acting skill, but it might have more to do with the fact that I’m blonde and was wearing a neon pink dress over my bikini and I would therefore be visible in the weaker light, I was chosen to be involved in this shot. Along with two of the ladies who were doing nudity. While robed we rehearsed ducking under tables and chairs while actors screamed, without much enthusiasm considering they were actors ‘bang bang’. Then on the cue of the explosion we were to run inside the house of the location we were shooting on. One the first rehearsal we three ladies, all still robed, ran into the house, as we were told to do, and not to stop until we were in the kitchen. Once we were in the kitchen we were greeted by the family who owned the property we were shooting on, along with their two young sons of roughly 10 and 12.
As we walked back to our first positions one of my co-stars looked at the other:
“We have to run in their just now without our robes. And the kids are sitting there”
They both panicked. One of the crew members involved with pyrotechnics, who we had been talking to earlier walked by. He was very Afrikaans and rather animated. We had signalled to him to come closer. He shrugged and mouthed “Why?”
One of the ladies called: “The boys are inside” and pointed to her robe.
We could visibly see the gears change in his mind as realization of what was about to happen dawned on him and speedily changed direction to run inside the house and ask the family to temporarily vacate the kitchen.
When we did shoot the scene the directors decided not to have us ladies running around. I have to admit the first time we shot with the noisy blanks I was not prepared for it. I was required to very little acting considering how real ammunition rounds sounded surrounding me (we were trapped in the cross-fire of the shooting) and how loud the rounds we were. As we ducked under tables and deck chairs all three of us convulsed as the shots were ‘fired’ around us. Even by third take our bodies reacted to the sound of each ‘bullet’ being fired. And then there was the explosion!
Our Afrikaans pyrotechnics friend had set of the small explosion two or three times the day before to test what was supposed to happen. I will never forget watching him converse with the third assistant director, who was very British. His ‘English’ was so peppered with Afrikaans words in all the functional places in the sentences that I could read the confusion on the British Third AD’s face as the Pyro Guy was explaining what he was about to do. He didn’t have the heart to tell Pyro Guy that he didn’t know what he was saying and just nodded as if in confirmation and walked away. Pyro Guy was none the wiser, and carried on with his job.
Now as the explosion was to be set off with some sort of radio device the entire cast was to switch off their cell phones, as a cell phone could potentially accidentally activate the explosion. And nobody needed to be told how dangerous it was. I do not have any understanding of pyrotechnics in film, but I assume they are meant to be more flash and less bang. Although we were very far for the explosion I could feel the heat on my skin every time it flashed up into the night sky.
On one of our takes I had to dive underneath a table during the explosion, exactly where one of the crew members had dropped a glass earlier during a previous sequence. I had a piece of glass in my forearm, and didn’t fancy it getting infected considering that I had been crawling around on the floor with a bleeding arm for about 20 minutes. I went to the third AD who worked mostly with us. All I really wanted was a plaster, but the medic was called and I was inspected, disinfected and plastered, all the while under the eyes of about 50 male crew members.
“Hey Alvin, you never spend that much time helping any of us”
This was followed by general laughter. I smiled graciously to my make-shift audience, and went back to my ‘first position’ to redo the take.
As with any job, a number of things happened that were new and funny. An apricot fell out of the tree I was standing under just just missing me as the director called ‘action’. Jewellery was forgotten and snuck back on, and prayers were said that no one in continuity would pick up on it. Three Champaign glasses were broken. I had to do a scene walking across a blistering hot pavement. And in between each take I was hopping from foot to foot to the amusement of the crew. But one of my top moments was that of the ‘poisoned food’.
Two of us clothed ladies were to stand around a table filled with food and feed it to one of the cartel members. One of the crew members came to us and asked if we were comfortable with our assignment and as he was leaving said nonchalantly: “And by the way, the food is poisoned”. We rehearsed the scene, and the cartel member we were acting with took a bite of some of the food placed all around us. One of the female crew members walked up to us:
“Guys, don’t eat the food it’s been sprayed with insecticide. We have to do it so flies don’t sit on the food during takes. We usually have sings up”
They guy from earlier chipped in: “I told you it was poisoned”