The explosion and rapid gunfire rocked him from his thoughts. Where had his imagination taken him? Somewhere hot. Anywhere but this Godforsaken Yorkshire beach.
How long had he been here, perched on the upturned shell of a rowing boat? He pulled the collar of his anorak further up his neck. This damned North Sea breeze. Why was he sat here? He only had six lines in today’s shoot. Not for the first time he wondered why he bothered. Why he continued to play the game. It wasn’t like he needed the money. For his fee the producers could get ten bit-part actors. Perhaps they just took pity on him these days? Marshall imagined the conversation, keeping half an eye on the beach action.
‘How about old Marshall? He’d fit the character. There’s still something of a loyal fanbase for him.’
‘Yeah. It’s a good name to have in the credits.’
‘He does tend to be a bit difficult, though. I’ve worked on a couple of movies with him and he’s rubbed people up the wrong way. Seems to me, he delights in it.’
They were on take sixteen for the retreat scene. Gallipoli. Why had he agreed to this? He surveyed his surroundings. Wounded soldiers; bodies littering the shoreline; shattered boats.; traumatised servicemen throwing themselves from the cliff face. Most of these young actors would as likely never had heard of Gallipoli before agreeing to a part in the movie. Most of them straight out of acting school, or even worse, university; egos the size of Britain. It was his habit to avoid them as much as possible. They had no idea who he was and he wasn’t interested in them.
He would find a relatively comfortable perch from where he could keep an eye on progress whilst keeping away from the rest of the cast. Long gone were the days when he was given his own trailer. The largest and grandest trailer on the site. It had been his retreat against the fans and fawning cast members.
‘Keep away from them and they’ll keep away from you,’ had always been his motto.
In the days when you didn’t have to search for his name way-down the cast list, he had valued his privacy, spending his down-time alone in the trailer. How many years had it been since he had his own trailer? These days he didn’t even have a chair. His sigh was louder than he had intended.
‘Is that your private boat, or can anyone come aboard?’
‘Erm, it’s a free world.’ Marshall made a half-hearted attempt to make room for the young man, hoping his less-than enthusiastic response would encourage the interloper to seek alternative seating.
‘It’s Marshall Snell, isn’t it?’
Marshall was taken-aback. Somebody who actually knew who he was.
‘I’ve been an admirer of yours since I started acting, back in middle school. I thought the way you played the character role in ‘Being Sam Carpenter’ was a triumph. Can I shake your hand?’
Marshall’s heart was racing. He accepted the young man’s outstretched hand. His looked so old and shrivelled in comparison. He took a deep breath, as had been his habit before giving an acceptance speech. He was being transported back to those days in the sixties when anyone who was anyone wanted to shake his hand. Cannes, Hollywood, it all came flooding back with that single gesture. He bit back the cutting retort that would normally have emitted from the depths of his arrogance and attempted a smile.
‘Why, young man. I am astounded you are acquainted with that movie, no-one’s mentioned it in years.’
‘I used it for the basis of my dissertation at uni. My tutor hadn’t been aware of it, but I turned him into something of a fan. I think it was the way you engaged the viewer’s sympathy even though your character was something of a bastard. The more I watched it, the more I began to notice the minute changes of expression; your prolonged pauses; the difference in your posture. It seemed like all the theory I’d learnt at acting school summarised in one performance.’
Marshall swallowed. He must hold in the tears at all costs. Tears came regularly these days. He had a reputation to maintain. It wouldn’t do to show how much the words had affected him. He had taken to this young man.
‘Would it be an awful cheek to ask if we could spend some of our downtime together? I think I could learn loads. This is only my third movie, but I’ve got six lines in today’s shoot. I’d see you as a sort of mentor.’
Marshall put his hand on the young actor’s shoulder. ‘I’d feel privileged.’
Here, on this windswept stretch of Yorkshire coastline, a wave of contentment flowed through Marshall, warming his old man’s bones.