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Diary of a film extra

Wimbledon is a big-budget film about a hopeless British tennis player who falls in love with Kirsten Dunst and tries to win Wimbledon. Entirely plausible.

It was released in September 2004 and I landed the prime role of "extra". My inexorable rise to international film superstardom starts here.

Read the background




Want to be an extra yourself?
The Hidden Extra website is probably the best place to start.







Diary of a Wimbledon Film extra: a big-budget British romantic comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany from the makers of Four Weddings, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones.




Diary of a Wimbledon Movie extra: a big-budget British romantic comedy starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany from the makers of Four Weddings, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones.

Monday 28th February 2005

Mum had a close look at it. She couldn't see me. No sign of any mustard yellow t-shirts. It's not looking good.

It'll be several weeks before I'll have a chance to see for myself on her DVD, yet I'm even more loathe to rent it from the local video shop if it's just going to lead to the eventual, final disappointment and humiliation. I can wait for that...

Monday 21st February 2005

Unexpectedly my dad bought Wimbledon for my mum as a Valentine's gift! They didn't spot me, but then they didn't remember where to look... (They're not regular readers.) I'm confident they'll work out how to freeze-frame it, thereby ending my guilt every time I walk past the video shop which I have proudly had no desire to join in all the years I've lived here. Bullet-biting decisions were looking decidedly likely whilst my worthy local library continues leisurely mulling it over.

Saturday 12th February 2005

No, I haven't watched it yet. Soon. Promise.

Tonight it's the Bafta Film Awards and, well, Wimbledon hasn't get a single nomination. Disappointingly there isn't a Best Extra category despite reported recent lobbying by influential industry insiders. Richard Loncraine's absence from the nominations for best director is probably due to his name not beginning with this year's prerequisite M, the nominees being: Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Michel Gondry, Marc Forster and Mike Leigh.

Thursday 3rd February 2005

Wimbledon comes out on DVD and video on Monday, 7th February, to rent and to buy. (It's already been out in America for a few weeks.) Frankly I'm scared. Very busy week for me, not sure if I can make it...

Tuesday 11th January 2005

Celebrity Big Brother is back.
They didn't ask me.

Tuesday 21st December 2004

Talking of Bridget Jones, consider the following statements:

  • Jamelia's cover version of "Stop!" features in the new Bridget Jones film and has been all over the radio.
  • You may remember that I'm rather fond of Sam Brown who did the original.
  • Wimbledon and Bridget Jones are both funded and produced by Working Title Films.
  • On 9th November 2003 I wrote to the Wimbledon people encouraging them to use a little-known Sam song in the Wimbledon film.
  • According to press reports the Bridget Jones producers approached Jamelia to record "Stop!", having decided that they wanted the song to illustrate an integral part of the film.
I leave you to draw your own conclusions about my sphere of influence.

Monday 20th December 2004

At the risk of boring you rigid with statistics, here's a quick roundup:

Wimbledon dropped out of the UK box office top ten before the end of October, earning about 7 million pounds altogether. It fell steadily in the USA, its eventual takings being in the region of 17 million dollars. Meanwhile Shaun of the Dead took about 13 million dollars in America. All respectable performances. They pale a little in comparison with this autumn's British big hitter Bridget Jones sequel which so far has made an astonishing 33 million pounds in the the UK and 40 million dollars in the USA!

Saturday 9th October 2004

Wimbledon stayed top of the UK box office charts taking 1.5 million pounds in its second weekend, showing on 446 screens. In America the new entries pushed Wimbledon down another few spots to eleventh, halving its takings to 1.7 million dollars in 1705 screens. Shaun of the Dead impressively moved up one place to sixth in the USA despite being nearly a million down on last weekend. It has increased its screens to 645.

Saturday 2nd October 2004

Wimbledon went straight into the top of the UK box office charts taking 1.7 million pounds in its opening weekend, although that doesn't compare favourably with Love Actually and Bridget Jones which took more than three times this in their first weekends. Of course they did have Hugh Grant to help them.

In this week's American box office charts Wimbledon dropped a few spots to number eight, mostly pushed down by three new entries. Its second weekend's takings were 3.3 million dollars now showing in 2039 screens, fewer than all the films above it apart from the new entry stealing ahead at number seven by just seventy thousand dollars: The excellent and thoroughly British Shaun of the Dead which was showing in only 607 cinemas. That gives Shaun takings of $5,500 per screen, easily the best in the top thirty apart from the enormous new entry at number one which pulled in $6,800 per screen. By comparison Wimbledon's have halved since last weekend to $1,600 per screen which is about par for the course in the current top ten.

Wednesday 29th September 2004

I'm really, really, really getting slightly surer that I'm in it! About fifteen minutes into the film during Kirsten's first match at Wimbledon, in the top left of the crowd in the larger stand, there's a flash of mustard yellow t-shirt! Twice! Blink and you'll miss them... Unfortunately I think I've been left on the cutting room floor for the umbrellas scene not to mention the actual quarter-finals themselves.

To my surprise and delight I enjoyed it more the second time round last night: I was expecting to find it slightly tiresome but instead I was loving the comedy! Even John McEnroe seemed more convincing this time! However I did find the clichéd mushy romantic moments rather too obvious and a tad embarrassing.

According to the official BBFC 12A rating, the film 'contains moderate sex references and one use of strong language'. Now, I wasn't exactly keeping count, but there were plenty of buggers, several bollocks, the odd shit, one or two wankers and a couple of shags. Presumably these are mostly considered sex references... And the one use of strong language must've been a certain word beginning with f (I think you know what I'm talking about) which was uttered very much under the breath and was only just discenerable above the noise of an excited crowd.

Saturday 25th September 2004

It's here: You've been able to see me in the cinema since yesterday! I'll be waiting for Tuesday to see it again. Paul Bettany's been giving great interview the last few days, he's so relaxed, sarcastic and natural. He was on Jonathan Ross's TV show last night and Steve Wright on Radio 2 on Thursday afternoon when he explained about the thousands of blow-up dolls. He said the arms from a few hundred real extras were digitally superimposed onto the dummies to give the full crowd look.

Thursday 23rd September 2004

The premiere on Monday seemed to go well, plenty of news reports, all the stars there and a green carpet. Nice touch. Later that night Jonathan Ross reviewed it on Filum 2004 and gave it a qualified thumbs up along the same sort of lines as I did. I'm sure he wrote his review without reading mine. He rather neatly commented that John McEnroe plays a fairly unconvincing John McEnroe!

In the American box office charts Wimbledon came in a relatively respectible fourth with opening weekend takings of seven million dollars showing at 2034 screens, the fewest screens in the top 5. It was about one and a half million behind the second and third placed films, but much better per-screen figures.

Monday 20th September 2004

I'm in it!!! I think. It flashed by quickly and unexpectedly near the start, but I caught a glimpse of mustard yellow in the crowd and someone looking vaguely like me turning to their nieghbour to say something, just before or after an umpire giving a score. Whooo! I might've cropped up once or twice more too but was much less sure. Look out for the quarter finals (cloudy days) and also the scene where the umbrellas all go up in the rain - I was on the far left with a blue EU umbrella, although I suspect I was clipped form that shot. Gonna have to see it again soon!

So what did I think? It was fun: a light, enjoyable and flawed romantic comedy. Despite several unconvincing moments and factual errors, the film works, with plenty of decent jokes, some memorable scenes and even a sense of drama during one or two of the tennis matches.

Friday 17th September 2004

Two pristine complimentary tickets to see a preview of Wimbledon at a nearby cinema arrived in the post today courtesy of Radio Five Live. Happy. I checked my email several times just in case I got extra lucky with an invitation to the premiere in London but I kinda felt it wasn't going to be. Perhaps I should take a red carpet to my screening.

Wimbledon opened in the USA today, with hundreds of reviews hitting the internet in the last few days like these. Opinion is divided on the subject, with many reviewers trying to extract as many tennis-related puns as possible. Some samples:

  • Racquets and romance make for a lively match
  • Wimbledon has too many service errors
  • Witty Wimbledon is romantic grand slam
  • Despite talented team, Wimbledon is no love match
  • Winning at Doubles
  • Wimbledon scores, though it's no ace
  • Cute courting on the All-England
All the reviews agree that it's a lighthearted romantic comedy in the same vein as Four Weddings. There seems to be a majority who liked it and many of them enjoyed the actual acting, especially the smaller roles and cameos. -blush- ah, you shouldn't.

Monday 13th September 2004

I wonder how the events at Flushing Meadow in the US Open this weekend will affect the film? The American distributors are probably a bit miffed that their general public lost a lot of interest in the tennis when all the USA singles players lost on Friday, the first time for about twenty years that America was unrepresented in the final weekend.

On the other hand the UK distributors should be delighted not only by Tim Henman's semi-final appearance, easily his best ever performance at the US Open, but also by Andrew Murray the 17-year-old Scot winning the boys' singles, the first Briton to achieve this. Lots of newspaper coverage for both which may continue with impeccable timing leading up to the film's opening weekend which happily co-incides with our away Davis Cup match against Austria.

There was an advert for the film on television today!

Sunday 12th September 2004

I saw my first poster for the Wimbledon film this afternoon. It was on a bus shelter. Still two weeks to go - this is serious promotion! Loads of articles have appeared in the internet, far too many for me to keep track of. Here's a small selection to look at.

  • The official website is called Wimbledon The Movie and may redirect you to your local region's website if it's really clever.
  • There's a nice article on the Wimbledon tennis tournament website which includes a helpful list of release dates in twenty countries: mostly September, October and November, but the Germans have to wait until April next year! Some nice pictures too - the one of Kirsten holding her arms aloft particularly grabs me because that looks just like the scene I'm in!
  • The BBC have published a good interview with Paul Bettany and Richard Loncraine which includes a quick mention of our old friends the crowd dummies! They have a bash at distancing themselves from Hugh Grant comparisons, something they're going to get a lot of practice with! Erm, interesting photo of Kirsten wearing a net curtain...

Friday 10th September 2004

It's just two weeks 'til it comes out! Exxxcited!

I haven't been invited to the premiere. Yet. Maybe they're not having one? Let's have a look around on the internet to see what's happening...

Oooo, that was fun. I'm happy to report that the premiere is on Monday 20th September at Leicester Square! Plenty of time. I also found three websites with competitions to win tickets to the premiere! Guess what? Yep, I entered all three! Well, you know, just in case I get accidentally left off the promoter's list. No, I'm not going to tell you where to find them!

I also discovered that Radio 1 have made Wimbledon their Movie of the Month and already have a nice little review of it. Along with their colleagues over at Five Live, they're giving away tickets to free screenings of the film all over the country! Guess what? Yep, I entered both of them! Trouble is, they're also on Monday 20th September. Well, you know, just in case there's a problem with the premiere tickets.

Tuesday 7th September 2004

On today's Chris Moyles show the newsreader Dom interviewed the director Richard Loncraine about Chris's starring role in the film, praising both the significance of Chris's eightish second vocal appearance in the film and also the legendary humility with which Chris performed his professional duties.

Monday 6th September 2004

I'm not in the trailer. There are three or four decent snatches of the crowd but most of them are on Centre Court and I'm not in any of them.

Despite my absence the trailer looks very promising and I'm more excited! Paul Bettany looks like he's doing a fine Hugh Grant type turn, you know, amusingly awkward and self-deprecating, and Kirsten Dunst seems to be delightfully full of herself! The trailer doesn't oversell itself, and doesn't seem to make the mistake of showing all the best bits. Bodes well for the film.

One thing this trailer has demonstrated is how difficult it might be to spot anyone in the crowd! Especially as in the cinema I won't be able to rewind the crowd scenes repeatedly. Unless I seduce the projectionist...

Sunday 5th September 2004

Did you see me? To be honest it was a bit tough: I was only visible during the longshots of the audience, a tiny blur in the distance near the end of the row.

I don't mind though because I have in my hands a rather special shiny disc. By chance my Grandma's newspaper had a free DVD of trailers for a host of films being released in September, and smirking on the front it looks like a rather dashing Paul Bettany! Now I look at it again, perhaps a little too dashing... Come to think of it, it's probably Jude Law. Whatever, the point is that Kirsten's on the inside and they've got the Wimbledon trailer on this DVD and I might be in it! I cannot wait to get home and put it on!

Thursday 2nd September 2004

Stop Press! I'm going to be on telly live on Saturday night! Fantastic! 9pm on BBC2 you'll catch me and, er, several thousand other people in the Royal Albert Hall for a live Proms show broadcast. I guess it might be hard to pick me out from the crowd: Look out for the man in the crocodile outfit.

Actually it's not completely live on BBC2, it's deferred by two hours. Perhaps they're protecting themselves against some fool trying to draw attention to themselves with a silly stunt.

Curiously, this two hour deferral means that my appearance on BBC2 is scheduled directly against Channel 4's network premiere of A Knight's Tale, probably Paul Bettany's first real notable role.

Sunday 15th August 2004

I figured I'd get there early on Saturday, beat the crowds y'know. As I arrived a worryingly stick-thin, very leggy, overly-fake-tanned, micro-skirted teenage girl emerged with her mum. Blimey. I don't really feel the part, but steel myself and find my way to the C.P.Promotions welcome desk. They give me a long disclaimer to read which says if I pass the interview then they'll want £125 to take some photos for a portfolio. That must surely be for the wannabe models...? Nope, it applies to everyone. Thanks, but no thanks. Bye.

As I walked passed the hotel's breakfast room on my way out they were playing Sam Brown's "Stop!", quite possibly my favouritest song ever. That was nice of them.

Friday 13th August 2004

Flicking through the local free weekly paper I encountered an advert asking for models and film/TV extras, the interviews being held tomorrow and Sunday in a local hotel! Five minutes walk from my house! This could be the one!

Tuesday 10th August 2004

Last week Chris Moyles on the Radio 1 breakfast show revealed that he had just recorded a little bit of vocal for the Wimbledon film. Apparently he's replaced a lesser known radio figure in a scene originally recorded last year. He's been making a bit of a song and dance about his "starring" role which is becoming rather tiresome. Some people have no sense of proportion.

Wednesday 7th July 2004

They're still filming! I very nearly missed this article in The Guardian which says the director Richard Loncraine and his film crew were preparing Centre Court early on Thursday last week to apply "the finishing touches to Wimbledon". It suggests that Paul Bettany's tennis skills aren't really up to scratch and they've used "more than 280 special effects" to compensate.

I wonder what counts as an individual special effect?

[I was going to use "discrete" instead of "individual" there but figured, heh, know your audience...]

Sunday 4th July 2004

I adore the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. And rather excitingly they're making a film of it right now after an epic twenty-five year gestation period. It looks terrific and they need extras... However they probably have a list of volunteers as long as a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster's hangover.

What's this? Simon Mayo is running a competition on his BBC Radio 5 Live show tomorrow to win a part as an extra in the Hitchhikers film! Yay! Now then, sshh, keep it to yourself, get the 19th July off work and it's a shoe-in.

Wednesday 23rd June 2004

I figured if they'd missed Wimbledon then they'd probably try to catch the US Open. But according to both the Internet Movie Database and Yahoo! Movies, the Wimbledon film is going to be released in the UK and USA on 24th September 2004. Yes, 24th September 2004. That's two whole weeks after the US Open has finished when most of the world turns its attention away from tennis for a while. Hopefully this [strange] timing will encourage audiences to focus on my acting abilities and not get distracted by the tennis...

Got an email from Tomask McKiernan who spent four whole days as an extra at the end of July. Lucky thing. Green with envy. Wimbleblog gets an honourable mention on Wednesday June 23 (his American format, not mine) as "an even stranger blog". You pass your own judgement!

Sunday 20th June 2004

Wimbledon the tennis tournament starts tomorrow and has finally induced enough motivation/guilt to tend to this little distraction. As if there weren't enough distractions elsewhere with the tennis, the football and, er, umm, okay I admit it, Big Brother.

Notably absent from the distractions are blockbuster romantic comedies about Wimbledon. You might think this could be just the right time to release the Wimbledon film, but evidently not. This probably explains why you and I are not film producers. They probably knew that the cinemas would be chock-full with Harry Potter.

Saturday 28th February 2004

There's been a bit of fuss in the media about British-based film projects being halted due to the Government closing a tax loophole that was being abused by individual investors. A report on Radio 1 Newsbeat highlighted recent box-office success, expecting this to continue this year "with Wimbledon starring Paul Bettany and Bridget Jones..."

So not only is the film keeping its profile even in the depths of winter, but Paul Bettany's profile must be rising, at least in the UK. When I first started writing this I said "starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany" on the basis that Kirsten was the one you'd most likely heard of.

Monday 16th February 2004

Paul Bettany was on telly yesterday presenting an award at the Baftas, then returning later to accept the best director award on behalf of Peter Weir for Master And Commander. Which I haven't seen. Is it any good? Anyway, introducing Paul the first time, the superb MC Stephen Fry mentioned that Paul will be starring in Wimbledon "next year". Oops.

Do you think it'll be me there next year? No, nor do I. Although there are all those seats upstairs in the theatre/cinema for inconsequential guests. I could swallow my pride.

Wednesday 11th February 2004

Yesterday I got an automated junk phone call. I've heard about them and was momentarily pleased to experience it first hand. Until the holiday club drivel coming from the pre-recorded message registered with my brain, whereupon my interest promptly vanished and I hung up. Intriguing that it happened just the day after I appeared in the phone book...

Monday 9th February 2004

The new phone book was delivered today and I'm in it. Okay, not an earth-shattering feat, but this is my first ever appearance in the phone book after nearly thirty three years on this planet, fourteen of them since leaving home. Should I be catapulted into the limelight after the release of the Wimbledon film, perhaps I'll have to go ex-directory like all the other film stars.

Sunday 8th February 2004

Hello. Yes, I'm still here. Are you still there? I don't seem to have had much time to do this over the last three months. Curiously that coincides with me returning to full-time employment which is harder to squeeze into the week than it used to be.

I've also been somewhat distracted by I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, partly because I was intimately involved in the last series. Well, alright then, I went scuba diving in Australia with one of the show's stars nine months ago. Well, alright, she was the British accountant shipped over to Australia for a month to oversee the accounts. And I suppose I didn't actually scuba dive with her, we were more in the same group of a dozen novice divers. But I did chat with her and she was very nice, although she hadn't really seen the show because she had been too busy working. See, it's not just me.

Tuesday 18th November 2003

The latest Richard Curtis and High Grant film Love Actually is about to be released and had its premiere on Sunday night. During the Top 40 Radio 1 DJ Wes mentioned that he hadn't been invited to the premiere despite having a momentary starring role as himself. Let's hope they're a bit more generous when it come to my film...

robl spotted that Stuart got a letter published in The Guardian yesterday. We are not worthy. Well, I'm not worthy; I can't speak for robl.

Thursday 13th November 2003

Neil Man dropped me a friendly little email; he was a Wimbledon film extra in Brighton and shares the distinction of earning £60, but impressively his day of fame and tiny fortune was featured in his local newspaper! Nice one! He's recently been to an open casting in Brighton for a new Channel 4 sitcom called The Last Chancers about a rubbish rock band trying to hit the big time. Good luck!

Sunday 9th November 2003

I've tried one last shot at contributing to the Wimbledon film: I've written a little letter telling them about a wonderful song which I think would be perfect for the film. Yes, all right, it's by Sam Brown, so maybe I'm a little biased, but it's a top tune, honest. And one of my Mum's favourites too. Hopefully with six to nine months before the film is released, they haven't finalised their soundtrack yet.

I was looking at the P45 again: The leaving date was 29th July 2003. The only date really. There can't be many P45s with just £60 total pay on them: I'm with the sort of person who resigns on their first day in a new job at McDonalds.

Friday 7th November 2003

A P45 from the Wimbledon film people arrived in the post detailing the £60 they paid me. Feels like a sure sign of finality. At least I was still technically on their books ready to be called at a moments notice... I suppose that means it's definitely all over.

Hang on, not quite, their address is on the P45 and that gives me an idea for something that's occured to me a few times over the last few months.

Saturday 18th October 2003

Another exciting moment of media exposure yesterday: Mark Radcliff read out my email at lunchtime on Radio 1!

I sent him a quick email yesterday morning about John Peel playing a song called Icicle Tricycle clearly inspired by Mark and Lard's special guest David Blame's similarly-titled mesmerising feat recreated earlier this week on their show. I joked that unfortunately we didn't get to hear much of it because John's wife had forgotten to wind up the gramophone player... (Trust me, this all makes sense if you've been listening to Mark and Lard the last couple of weeks.) My anticipation heightened when Mark's opening link was about David Blame and David Blaine, then at ten past one my name was suddenly broadcast across the nation as he read the email out.

A couple of hours later an old friend who'd been listening dropped me an email after tracking me down at this website. Which was nice.

Wednesday 15th October 2003

Last week's Concert For George London Premiere was wonderful. Everyone was there: Paul McCartney (and pregnant Heather Mills), Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Dave Gilmour, Joe Brown, Jools Holland, Bill Wyman, Robbie Coltrane, Damon Hill, Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Terry Jones and of course Sam Brown. One of the guys I was with sneaked in amongst the paparazzi with his digital camera as the stars arrived and took several great photos, my favourite being this one of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.

As we arrived at the cinema the railings were up and a vibrant crowd waited for the celebs to arrive. There was no red carpet. The couple in front of us stopped to have their picture taken as they came through the door, but not us. We passed the stream of paparazzi pointedly ignoring us and were then ushered down to the cinema. Our swish tickets were evidently not swish enough - the real celebs were ushered up into the bar. One guy gamely asked if he could get a drink and the steward politely explained that there was a private function in the bar.

The cinema was huge with the best seats reserved for the VIPs. Everyone got a free small bag of popcorn and a bottle of water. It was odd (in the nicest possible way) to watch a great film with most of the on-screen performers in the audience! Still, I guess this is just something I'm going to have to get used to.

After the film finished we hung about in the foyer as the pop stars chatted and gradually left. One friend got Dave Gilmour's autograph and Nicky must still be recovering from brushing past Alan Rickman as she's been unable to write any more of her blog...

Here's the BBC report if you're interested.

Tuesday 7th October 2003

Where did the time go? All sorts of things have been keeping me busy, none of them to do with the Wimbledon film. I hope they don't call this week - I've got no spare days.

Something rather exciting came up. The guys promoting the Concert For George film got in touch with me through the Sam Brown Fan Club with ten pairs of tickets to give away to the West End Premiere tomorrow! So I've been running a prize draw just like you hear on the radio and the rather swish tickets arrived on Saturday! I'm very excited and am expecting most of the big names to be there; Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, etc! Wow! Not only should it be a thrilling night, but it'll be good practice for the Wimbledon film premiere next summer.

Saturday 27th September 2003

I didn't go yesterday. The nice person who'd invited me first emailed to say I was in and bring and umbrella, then later emailed to say it had been cancelled. Or perhaps postponed - they'd let me know if and when it's been rescheduled. I shouldn't have expected anything else! They hadn't specified any t-shirt colour, so I was going to go for mustard yellow again. Perhaps they're waiting for a rainy day, hence the umbrella; yesterday's forecast gradually got better and better throughout the week. Typical, you film for three months in the English summer and it never rains.

An old friend stumbled upon this site and dropped me an email detailing his own brush with fame. His wife was a contestant on Bargain Hunt four months ago while he was in the audience. He sent me a photo of David Dickinson looking decidedly uneasy being close to my friend.

Wednesday 24th September 2003

Somebody emailed me today to say that it's the last week of filming crowd scenes at Shepperton studios and they need some more extras for Friday - did I want to join them? Okay, I've been here before, but what the hell, why not give it a go. Hmmm, and I'm going to be out late on Thursday night seeing Sam Brown perform in London, but I can manage it provided I don't need to get there at 6am.

I'm waiting to hear back from them. Can I trust them? For all I know they could be trying to lure me into an Eastern European gambling syndicate as a slave croupier. It's my shuffling skills they'll be after.

Friday 19th September 2003

This morning on BBC1's Breakfast show they talked to a film food artist who makes on-screen meals such as Bridget Jones's blue soup. She showed us some economy-class airline food she'd made for an aeroplane scene in the Wimbledon film being shot yesterday. It was realistically unappetising. There must be a very good reason why they didn't just nip down to Heathrow and buy some real airline food.

An item on animatronic extras appeared but didn't feature the Wimbledon dummies. Instead there was an impressively agile man romping around in a convincing gorilla suit. Today's phone-in quiz prize was to become an extra on the new Bridget Jones film. I couldn't stop myself calling in.

Tuesday 16th September 2003

BBC1's Breakfast show had an extended report this morning from the set of the Wimbledon film at Shepperton studios where they've recreated half of Centre Court on an outside set. They're there all week and are recording some of it on their webpage including a nice interview with Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst yesterday.

The groundsman has grown an authentic grass court in a matter of weeks with expert advice from Wimbledon's groundskeeper. They've also apparently got the real scoreboard and umpire's chair. Prior to that they'd recreated a red clay court after filming in Monte Carlo for a few days. Remember all those cables stretched across Centre Court's roof? We learnt that they supported a retractable white silk sky so they could control the ever-shifting shadows on the court to avoid continuity problems.

We met Richard Loncraine the director who seemed relaxed and enthusiastic, saying they've had great co-operation from Wimbledon after two years of preparation. He showed us a bank of 59 cameras all in a line to take one of those Matrix-style sweeping action shots as Paul Bettany performs an acrobatic dive on the court. A day's shooting for two and a half seconds of film!

They also interviewed a small cluster of extras sitting in the stands, who seemed to be doing their first filming this week. "Do you mix with the stars?" "Well we watch them all day..." During the odd wide shot of the set, my trained eye caught sight of hundreds of dummies in the stands, but sadly there were no close-ups nor any mention of them.

You can see the set in the interview with Martine McCutcheon (which is about Richard Curtis's upcoming film Love Actually) on the BBC1 Breakfast webpage - look out for the dummies in the high, wide shot and the Matrix-style bank of cameras which look a bit like a dinosaur spine behind Nicki Chapman. You can even see a few dummies blurrily creeping into shot behind Martine at the start of the interview.

Friday 12th September 2003

A Brighton newspaper published an article last week from the location of the Wimbledon film in Brighton. It said "Movie fans were craning to catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood's hottest properties on Brighton seafront yesterday." Oh you're too kind. But no, it wasn't me, it was Kirsten Dunst. They'd hardly be looking for me; I wasn't there.

They said there were more than 140 cast and crew there all week and small crowds of onlookers gathered to watch the action unfurl past a mass of technicians, crew and sun deflectors. They were filming in several locations including a seafront cafe, a flat and a barber shop they've turned into a betting shop. They also saw Sam Neill's wife Noriko applying Kirsten's make-up while they waited to film.

A couple of Brighton residents who live on the seafront posted a message on the IMDB Wimbledon film message board saying that they'd watched them filming some scenes, including an old deserted tennis court near the beach at night with lots of lights. Bit confusing. They also saw Paul Bettany's character driving Kirsten around in a grey vintage Porsche and the crew spraying water on the road and path despite it being a lovely sunny day - they speculated that maybe it was supposed to have just rained.

Local professional photographer Scott Ramsey not only went to have a look, he took some pictures and put fifteen on his website, most of which can be found on celebrities page 2 and a couple more on celebrities page 1. It's mostly Kirsten in her cycling shorts, plus Paul Bettany, Sam Neil and even one of Noriko sitting with Kirsten. Notice the wet ground on the sunny day in the jogging shots.

Thursday 11th September 2003

Today is 11th September. A day of reflection for millions of people. On this day thirty years ago General Pinochet launched a violent coup d'etat against the democratically elected Chilean government, killing the socialist President Salvador Allende. Pinochet set up a brutal military dictatorship with tacit support from the United States, killing more than 3,000 innocent people. Here's a good BBC summary of these events.

George Bush talks about hunting down the forces of terror and making them pay for their crimes, spending unimaginable billions in pursuit of these objectives. General Pinochet has not been prosecuted and lives a free man in Chile.

Wimbleblog will return tomorrow.

Wednesday 10th September 2003

That fine fellow actor Phil who inspired me to go on BrainTeaser will be on The Weakest Link on Monday at 5.15pm on BBC2. Yes, this Monday the 15th of September. Go for it Phil! Actually words of encouragement are entirely pointless because he filmed it a month ago. Nevertheless; You can do it my boy! Bring it on!

A quick BrainTeaserBlog postscript: I got a couple of emails about my performance that really tickled me. Hope you (and they!) don't mind me sharing them with you.

One friend commented:

It's not often I find myself shouting PARKINSON at the telly in the afternoon (later in the day is different)

And another friend suggested:

Re-arrange these letters into a word:

ER    LOS

Tuesday 9th September 2003

I lost my sunglasses last week. I've had them for three years and was quite fond of them, but more importantly they're the shades I'm wearing in the Wimbledon film. I wore them all day during filming until I got split up from my friends mid-afternoon, whereupon in a inspired change for continuity (or should that be discontinuity?) I decided to take them off. That was the last ninety minutes of filming including the umbrella scenes.

They were brown plastic-framed wraparound style sunglasses and were admittedly just starting to look a little bit last century dahhling, so an opportunity for something a little more current. However the department store I originally bought them from has cleared out all the mid-price sunglasses in favour of pairs costing £100. Yes, some of them look great, but I wasn't tempted by fashion's law of diminishing returns where the design is 10% more stylish for 200% more money.

Instead I tried my luck at the end-of-summer sale at a high street clothes shop and found a decent trendy pair: rectangular, frameless, metallic reflective blue and proper UV protection for £12 reduced to £7, which then rang up rather happily for a fiver on the till. Gave me a little lift for the rest of the day.

Google update: Wimbleblog has climbed thirty places in Google's wimbledon movie rankings this week to number 47 out of 57,800.

Sunday 7th September 2003

The splendid Nicky at Truth and Bone kindly mentioned Wimbleblog in her recent entry. She's one of those extraordinary people who writes some of her most intimate feelings in her diary and then publishes them on the internet for everyone and anyone to read.

This may hold a clue to explain why she hasn't fashioned the international film career that I'm enjoying; Perhaps her talents lie in fearlessly expressing her own emotions rather than hiding behind the emotions of a public performance.

And I'm not just saying this because her boyfriend is a film critic...

This weekend I have received further public exposure, this time in the printed media: The local newspaper has published my letter. I'm afraid it's just a friendly but pedantic reply to a previous letter which cast factually incorrect aspersions on the benefits of pensions. I'm happy to report that there isn't a phalanx of paparazzi camped outside my front door.

Tuesday 2nd September 2003

They're filming in Brighton this week. According to a local Brighton and Hove newspaper, hundreds of people turned up to the open auditions a few weeks ago, of which they'll have chosen about a hundred. Apparently they were looking for joggers, clubbers, dog-walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and even a burger seller.

They also mentioned that Bernard Hill plays Paul Bettany's dad in the film. [Sorry, can't resist it...] Gizza job! I can do that!

Wimbleblog has just entered Google's wimbledon movie rankings at number 77 out of 54,200.

Friday 29th August 2003

Hello, welcome back to Wimbleblog. Hope you didn't mind that little interruption by BrainTeaserBlog.

Now here's a thing. If you go to Google and search for wimbledon film then this little Wimbleblog is top of the 161,000 results. Top. Number One. Blimey. In fact about five people a day stumble upon this Wimbleblog just by searching for wimbledon film or something similar in Google.

I'd better keep it up. Perhaps it'll evolve into an unofficial commentary on the progress of my, sorry, their film all through production and into release.

Mind you, if you go to Google and search for wimbledon movie then Wimbleblog doesn't feature at all. This isn't entirely unexpected because I'm British and haven't used the American word movie, let alone the phrase Wimbledon movie in Wimbleblog. Or at least I hadn't until those last couple of sentences. Ah. Now we can have a little bit of fun with Google and see where we enter its wimbledon movie rankings!

Just give it a few days...

[BrainTeaserBlog] Tuesday 26th August 2003

A thoroughly enjoyable day. Oxford is a fabulous city with many fine and handsome buildings but the BrainTeaser office isn't one of them; it's more of a reinforced scout hut. Inside were a relaxed, friendly and informal team, keen to put us at ease. The actual TV studio itself is tiny - there's no room at all for any audience and anybody significantly over six foot should mind their head. We had a little quiz practice with the researcher and I could see I'd struggle to make it past the first round.

Alex was utterly charming and spent about half an hour with us beforehand going through our interests, gemming up for the odd ten-second chat during the show. She picked up on Sam Brown's fan club and was very keen on my starring role in the Wimbledon film. She mentioned both of them during the show, drawing attention to my mustard yellow t-shirt in the film's quarter final crowds and suggesting that fame, fortune and Hollywood beckoned. Clearly she recognises genuine talent when she sees it. And my what big eyes she's got.

During the advert breaks there's a lot of cheeky banter amongst the crew; they asked me about Sam Brown and each had their own attempt at singing Stop!

If you haven't seen it then you probably want to know whether I won. Well, in one sense we were all winners. But in another, more accurate sense, a guy called Matt was the winner and he left with £1,500. I got a consolation mug, pen, squishy toy phone and postcard of Alex which I didn't think to get signed.

[BrainTeaserBlog] Monday 25th August 2003

I'm live on telly tomorrow. Blimey. My host should be the delightful Alex Lovell which is a pleasant bonus. We go live on air at 1:30pm and they want us there (Oxford) at 11am to get briefed and generally get ready.

[BrainTeaserBlog] Saturday 23rd August 2003

That shock of pink denotes the temporary commandeering of this page by the BrainTeaserBlog. Just for a few days, mind.

The phone rang yesterday afternoon and the guy from BrainTeaser said a cheery hello. "Oh no, not again" said a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach... But he was just checking that I was still okay for Tuesday and ran through some of the things on my application form, you know: job, hobbies, sports, starring roles in major international feature films, that kind of thing. He stumped me with an unexpected question - what goals did I have? Er, um, oh. My mind was blank. Do people set themselves life goals? And if so, do they tell a stranger on the phone so that it might be broadcast live on telly? I said I didn't really set myself goals, I just see what comes along. Which is true. I mean I suppose I want to find a decent job, but that's just survival. And I suppose I'd love to work on the likely Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy film but that's almost, but not quite, infinitely improbable.

An hour later a thought popped into my head. A proper goal. Yeah, that's a good one. He'd like that. Perhaps I should call him back? After all my earlier answer was less than impressive and this really fits the bill. But that'd be a bit odd, calling up some stranger to impart a little snippet of my inner thoughts. He only asked because it's on his list - I expect he's got more important things to be getting on with.

I called him. He didn't seem too troubled. I said I'd like to see the total eclipse of the sun in 2006 that runs up north Africa into Turkey and Russia. He liked it. I added that I went to France for the 1999 total eclipse that clipped Cornwall. He really liked it.

Friday 22nd August 2003

Late on Wednesday night I got an email from the nice guy who emailed me last weekend. He'd heard from a friend of a friend working at Wimbledon that word went round late afternoon that they were short on numbers for Thursday. He urged me to turn up at Wimbledon on Thursday morning despite their phone call.

Unfortuntely I was feeling jaded and disenchanted. Frankly, I wasn't of a mind to go again when they'd actually called several hours earlier and explicitly told me not to come. I mean, they could've called me back later. But I didn't give up completely. Instead I got up earlyish yesterday morning and phoned a couple of their numbers several times between 6:30am and 8am, ready to say that I could be there in an hour and a half. They just rang and rang and rang. Fair enough, they had their chance.

The nice guy emailed me again last night and said he got a late morning call from the friend of a friend saying that they were short of people even after all the reserves had been signed in and they'd appealed to all the extras present to call friends and family who might be interested. Just what I wanted to hear.

I'm not one for self-pity, but it's a bit disheartening to know that they don't want you even when they're desperate! Some might say this was a damning indictment on my acting ability, but I'd like to think there are three more likely explanations:

  • They're incompetent
  • They've seen this Wimbleblog and think I might give too much away
  • They got a great close-up of me last time which they plan to feature prominently in the film and therefore don't want me appearing in any further scenes.
You know, I kinda like the third one best.

Wednesday 20th August 2003

My mobile rang and I knew it was them - anyone else would've used the house phone. Imagine their phone bill. I answered with a boisterous "Hello" and she said she was calling from the Wimbledon film. "I'm afraid we won't be needing you tomorrow, we're oversubscribed. Sorry." Oh, that's a shame. "Okay then, bye." And she was gone.

That was quite possibly the last I'll hear from them.

I consoled myself by re-reading through the BrainTeaser notes which arrived this morning. I really am going to be live on telly on Tuesday lunchtime! I should make use of tomorrow's unexpected spare time with some serious reading and trying a few anagrams... Perhaps this diary should become a mini BrainTeaserBlog for the next week?

Tuesday 19th August 2003

Well, the Science Museum was fascinating...

Yes, I decided to go: Up at five and at Wimbledon at seven, whereupon I added my name to the reserve list and settled down with a book, looking up every time they called out, mostly asking for Royal Box people who were generally a little older and suitably attired. Shortly before half eight there were about 110 reserves patiently waiting (I reckoned I'd signed in about halfway) when they called out thirty names and said thankyou but sorry to the rest of us. Deflated. Apparently some people had started queueing at six!

But all was not lost - they need plenty more extras for Thursday when they're filming a big scene on Centre Court and asked us to put our names and numbers down. Expecting a call tomorrow afternoon!

Also heard that they've arranged all the extras for the filming in Brighton the first week of September. After that they'll be filming in and around London for a month or so when they'll mostly only need a few extras here and there.

Dummy Update: The open air courts have been emptied of dummies save for a thin strip of maybe 150 at the far end of Court Two's stand. They'd also gone from the members enclosure balcony. Perhaps they've all been shifted to Centre Court?

Sunday 17th August 2003

A very nice guy sent me an email this weekend after stumbling upon Wimbleblog. He's been extraing (hey, a new verb!) for a couple of weeks and they're just about to start their final week of filming at Wimbledon. He's unable to work, but thinks that they'll be looking for reserve extras all week because they've used people just turning up speculatively every day he's been working. He encouraged me to get there early tomorrow morning and I could be working all week. I pointed out that I accidentally did this four weeks ago when they told me to go home, although admittedly they had explicitly told me not to turn up!

I suggested giving them an early morning call to offer my services (and get an extra hour's kip), but he reckons they'll probably be discouraging on the phone, whereas once you're there they might as well make the most of you.

So I've been mulling it over all day. And I think I might just possibly, er, umm, not sure... What's the worst that can happen? They tell me to sod off and I spend a day at the Science Museum? Is that worth losing a couple of hours sleep over?

Friday 15th August 2003

They haven't called. Boo hoo. But their loss may be somebody else's gain...

A couple of weeks ago I sent off an application to be a contestant on Channel 5's lunchtime quiz show BrainTeaser and today they called me, checked my general knowledge and asked me to appear on the show! On Tuesday 26th August! Live!

Who are you calling a screen tart? I know this isn't strictly Wimbleblog-related, but I thought you'd like to know. It's shameless copycatting of Phil who was on it in April and made it through to the semi-final.

Monday 11th August 2003

Alright then: The dummies. They were the first thing I saw as I approached the Wimbledon site and were curiously fascinating. Not that they were themselves remarkable; they were just normal shop dummies, you know, mannequins, torsos and heads, no arms or legs. But there were so many of them, all sitting silently in the stands, each one dressed differently, many of them with (different) plastic face masks, most of them with (different) wigs, some of them wearing hats, some of them wearing sunglasses and even one or two with their sunglasses balanced on their hats, like you do.

Several hundred filled most of Court Three's west stand, several hundred more filled most of Court Two's (bigger) west stand and then there were the thousand on Centre Court. What a huge job just to kit them all out! And work out where to put them! During our filming on Court Three a couple of guys were almost continually rearranging them in the stand behind us, picking up four or five at a time and chucking them into their new seats. Not to mention the several dozen full-bodied, fully-dressed dummies on the third floor balcony of the fancy new members enclosure.

But the thing is, they were only convincing for a brief glance from a reasonable distance. So what was the point?

Perhaps they were there to fill out the background during a reasonably fast panning shot or zoom shot, whereupon they'll be very blurred. But very still. Perhaps they're going to be replaced with some fancy computer-generated people like in Gladiator. But then why bother with the faces, hats, sunglasses, etc. Perhaps they were there to give the place a bit of atmosphere, especally when we were sitting in the stands with them. Seems like a lot of effort just to make us feel a bit comfy.

The long and short of it is I don't know. Sorry. But I did find the answer to one question: Did they leave them out overnight in the rain (Court Two and Court Three's stands are uncovered) or did they bring them all in every evening and take them all back out again early every morning? When the rain came and we went, the dummies stayed where they were and got soaked. Yuk.

Tuesday 5th August 2003

Just a week since my day of fame. I don't know if or when they may want me again, but fingers crossed they don't call me this week to swelter in the 30 degree heat.

The mustard yellow t-shirt was fine, by the way. I kept my beige jacket on all the time to dull the yellow's power a little. As we were setting up for the morning session a woman carefully assessed our colours in the crowd; Quite a few people were too dark and a couple were too bling. She really said bling. She dished out new shirts of various colours being carried by a guy trailing in her wake.

Two people to check our colours; This serves as an example of the sheer numbers of people employed on the film. The director turned out not to be the real director: It seems his name was Max. Nice guy, looked like Eddie Izzard, but not the main man. Some of the time an older guy turned up who was clearly in higher authority - perhaps he was Richard Loncraine? No, they called him Martin.

When Kirsten was getting ready she admitted it was her first tennis filming! We felt very privileged, although it didn't seem like they had planned or rehearsed their sequence of shots. And they weren't entirely sure if they could convincingly superimpose the ball when she's holding it for the serve.

The scoreboards were set up for Kirsten's match in the morning, but they only bothered to change the score once. Some guy covered up the serve-speed display with 97 mph (I think) which stayed there all day. We were a little surprised that they couldn't just plug the numbers into the computer to get it displayed.

What else? Oh yes, the line judges were hopeless - they didn't seem to know what they were supposed to do and needed constant prompting from their coach who, if you remember, had taken over as umpire. For example the serve line judge didn't seem to know that she should always be the other side of the net from the server. In contrast the ball boys and girls were excellent and had all the right moves.

I think that's probably everything, isn't it?

Saturday 2nd August 2003

Tuesday afternoon, 2pm, they ushered us into Court Three's grandstand. The dummies had been moved around to create a square space for a hundred-odd people to sit. I'll explain about the dummies another time. We settled in and the director explained that we were watching two British guys playing each other, although we wouldn't actually see them; instead a couple of different female players had been brought along to pat the ball around a bit at the edge of the court to give us a focus. Nevertheless, we were a pumped-up, patriotic, Henmania-esque crowd, cheering on our hero and waving our Union flags. I got a flag this time, but my friend who had the USA flag last time was again picked on to wear a fetching Union flag tank top! Nice. At least we didn't have to wear the large floppy Union flag hats.

We performed several different types of cheering: mild, excited, very excited and orgasmic. We did some of those "Come on Tim" shouts when they're getting ready to serve. (It wasn't Tim by the way. I don't want to give anything away...) We gasped and looked concerned as our hero fell over, then gradually changed to applause and encouragement as he got up and readied himself to serve. We shook our heads in despair as he lost his serve again. We groaned, muttered and held our heads in our hands when he lost another set. And when he lost the match we all groaned very loudly, shook our heads, and started leaving quickly in disgust.

I haven't given anything away here, have I? I mean I've been careful not to mention that it was supposed to be a quarter final match. As was the Kirsten one apparently. Which struck us as a little odd because the quarter finals are all played on Centre and Number One Courts unless there had been several days of rain. But even then an all-British quarter final would surely be on a big court? Well, what do I know.

Every half hour they swapped chunks of us around the stand and I got split up from my friends after an hour and a half. They even swapped people from the front row which we thought a bit odd because they would normally stay there all day. But the director was probably pretending it was several different sections of the front row.

At 3:45pm we got some light rain and gradually our umbrellas went up in classic Wimbledon style. They decided to film it, got the cameras ready and then asked us to put our umbrellas down and then gradually put them up again!

The rain cleared quickly but returned at 4:10pm for five minutes whereupon they filmed our umbrellas going up again. The rain that arrived at 4:30pm decided to stay so we readied ourselves to go, but the director said he wanted some good shots of heavy rain bouncing off the umbrellas. Great. Nearly half an hour we were sat huddled under umbrellas in light rain, willing it to get heavier, before they got the conditions they were looking for. I'd been moved to the end of the row at the edge of the stands, so although I've got a distinctive blue EU umbrella with yellow stars, I suspect I'll be out of shot.

At 5pm they'd got their rain scene and let us go back to the buttery. This was also the first opportunity for a comfort break (as they're politely known in tennis circles) since 9:30am unless you'd found a few minutes at lunch. Some of us were dying for a comfort. Glancing in the mirror I noticed my face ever so slightly red, despite the almost total absence of sun all day. Bugger.

The rain didn't relent and our idle chatter in the buttery speculated as to when they'd let us go home early. In traditional Wimbledon style they kept us waiting for a break in the weather, but just gone 6:30pm they gave up hoping and decided to let us go. Second unit were not required tomorrow, just the main unit. A bit of a scrum to get my chit sheet signed, a quick goodbye to my temporary friends and I was home ninety minutes later.

Thursday 31st July 2003

Not much time today - just enough to tell you about Tuesday's lunch.

We joined a depressingly large queue at the buttery for lunch but pretty quickly rumours started to spread that second unit should jump to the front of the queue! Whayhey! More special treatment! We picked up a packed lunch, gathered outside and were led into the Centre Court stands, following plenty of signs indicating "holding area". They directed us to sit in three rows of seats, which meant we were rather squashed together into small seats to eat our lunch. Strange. It would've been nicer to sit in the comfort of the buttery, but then we wouldn't have seen the dozens of cables stretching the full length of the court's roof, the ropes across the court, the workmen building rigging, the decking all along the near-side of the court and, most of all, the thousand dummies sitting opposite us.

A thousand. Okay, so we didn't count them, but Centre Court's capacity is about five thousand and the dummies filled half of the longer stand behind the umpire, becoming more populous the further back they went. I'll explain about the dummies another time, but suffice to say it felt very strange staring at each other across the empty court, especially with all the cables between us sagging in the way that heavy cables sag even when they're pulled as tight as possible.

Lunch consisted, by the way, of a tasty chicken, salmon or beef salad, Muller yoghurt and banana, plus a bottle of mineral water. As 2pm approached, they wanted us back on Court Three.

Wednesday 30th July 2003

Well, what an exciting day yesterday! There's so much to tell you, I don't know where to start! Let's try yesterday's headlines:
- I went, I performed, I got paid, I came home
- It was a lot of sitting around and some standing up
- It was mostly clapping and cheering
- It was some groaning and muttering
- I made some friends but didn't exchange names
- There was an array of stars. Well, three
- I don't know when they'll want me again

Granted, that doesn't sound like the word "exciting" has been accurately deployed. In fact "dull" and "tedious" sounds closer to the mark, but bear with me.

I got there at 7:15am to find a hundred people queueing to sign in, encouragingly without the camaraderie of last week. After ten minutes a nice guy shouted out "Anyone for the second unit follow me to the buttery" and a handful of people left the queue with me to follow him. Glad I was in the second unit getting special treatment! And glad to find my name on the list, getting my chit sheet and then finding a spare seat at the second unit's breakfast tables.

After filling in the form I tentatively started chatting with the three people nearest me. It was also their first day and two of them had been called last week and then cancelled. The four of us ended up spending most of the day together, although strangely we never found out each other's names. Two of them had been intimately involved in Lord Of The Rings! Well, one was an actual New Zealander and had a friend who had produced the story boards. The other had a New Zealand friend who's farm was used for a few shots, although they scrubbed the farmhouse out of the scenery! Pretty impressive! I was the only one who had actually been to Wimbledon this year and knew anything about this film.

At 9:30am they called us out and took us to Court Three where they stood us behind the courtside benches infront of the grandstand which was half-full with hundreds of dummies. I'll explain about the dummies another time. After a few minutes it occured to us that we could be standing there for some time and we looked enviously at the people sitting in the benches. Several things then became apparent: There weren't enough of us to look like a convincing Wimbledon crowd and the director sent runners to steal people from the main unit to bulk up our numbers. (We agreed that being in the main unit was clearly inferior to the second unit, even though they were on Court Two and turned out to be working all week, not just the one day. Bastards.) The painted court lines were still wet and the director kept reminding the numerous people milling about on court not to tread on the lines. And then the guy chosen to be umpire didn't know how to score. Unbelievable. The woman who was coaching the linespeople patiently explained everything to him and then hurried off to get her umpire's uniform and kick him out of the chair.

At 10am a couple of female tennis players started warming up. The blonde one was the imitation Kirsten who we were supporting despite her being outclassed by her brunette opponent. A runner came round handing out stars and stripes flags and bandanas - we all studiously avoided eye contact but a flag was proffered to one of my friends who very reluctantly accepted. The director started filming and asked the players to let the blonde one win, but this proved difficult to manufacture convincingly, needing about ten break points and match points to get a few correct takes with us cheering and waving our flags.

At 11am Kirsten Dunst appeared to an expectant hush accompanied by Pat Cash who was advising Kirsten on her technique. She warmed up a bit with the blonde player and turned out to be slightly lacking in the tennis department - she was awkward and stiff, and although she got the balls over the net, few of them landed in the court. But when filming started they were miming without balls and Kirsten was transformed: She looked smooth and agile, her timing was great and she even made authentic little grunts. Whereas her brunette opponent looked rushed and out of sorts, although she could've just been upset that she was destined to lose every point. During one short break a darkly dressed man appeared on court, kissed Kirsten politely and then disppeared just as I realised it was Sam Neil who we later learned was playing her dad.

We filmed several versions of Kirsten winning a point, a game, a break point and a match point whereupon she looked very pleased and gave a cute wave from the net to her adoring fans. The director then wanted some shots down the other end of the court and asked us all to move round the other side of the umpire's chair - we were all bunched up one end to look bulky. One of my friends quickly grabbed an empty bench, so we got a sit down after nearly two hours of standing. We shot some more point winners and also some of those moments where the umpire calls time, the players get up from their chairs and the crowd changes from quiet nattering to polite clapping. It's surprisingly hard to quietly natter to people you don't know without just saying rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.

At 12:30pm they let Kirsten go, brought her double back and asked us all to rearrange ourselves back over the other side of the umpire's chair again, in different positions to look like a different bit of the crowd. We were back to standing and repeated some of the first scenes. That was the last we saw of Kirsten, Pat and Sam - no more celebrities for us. Kirsten's double looked almost identical from the back; height, hair, build, and they even had a matching tattoo peeking out from behind their vests' shoulder strap.

Just past 1pm and they let us go for lunch. And that's where I'd better leave you for today. More tomorrow!

Tuesday 29th July 2003

Oh dahhhling, mwhah mwhah, it was just divine, sweetie! And so exhausting! Beddy-byes beckons right now, will give you all the goss tomorrow.

Monday 28th July 2003

Did I say a couple of weeks? Make that four days! They called! They want me again! Tomorrow! Excited! Yes, tomorrow! Yes, just tomorrow. For the moment. Yes, I know they said they wouldn't need me this week, but I didn't really feel it was worth arguing over.

She patiently explained where to go and what to bring, which was almost exactly the same as a week ago and rather comforting evidence that she didn't have a big red mark next to my name saying "wastrel who messed up last week". She was even more strict about the t-shirt: not too dark, not too bright, not white, grey, black or red. How about yellow? Yes, that sounds fine. She didn't mention umbrella - should I bring one? Yes, no problem, although there are covered areas if it rains. Ah, so it's filming outside? Yes. She also said I was in the second unit (oooh, an assignment!) and they want me there at 7:15am with a finish time of 8:30pm. Hmmm, that doesn't quite add up to 12 hours... Again, not really worth arguing over. Unfortunately I'll still have to get up at -gulp- 5am to catch the same train.

Curiously I had a dream about it last night. I was wandering around the set trying to find where I was supposed to be when they started filming and I was desperately keeping out of shot whilst looking for Chris Evans who was rumoured to be doing a cameo. Dreams are in my opinion a load of rubbish, but nevertheless I'll probably keep half an eye out for ginger hair tomorrow.

Thursday 24th July 2003

Called them and unsurprisingly they don't want me tomorrow. They don't know when or even if they want me. Definitely not the next couple of weeks anyway. Not so excited. Wimbleblog will therefore take a break for a couple of weeks.

Strangely I got a spam email this afternoon saying film & TV extras are urgently required in my area, call 090xxxxxxxx to register. I know it's complete rubbish and 150p per minute, but, but...

Wednesday 23rd July 2003

It was odd walking around Wimbledon early in the morning, just like a month ago but without thousands of tennis fans milling about. As I approached the All England Club I could see people standing around in the members enclosure and Court 2 and Court 3's stands were full already! So early! They were all very still. Very still. Ah, they're dummies.

Appropriate really, because so was I. Whilst queueing up for twenty minutes to sign-in, everyone else seemed rather ominously chatty, clutching official-looking forms and saying things like "So you made it back again?" to each other. I wasn't on the list. They added me to the standby list. An hour passed whilst a collection of thirty standby people gradually assembled, during which time I checked my mobile's voicemail.
Oops.
They'd called yesterday. The schedule had changed.
They didn't need me today.
Maybe tomorrow.
Why hadn't I checked my voicemail? Why hadn't they called me at home? Bugger.

They finally called the standby people to the desk and decided to sign us all in for the day. I explained my new situation and they said I might as well sign in seeing as I was there! Whayhey! Forty minutes later they called my name out and said, actually, they didn't want to use me today. Oh. Fair enough. Bye. I guess I don't get paid then? No, thought not.

They called this afternoon: they don't want me tomorrow. The schedule's changing and the weather's not helping. Maybe Friday. Call tomorrow. I'd like to think they're saving a special role for me and they were impressed with my enthusiasm, rather than noting my inability to receive and follow simple instructions...

Monday 21st July 2003

Called them this morning and the plans have changed slightly: they now want me on Wednesday, Friday and possibly Thursday. Was I available Thursday? Yes. Best not to mention that I'd really need to leave by 6pm on Thursday. I'm sure it won't be a problem...

I must get to Wimbledon at 7am on Wednesday. Which means getting up at 5am. -gulp- There's no parking... That's okay, I'll come by train. How about cycle parking if I use my bike? No facilities will be provided so it would be at my own risk. They want me to bring an umbrella, jacket, sunglasses and hat. Oh, and a book to read. They want me to wear summer clothes, although not a white or red t-shirt. Something darkish perhaps? No, not black, more pastel. I'll try mustard yellow. Should I bring a black umbrella or a blue EU flag umbrella? Either would be fine. A waterproof jacket or...? Whatever will keep you warm.

My questions seemed increasingly unwelcome and I didn't want to get myself blacklisted, so I fought my desire to understand the background of whatever key role was waiting for me and decided not to offer them the choice of a white floppy Australia hat or a dark baseball cap (if they'd wanted baseball caps they would've asked for them), nor offered to try out my Aussie accent to match.

This afternoon I got my hair cut in preparation for the big day. The barber skillfully shortened the back of my hair that joined my neck, cleverly revealing a strip of pale skin that hasn't enjoyed this summer's exposure to the sun that the rest of my neck has. Brilliant.

Friday 18th July 2003

Went to the job centre for my regular fortnightly jobseeker review and told them about my impending employment. The woman was very enthusiastic and told me about her moment of TV fame at junior school when she was on the children's game show On Safari with Christopher Biggins and Gillian Taylforth (pre-Eastenders)! It's amazing how quickly I've been accepted into the celebrity social circle.

Thursday 10th July 2003

They called! They want me! I'm going to be a film star! Okay, so it's just three days the week after next, but this is only the beginning. They said that it would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and that I need to call them on the Monday (21st) morning to find out where to go and what to do. Excited!

Saturday 28th June 2003

Audition day. Although not really a proper audition; there was no actual exhibiting of talent, in fact genuine actors were directed to an entirely separate process. Got there early, no queue, just straight in, filled in a standard form, took my measurements (shoe size, waist, hat size, etc.) and then they took my photo where I gave them a warm, welcoming, hire-me smile. The form had a small section for talents, giving tennis and juggling as examples. So I put tennis and juggling, and after a few moments added diablo (a traditional wooden toy which the artisan spins on some string and tosses into the air). They also asked whether I had a bicycle (yes), whether I could drive (yes) and whether I was available to work in Brighton in the first week of September (oh yes).

They explained that they were taking over Wimbledon when the Championships finished in July and wanted us for various periods until October. They'll arrange the work on a week-by-week basis, calling the previous week to establish availability. They'll pay a flat fee of £60 per day for up to a maximum of 12 hours including lunch which is better than a slap in the face with a wet fish. Although this being the magical world or make-believe, I guess that can't be entirely ruled out either. They warned that filming can be a very slow process - I'll be very happy to get paid for sitting around reading a book!

It took fifteen minutes in all. Nice touch to have the Kensington farmers market open down the road to pick up some strawberries and cream on the way back to the tube station.


Wimbleball Background to Wimbleblog

The producers of almost every big British film of recent times (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Bean, Elizabeth, Billy Elliot, etc.) are releasing a new romantic comedy called Wimbledon about a hopeless British tennis player who falls in love with a young American tennis star and tries to win Wimbledon. Here's pretty much the first news report about it on BBC News.

Sitting patiently at Wimbledon's Court 4 on Thursday 26th June 2003, we heard something special being filmed on Centre Court prior to the start of play, the crowd roaring and unfamiliar names displayed on the main scoreboard. On the way out I got a flyer: they were auditioning for extras on Saturday in Kensington who were available weekdays for paid work between July and October. "All age groups are invited to a brief (half hour max) open casting at any time, no experience necessary."

A prime opportunity to star in my first film! Recently unemployed and finding the telecoms software job market less than bouyant, the timing couldn't have been much better.

Wimbledon The Film doesn't star Hugh Grant, a surprising move for a big-budget British romantic comedy. Maybe he can't play tennis. Instead they've cast Paul Bettany who played whatsisname's flatmate in A Beautiful Mind and is three weeks younger than me. Starring opposite him is Kirsten Dunst who was the love interest in Spider-Man and is eleven whole years younger than me.

It's directed by Richard Loncraine who last year directed The Gathering Storm for BBC TV, the award-winning drama about Churchill warning a sceptical 1930s British establishment about the danger of Hitler, and in 1995 directed the film Richard III starring Ian McKellen. It's co-written by Andrew Davies, probably Britain's most prolific screenwriter, who adapted Bridget Jones's Diary for the cinema and Pride And Prejudice for BBC TV amongst many, many others. His numerous original screenplays includes the sublime A Very Peculiar Practice for BBC TV.




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