Monday, November 2, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Paradise Road - The Sailors

Robert Raymer at left, Paradise Road

When the sailors turn finally came on the second day of shooting the Cannon Square scene in Paradise Road, we were presented with clean, white sailor outfits. We were sent outside to have those same nice, clean white sailor outfits made to look like we had been through a ship¬wreck and a battle with the Japanese soldiers. Water and oil, black powder and grease were rubbed into various places including all over our bodies. Some blood-like substance was rubbed in for color. Our black polished shoes were also scuffed up, and in some cases removed.

Three sailors were sent to have their moustaches shaved off. One refused, so he wasn’t allowed to take part and a lucky replacement was quickly found. I was sent to Simon the hairdresser and he chopped off my hair in five minutes flat. I didn’t leave him a tip.

The sailors were led to the set at the Khoo Khongsi Temple, to an enclosed court yard, where Kathy and Becky, the make-up artists, assigned us various injuries. I was given burn marks on the side of my face and a bloody nose. Two sailors were given broken legs with splints and crutches. Bruce Beresford, the director, thought one of the sailors should have a broken arm and that honor went to me. Since I was right-handed, I volunteered my left, but that was just after this photo was taken.

Taking my cues from Glenn Close and the other actresses, I looked for something significant to do in the film other than just stand around and be in other people’s way. So when a Japanese soldier was told to knock down one of the sailors on crutches, I noticed he had trouble getting up since his momentum was being pushed backwards by the soldier. If this were real life, despite a broken arm, I would have helped him to his feet so he wouldn’t get killed by the impatient Japanese soldier.

So I did, and continued to do so for the remainder of the afternoon, for about three dozen takes – from several different camera angles, for different purposes: shots from far away, up close, in front, and behind.

Helping the fallen sailor up was not easy since he was much larger than me, but then no one in that scene had it easy. It was boiling hot and the conditions were often chaotic, with people running every which way, fleeing the Japanese soldiers in pursuit. The stars had it no better. Despite her muddied clothes, her sunburned bare feet, and her bloodstained face, Glenn Close took it all very well like the hardworking, seasoned actress she is.

After the Japanese soldiers finished running the sailors off the set and presumably to our deaths, the director called for a wrap. In pairs of two’s and three’s, we trickled back to Wardrobe where we removed our clothes and washed up, slowly becoming the person we once were, albeit exhausted, and with memories to take home with us.

-excerpted from “Close Encounters with Glenn Close” from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.

*Here's a link to the group shot of Paradise Road.
**Here's the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie. 

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