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Old 10-12-10, 05:23 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Lurk Dublin part one

I flew into Dublin, checked into some gentrified B&B on the banks of the Liffey downtown and dumping my luggage, went to peruse Grafton street.

It was to become my newest home, home is where the audience are, an amorphous zone, self manifest and shared, celebratory.

Dublin in the main appeared chipper and optimistic. [After the dark jowls of London]
I had come forewarned that 40 000 junkies woke up in Dublin every morning to set out to fulfil themselves but I saw no keening chemical need on Grafton Street.

The scrum of pale locals intermixed with continentally tanned Spanish and Italian students enrolled in the cheapest English language classes in the British Isles, plus the usual specked potpourri of international tourist mongrels from about the planet.

I recon-ed the main pedestrian street, Grafton, during the daytime to get a sense of the place, across lanes leading out from the main street were flowerbarrows. I knew they departed early evening. That would leave me corners.
It was busier during the daytime, abuzz. During the evening it's pace would get more languid. But still, as I watched closely, the subculture emerged.
I had a keen eye, trained over years, to observe public places and perceive the various layers of activity.
Two sets of teenage street tribes met, exchanged words, separated, one was led by a short muscular 14/15 year old. I stayed a couple of hours, watched a copious slithering of 'crews' of different antisocial socio-economics.
I saw my pocket- Bull-mastiff and his gang used the place, and communicated with passing gangs enough to be somewhere at the higher end of the pecking order. I liked this guys face. Broad. He was the smallest in his tribe and it's leader, I liked that too. I'd see if he was still around that evening.
Arriving back on Grafton Street from my hotel with stilts and costume bag I watched as the flower barrows departed. I had a corner pegged, a classic European 19th century shop-corner. Upmarket downtown equestrian gear and country gentry re-stockists. It looked like I had myself a pitch to work, I just needed to clear it with the people who, unknown to the general public, 'owned' the street.

I threw my unusual bundle, my stilts, over my shoulder and intercepted the small Irish street-gang of my choosing.
I explained that I was a blow-in, from NZ, just travelling through, and had a street show I wanted to put on.
I further explained I was looking at hiring two locals, 16% of what I earned in the hat, to simply look out for me and go fetch stuff while I had my stilts on and take my money in from my hat and bring it to me at the end of each show.
It was a cunning move I'll admit.
They jumped at it, I was their new interesting foreign pet, I respected them, they respected me and I got to work.

I'm repeatedly astonished at how well my simple show simply works. I dress myself up, white-face, stilts etc and then grab a corner and submit passing pedestrians to indignities. People laugh. My life is strange and hollow and predominantly contains this ability to generate crowds and produce laughter.

I had to point a few things out to my street-people helpers, I had the leader and his most recent adoption, some 11 year old runaway on the street under a week. We'd talked and worked out he could get a sleeping bag with the wages he got from me within a day or two.
I did have to point out to them that the audience belonged to me and not them. They initially treated the crowds like their own object, making remarks etc so I pointed out the crowds belonged to me, I made them. I needed not to be distracted in my task of entertaining them.
They got it.
I also had to point out that they could not work for me drunk. Made me look bad.
They got it.

So the street-kids were my social foundation in Dublin and as such they would introduce me to all the other passing groups of knackers and scammers and tinkers who all found me interesting and I them and as I sat within the bounds of a 'respected' crew known to all I was protected to a much larger degree than I would have been without them.
Even so their leader would wait outside the pub I kept my gear in overnight while I had a beer or two and then he would, as an improvised task he had created as part of his employ, escort me to a taxi rank so that I was not robbed of my takings on his turf.

I had my foundation and then on a level above that was my relationship with the police who were never anything less than charming to me.
I met my first uniform as he came up after a show, the street-kids knew him, there was some respect there I noted.
I explained that I had informally got them working for me, made things easier, pointed out the new lad now with a sleeping bag I'd paid for. Told the cop that I was just improvising with the situation but seemed to be doing more good than harm.
He nodded and said "All power to you then."
Which you have to admit is encouraging.
He then assured me that I had no need to worry generally as even if I could see no uniforms about there were plainclothes looking for pickpockets in my audience consistently.

With the rare kind of security this 'both sides of the fence' support I was receiving I spent my first few weeks in Dublin performing every night to large crowds who at the ends of shows paid well.

After one evenings show I was approached by a dangerously tanned gentleman who I suspected was Californian who told me that he wanted to ask me about my availability.
I listened to him then replied.
"Are you propositioning me?"
He laughed and said "Well in a manner of speaking yes I am."
He was, he explained, a writer for a Tom Cruise movie being partly shot in Dublin. They were looking for a stilt-person of high technical skill.
Would I be interested?
I was fortunate to have representation by an agent in London who had taken me on after seeing me work in Carnaby st. I was the smallest guy he had, he represented comedians, Perrier award winners [Edinburgh festival award] but it certainly helped to hand this tanned American a card and say, "call my agent."

Days pass, my agent rings me to confirm it's legit. A Ron Howard movie with Cruise and Kidman [92/ far and away].

Meanwhile I have my pattern set, I work evenings, I store my stuff in town and move to a university run apartment empty over the summer.
I buy lots of Irish Authors, all of Flann O'Brien , a stunning metafictionist, also a collection of graphic novels, 'Ed the happy Clown.' by Chester Brown, [Canadian] best quote. "I'm not a penis, I'm the president of the United States."

Elsewhere Ron Howard is being consulted.

I've been told it's a difficult scene technically, I have to walk on sloped cobbles, downhill, at night, under simulated rainfall, over strewn rotting vegetables...on stilts.
I have to audition, they have someone come pick me up and take me to the set, in inner city Temple Bar. I dutifully donned my stilts and moved confidently about on steep cobbles while recorded so footage could be shown the director for some final decision on my employ.
My agent rang shortly afterwards, He's negotiated me a contract where I was paid as a principle actor, [Which means I had to state a certain number of words on camera I gathered.]
I would be paid all sorts of money and would have to remain in Dublin for any re-shooting but that availability was built into the fee.
I was to be contacted for costuming next and congrats.

Well Grafton street and my little position there for the season was secured every which way and I worked with a joy borne of the evidence before me, that I was indeed living some sort of charmed existence. Or I may be mistaking various mania for actual emotions. I get confused.



The street was where I was happiest that summer, after London, it's gaping grinding maw so quickly evident. Dublin seemed by contrast unfettered by quite the layers of dissolution London possesses.

I created mobs of howling folk, a few hundred at a time, all laughing at he situation I had designed as my lifestyle.
There came a dog along the edge of the thoroughfare, slinking, skulking a black and white border collie, a sheepdog. The audience became attentive to it and watched in delicious anticipation as it came closer to the corner where I myself was skulking.
[INSERT PHOTOS]
We met. The audience howled and the dog, after the initial flinch, ran round excitedly in circles barking, this fueled the laughter around it which in turned fueled the dog, who finally saw an activity that wasn't circular and bolted to my hat full of coin, grabbed it in it's mouth and bolted down the street, away leaking coins from an audience whose hysteria had just gone up another level.

How cool the audience were was demonstrated by the fact they went and got my hat and money back after the dog finally dropped it 100 yards away.

There was melodrama aplenty also, not all the passing gangs got on with each other, none were enemies of my adopted crew but there were some obvious rivalries between mobs.

One confrontation came between two related old school crews, one led by a thin hacket faced weasel, 30's, far older than his underlings and the other led by a woman of about 16. A woman who's face could kindly be called 'Pugnacious' and whose build, could be called, 'Built like a brick shit-house'

I was an oddity and an interesting philosophical interlude for some of these folk. The 'Brick shit-house' and I had a wonderfully philosophical conversation. She explained to me that over a lifetime of abuse, [she's still only 16] she was left with binary choices, to succumb to the deprivations and calculated insults of others, how she looks like the definition of ugliness, how she is in fact not attractive by any current shallow definition but had come to the conclusion that as soon as she stopped empowering her tormentors by investing in their rancid commentary she was free. As such she had broken off at her tender age and amassed a small crew who lived within her own moral dictates.
I saw her take abuse from the weasel before rejecting all his threats, body-checking him into a shop window, [which didn't break] and then giving her rival just enough rope to withdraw beaten and impotent and whining.

There was also a development one evening where the mother of the street-kid who had afforded a sleeping bag from my wages and her boyfriend, the overcompensating step-dad, came downtown late at night, the mother hysterical staggering around in circles screaming
"Where is my son?"
[The Irish can be cruel, some of the replies were awesome, "He's BEHIND You!"]
While the step-dad tried the steely gaze and approached me and threatened to have me prosecuted for child exploitation. I referred him to my friend the policeman, who was resignedly dealing with the drama. Same policeman who had said "All power to you," when the street-kid situation was initially explained.
The kid himself was scarce, everyone could see why he'd left home.

Early one another evening three translucently beautiful french people approached me between shows, a stunning young couple, early twenties and a woman herself radiant somewhere about 50/60 years old, The glowing young beauties in broken English explained that the elder woman wanted to read my palm. I wear cotton gloves as costume and took them off and offered my palms. She told me that I had suffered but had experienced love in the past and that I would meet the love of my life in my 40s. I was a little disappointed being only 27.

Last edited by martin ewen; 10-12-10 at 09:42 PM. Reason: capricious whim, and the reoccuring word 'spam'
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Old 10-12-10, 05:25 PM   #2
martin ewen
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Lurk Dublin part two

My agent, Let's call Him Richard Bucknall because it fits, informed me I was to be picked up and fitted as a 19th century NY stilt lamplighter.
I was like, 'Righto'

I took my stilts with me, they sent a car and I was driven to a warehouse long enough to expose the curvature of the earth lined with racks of costumes designated in centuries of human history.
I was taken to 19 century male and a suitable duds were purloined.
Hat shirt, scarf, pants, suspenders, shoes.
The shoes were going to be ripped apart and the tops cover those on my stilts, I had to give my stilts to some dept briefly to be 'aged' with burlap and rust paint.

I got given a script, TOM CRUISE gets to ask me the time! and I get to talk for the mandatory amount that secures me a wage as a principle actor while not telling TOM CRUISE the time.
These people must have really liked me.

TOM CRUISE: "WHAT TIME WOULD IT BE THAT YOU"D BE LIGHTING THE LAMPS THERE?"

LAMPLIGHTER: "It's a never ending job. It takes all night to light the lamps, and all day to snuff them out."

This quite obviously is riveting cinema and had it not come to rest on the cutting room floor my dialogue would have undoubtedly propelled me into best supporting actor territory. Fame can be so capricious.
It was at this point too I received my laminated go-absolutely-anywhere-on-any-shoot-principle-actors-badge. There were to be scenes throughout Dublin and this plastic card would get me through layers and layers of security to explore.

I flashed my card through outer and inner layer and got into a night shoot between Temple Bar and St Stevens Green where an entire road that travelled 3 sides of a square and the roads, footpaths, lamp-lights, every terraced house, every windowsill, bush and horizontal surface was piled with glistening synthetic room temperature deep snow. Strangely, and this is in the middle of summer, it was hard not to imagine a slight drop in temperature. I strolled around, keeping out of everybodies way and gazing at passing horses and carriages and extras til past midnight.


Nothing left but work the street of an evening and wait for the day of the shoot.

On which I was picked up and deposited in a nearby hotel room around noon, I had my own PA [personal assistant] and I was also a responsibility of one of Ron Howard's 3 main PA's who bustled in, made me feel very important, took me on a little tour, introduced me to Mr Howard.

It was interesting to note that at the very core of this massive complex undertaking with units filming in America and Ireland in multiple locations sometimes simultaneously , that the person directing the enterprise carried no technology on him.
Ron Howard would have one of three people hand him a phone with who he wanted at the other end.
These three people also carried two local communication handsets, presumably different depts so 3 outside lines and 6 direct inside lines.
Ron just strode around grabbing phones off people and talking and handing them back.
What a strange universe.
I was popped back into my hotel room and makeup commenced.
Then I waited about 3 hours, shooting schedules you understand.

I was in two scenes, on in daylight in which I put out a streetlight and MR CRUISE notices me from a window and remarks "I love this country"
The country being America, the scene being Dublin, Hollywood magic.

The other was a night shoot, with the rain and rotting vegetables and tethered faux stray cats etc, where TOM CRUISE and I have our dysfunctional chronological discussion that is itself a searing well honed metaphor of the rawest kernel of the human condition within which nothing makes much sense.

It is my belief that the power of this scene, combined with the all too obvious to me fact that on scene I dwarf TOM CRUISE in the charisma dept are reasons why the editing went as it did. The world was just not ready. It may never be ready.

But that was now and this is then.

I was brought down for the first scene and a ladder was provided for me to get up. I don't actually like using ladders, they are unstable while leaning into them which you have to do while putting your stilts on. But even though I was now being attended to by two personal assistants I didn't want to appear precious so I muddled through.

I was then led to the scene where I was introduced to Mr TOM CRUISE who would be in the foreground in a second story window while I worked the street. The street was covered at it's end by a huge dark canvas to keep the throngs of curious at bay out in the real world.It would move from time to time to reveal the throng beyond.

Mr CRUISE graciously broke the ice by suggesting I go out there on my stilts and make a little money. I countered by saying I'd do it if he held my hat. I made TOM CRUISE laugh. Wasn't difficult.

TOM CRUISE was at this point in couch-hopping love with Nickole Kidman, his co-star and probably prone to glee.

Then to work, first had to get the gait to where the director wanted it. "Not the rock and roll walk Martin, you do this all day remember."
apparently my gait was just too damn upbeat.

So a number of times I walked up and put out a lamplight while above TOM CRUISE voiced his love for 19th century NY.

I was then thanked and bundled away with my personal assistants who led me to the catering area for a bit. I was not able to take my stilts off and would not be able to until all this was over so I grabbed a plate of food and went and sat on the edge of a roof of a nearby parked car.
This car was right next to the catering area and vehicles are a good height and I'm careful not to scratch or dimple anything, I've been doing it for years without ever damaging anything.

So I'm sitting calmly, having just spoken and worked woth TOM CRUISE and RON HOWARD and just about to do further work with these gentlemen while nearby my personal assistants hover when I am approached by a man who leans in close to me in my ultra coddled state and says in a low and sinister and lilting Irish way
"How would you like it if I broke one of your fecking stilts off and shove it up your fecking arse." "That's my fecking car you're fecking sitting on."

I was flummoxed, I had felt myself to be in such a cucooned envirionment, I had looked so openly into his eyes as he began to speak that his well designed aggression went shockingly deeper.
Holding my plate I stood up and, ignoring the offduty cop doing extra movie security work whose car it was I walked to my nearby PA who was at this point innocently cheerful.
I told her, "Please, two things. Get me somewhere to sit and get this fuck," I pointed, "out of my face immediately."
These two things happened in relatively short order and I comforted myself in having had my first, alltogether concise, Hollywood hissy fit.

Scene two was in heavy rain at night on a cobbled road at a vegetable market where stray cats hid from the rain under abandoned 19th century stalls and I was trudging through the muck on stilts downhill, lighting the lamps.
TOM CRUISE, looking both handsome and beaten to a pulp stumbles up from under a table and asks me the time to which I meander and then walk on.

Piece of piss as we say in NZ. [meaning 'easy']

RON HOWARD and the head voice-coach come up for some first time, last minute instructions. The voice coach was a cuddly smug prick who would tell me to "soften my R's" and then titter at my attempts.
Finally from my 19th century costume I pulled a very contemporary Dictaphone out and offered it to him in front of the director and told him, "I'm a mimic, you say it and I'll be back in 5 minutes with it" he declined, I didn't like him.

Every take would be prefaced with "Rain on [the pipes above are turned on and the rain pours down over a 50 ft spamarea]...and...ACTION."

The whole scene, one which has never been shown, which was probably looked at once and the cinematic intensity was just too searing for the story arc at that point or perhaps someone hung themselves in the background and that scene was used for evidence or coffee was spilled or the meaninglessness of the exchange was objected to by some concussion awareness charity or it was deemed to be the worst line of tortured Irish accent TOM CRUISE uttered in the movie or my accent triggered staggering dissonance or....

Tom Cruise did his bit and I did my bit and Ron Howard yelled Rain on, and action, and we went through it 4 or 5 times. Then TOM CRUISE went back to his trailer and I got the director with his own secondary recording unit and repeated my lines to him under his direction for 15 mins or so.
"It's a never ending Job, It takes all night to light the lamps and all day to snuff them out." around 50 times.



The whole shoot had been about 12/13 hours. I still had my security good for the rest of the movies production and there was to be a wrap party that I thought I'd crash with my stilts on but sadly I had a wine festival in Germany that weekend already booked.

So it was back to Grafton Street until my agent let me know the cheque was ready. I wished my little street protection unit all the best and then down to London to pick up Hollywood cash and fall in love with a strange woman who wore mustaches for effect and who had a dried foetal foal in a glass case in her bedroom.

When the movie came out my father noted that in the credits my name was three above the prostitutes. I am in the background but am the subject matter in one scene and in another my stilts walk past the prone handsome beaten form of TOM CRUISE.

Dublin was fun.

Last edited by martin ewen; 10-12-10 at 09:49 PM. Reason: 'spam'
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