Monday, March 14, 2022

very sad to read of the death of one of my fave actors, mr. william hurt who i admired a lot. we actually have a strange history as after watching him in ken russell's 'alterd states, which was based upon the experiments of dr. lilly a man i had greatly admired not just because of his work with leary but he invented the float tank and researched them under the influence of mescaline and lsd. i'd watched the original movie in london and it had influenced me greatly, i still recall blair browns line after that infamous sex scene where she says, 'sex to you is like a religious experience.'
how can you have sex after hearing a line like that that and ever wonder about the religious experience of it. i did.
the next time i saw him was in australia in the movie 'children of a lesser god' for which he won an award and then later 'smoke' which is based upon a paul auster story which he developed into the screenplay, in which william hurt played paul, the main character.  this was an incredible ensemble film, independant and yet with some heavy weight actors and the story, like all austers work was both funny and tragic and thought provoking. 
william hurt returned to my life in a very strange way when i started going out with a canadian girl who had worked in the hotel where william had stayed while filming, 'children of a lesser god.' 
she told me how every night he would return to the hotel and get so drunk in the bar she would have to walk him to his room, take of his shoes and tuck him into bed. yet the following morning he would return to the set and complete filming.  apparently this went on for the duration of the production. she spoke very highly of him, but of course it was all abstract to me, until i crossed paths with william hurt in sydney many years later when he was filming 'dark city.'
at the time i was doing a lot of acting, i must have stood out as i was being cast in quite a lot of different productions, mostly tv shows, commercials and occasionally movies. my agent said i was her wild card, and would send me off to these strange locations. often i would be cast as an undercover cop, or a criminal. usually a drug dealer or pimp. one summers day she sent me to balmain for a role in a film. i turned up at 5am and wardrobe dressed me in a suit, it looked like a zoot suit and when i walked onto the set there indeed was a jazz scene being filmed. it was a small bar/ restaurant with a few tables and a small stage at the other end. the band were a bunch of back guys all in immaculate suits as they jammed some jazz blues numbers out, and the lead singer was a glamorous girl in a glorious emerald dress that looked stunning as she swayed there in front of a mike stand, it was the goblin kings nemisis, jennifer connelly. the bar was filled with smoke from a smoke machine and i took a place next to a tall guy who was standing up in a trench coat and hat. the guy turned to me, he was a fellow budding actor i had worked with before and while we were waiting for the director to finish placing people we exchanged hello's. 
as i didn't have or ever watch tv i never bothered to ask what shows i was acting in, i never saw any of them anyway but i felt obliged to ask my fellow actor what his role was. he looked at me and said, 'i'm just the stand in.'
i had no idea what a stand in was, so i asked him. 
'i'm basically here for continuity, i stand in for the main lead actor and when they are ready to film he returns to where i am and i leave the set.'
'how long have you been doing this,' i asked.
'about four weeks since we started filming, it's really boring but the film looks pretty good, the sets are amazing.'
'what is this film?'
he went on to describe this sort of science fiction, fantasy story but even he didn't now the full story, and to be honest i kept phasing out as jennifer connelly competed for my attention. 
so after about thirty minites i asked the inevitable question, 'so who you standing in for?'
and there it was, william hurt.
at first i had to ask if it was the same guy i had seen in some of my fave films, including, 'until the end of the world' which i had watched about a week previously with my canadian girlfriend. 
'what's he like,' i asked.
'he don't speak to anyone. i've been working with him for weeks and he has not said a word, he only speaks to the director, he comes on, does his lines and disappears. he wont even speak with the rest of the cast. he's really weird, he gets the bus to the set everyday as he stays in a motel somewhere in western sydney, he refused the limo and won't even catch a taxi.'
mmm, how ironic i thought, i'm going to be standing next to one of my fave actors and i will not be able to say a word. 
it seemed like hours but eventually the director came on, my friend said goodbye and disappeared. the director got everyones attention as he cleared his throat and gave us a serious pep talk.
'now william will be here to do his scene very shortly, he's just finishing with make up. i want you all to remember, do not engage with him, he does not like talking, he will just come on do his lines and go, so everyone take their positions and we will start in about two minites. and sure enough in two minites william hurt dressed in a trench coat and wide brimmed hat was standing next to me. he looked at me, actually looked down at me as he was much taller and then to everyones surprise he introduced himself to me, he stretched out his hand and we shook, i could feel his pasty skin, pale and fragile, an ex alcoholics skin. 'my names william but you can call me bill.'
and thus we began an incredible conversation, while the whole room just stood with the jaws wide open and tried to figure out who he was talking to. in fact when the director wanted to start filming william held up a finger and said, 'just a moment alex.'
no one could believe their eyes.
we spoke about a few things, about float tanks, lsd, john lilly, we spoke about wim wenders and how there was a 5 hour version of 'until the end of the world' floating out there waiting to be released. we spoke about william hurts time as a young man in western australia where he was a jackaroo, we spoke about paul auster and the film smoke. he confided in my a conflict he experienced with paul auster. we spoke about music, about cities we had been to and i told him a little about how i ended up in sydney and we spoke about girls. then when there was a natural pause he just looked at me, shook my hand again in earnest and with a sparkle in his eyes said, 'i guess we better do some work, it was a pleasure meeting you.'
when i got home i wondered if i should tell my girlfriend about the strange meeting, and i wondered about her and own meeting with william hurt but for some reason i just kept quiet.
anyways vale bill hurt. an interesting gentleman and a fantastic actor. 


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