Jet lag hovers over me at all times. When I finally pass out Monday night at 1am it’s really 8 to my body. When I wake up at 5am it’s really midnight to me. There’s something grossly disorienting about waking up far too early in the local time zone and yet at a completely bizarre time at home. You know you’re totally off anything resembling a clock.
Waking up at 5 gave me some time to write*, and some time to ponder the radiation. I’m at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, just across from Green Park and down the block from the Japanese Embassy – and now one of the landmarks in the Litvinenko case. You may remember him as the former KGB spy who was poisoned with the radioactive substance polonium, and one of the places he visited and left behind a couple of Geiger counter triggering rads was right here at the Sheraton. You’re notified of this on check in, and a note about it is left in your room. “The risk of contamination is minimal,” says the note, which is almost enough to make you feel only mildly endangered.
When the sun finally rose (about twenty minutes later than it does in New York City, it turns out), I decided to hit the streets of London. I had been up for two hours and still had three to go before we all had to meet to head to Shepperton Studios for the set visit, so I headed to Boots, the local equivalent of CVS or Duane Reade, for batteries. From there I just let my feet lead me where they would and wandered the streets of London. The walk was productive: I found Haunch of Venison Court, quite possibly the greatest street name in all the world. I also came upon Grosvenor Square, a little pocket universe tucked in the middle of a very lovely London neighborhood with a number of embassies, including the American. The US embassy sits behind a series of security walls that would be at home in Beirut and not this posh area. Canada managed to do without, somehow.
In front of the embassy was a statue of Dwight D Eisenhower. This tickled me, as did the statue of FDR – standing! – in the green park in front of the embassy. I found myself wondering who paid for these statues – the thankful post-WWII people of London or the self-aggrandizing Americans?
Tucked in another part of the square is a very quiet, very pretty memorial for the British citizens who died on 9/11. To me this restful spot, with wood and trees worked into it, is much more tranquil and reflective than any of the 9/11 memorials I’ve seen in New York.
By now it was time to head back to the hotel. After a quick spot of breakfast we all loaded up on a bus and began the long trip to Shepperton Studios, where Flash Gordon was filmed. I’ll keep the set visit stuff for the set visit report, which will run next week, but I will say that we were having lunch at the on-set restaurant, called Oscars, when the Oscar nominations were announced. Drew, Dellamorte, Erik Davis and I hung on every word coming from New Line publicist Nicole Butte’s Blackberry, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with the stellar showing of Pan’s Labyrinth. The Dreamgirls snubbing was puzzling, as was the oversized amount of love shown Clint Eastwood’s ‘let’s move this only to get an Oscar for the old guy’ Letters from Iwo Jima.
We had been running late throughout the set visit, and so we got back to the hotel late. The plan had been to go to a traditional British High Tea with the rest of the crew, but we had a Hot Fuzz screening in just over an hour and a half, and priorities came into play. The film showed at the very lovely Soho Screening Room, where little sandwiches and apocalyptically hot little Indian poppets were served. Drew and Dellamorte adored the film – of course – and afterwards we got in touch with Edgar Wright. The plan: meet at a very nearby trendy bar (we were in Soho after all) and we would all go together to a more traditional English pub.
Joining us was international CHUD pal Strax, who knows more about movies than fourteen clones of myself combined into some kind of superfat movie knowing entity. After a quickie at a place called The Chocolate Bar we all wandered off to the basement of a pub called the Fitzroy. Many beers (and gin and tonics for Edgar – they serve the tonic in a bottle on the side, and I thought that he was only drinking the tonic water at first) were consumed – except by Drew, who I am going to out in this column as a lightweight. But the rest of us banded together to heroically drink as much of his share as possible. Socialized boozing lives on.
The conversation was terrific, jumping from behind the scenes Hot Fuzz stuff to British TV to obscure films and to every joke in between. Wright’s just a genuinely regular guy who happens to be maddeningly talented when it comes to writing and directing, and after a while you sort of forget who he is… until you remember another brilliant joke from Hot Fuzz and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you’ve made the movie that’s setting the bar for 2007 impossibly high.’
The night grew long, and we had to get to bed – Drew, Dellamorte and I had another set visit in the morning, Strax had to get to work in the AM, and Edgar has the Hot Fuzz junket all day today. There was a temptation to make him stay out and ruin him for the other press, but in the end we all went our separate ways… but not before making plans for getting together again tonight, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in tow this time. This is England, Part 3, probably won’t show up until Friday – I leave quite early local time Thursday morning – but here’s to hoping it’s the most packed installment yet.
*And to watch some British TV. I have managed to see nothing good, which is ironic considering the lengths I go to import British TV on DVD, but I have been enjoying the British news. Big on the news has been the story of a container ship that went aground off the shore of Devon, spilling a hodgepodge of contents – including very expensive BMW motorcycles – on the shore. People showed up in droves to scavenge the motley loot, which included the personal belongings of people moving from one nation to another. Also looming large in the news is the continuing ordeal of Jade Goody, Celebrity Big Brother’s racist harlot. I am in love with her, and would gladly help her get away from the British press by marrying her for American citizenship. She’s just a glorious disaster of a human being.