David Bruce: Acting Anecdotes

• Not everyone should have—or adopt—children. The first husband of actress Eileen Atkins could not have children, and since people advised them to adopt, they started to go through the process of adoption. One day, the doorbell rang, and when Ms. Atkins opened the door, an infant was on the doorstep. She immediately thought, “My God—they’ve delivered it.” She also says, “The blood ran out of every vein. I thought this is your life, for the next 20 years, and I just did not want it.” Needless to say, they did not adopt. (The infant actually belonged to a woman who was going door to door selling cloths.) By the way, another thing that Ms. Atkins does not care for is someone stroking her head when she is ill. She told fellow actress Judi Dench, “I can see it, I’ll be lying there, paralyzed, and my husband will be stroking my brow, and I shan’t be able to protest at the last.” A problem-solver, Ms. Dench gave her a silver disk on a chain. The silver disk had written on it, “Don’t stroke my head.” And for Ms. Atkins’ birthday, Ms. Dench sent her a cake with “Don’t stroke my head” written in icing on it. Ms. Atkins thanked her with a limerick: “There once was a Dame name of Jude / who thrilled the entire multitude / she was fond of a joke and often a poke / but thought frottage was really quite rude.” Ms. Atkins says about the limerick, “It’s not terribly witty, but it’s got the word ‘frottage’ in it, which I learnt last week and am extremely proud of. For frottage’s sake, I share it.”

• Australian actress Lisa Lackey’s dream was to appear in her favorite TV series, NYPD Blue. In its final season, she managed to appear in one episode, during the filming of which director Mark Tinker played a joke on her. She acted in a courtroom scene in which she had lots of exposition, and Mr. Tinker said to her afterward, “Is that it? Is that the best you can do?” Ms. Lackey says, “Oh, my God, I nearly died. I think I almost wet my pants.” What was also bad was that everybody on the set got quiet. Mr. Tinker then said, “I’m just kidding. That was great. Welcome to the family.” Ms. Lackey jokes, “Oh, my God, I hate that man!” Of course, the experience of filming the episode was good, and Ms. Lackey says, “… what a fantastic cast of people. The best. That was the highlight of my career, I have to say.” She also told a girlfriend, exaggerating a little, “This is it! I can give up now! I can go off and have a family and not worry about acting anymore!”

• Lena Headey, who stars as the title character in Fox-TV’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, says that she has had numerous encounters with ghosts throughout her life. In one case, she had just bought a house and as she was lying on the bed it started shaking. Other events occurred. For example, she put a rabbit sculpture on a shelf and the sculpture fell off—nine times. Her boyfriend was skeptical about the ghost, saying, “Oh, rubbish!” But when the two discovered that a chest of drawers had been pushed against a door so that no one could open it, she asked him, “Now do you believe?” Ms. Headey thought of the ghost as a little boy, and she made peace with him: “I said, ‘You can be here but don’t scare me,’ and it stopped.”

• In 1981, Karen Allen played the only “girl” whom Indiana Jones ever loved in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in 2008 her character met the hero again in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Of course, she was a couple of decades older, and filming took a little adjustment, although she “dove right back in, driving these big dusty, clanking old trucks on these remote locations, just like old times!” Still, Ms. Allen says, “In the beginning, I was saying, ‘Oh, I don’t need the knee pads. Nooo, I don’t need elbow pads!’ After a few days, though, you’re like, ‘If I put a double set on the knees, will the camera see them through my pants?’ All that flinging yourself around is the hard part.”

• Hollywood actress Virginia Madsen shot to fame with her role as a lonely waitress in the 2004 critically acclaimed film Sideways, about two men visiting the wine country of central California. She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her role. In real life, she seldom drinks wine, pointing out, “Seriously, if I buy any good stuff, it doesn’t last. All my friends come over and drink it.” Ms. Madsen was born on September 11, but because of the terrorist attacks on that day, she says about her birthday, “I celebrate it on a different day now.”

• When Diana Adams first started dancing with the New York City Ballet, like most newcomers she was given the pantomime roles that did not require much if any dancing; unfortunately, she was not much good at pantomime—although as her career proved, she was excellent at dancing. As the Duchess in Giselle, she acted regally, but for lack of a better thing to do, looked at the scenery. This amused André Eglevsky, who commented, “That girl, she looks as if she’d never seen a treebefore!”

• Irish actor Jason O’Mara and American actress Paige Turco have a young son, and of course they are wondering whether he will also become an actor. Mr. O’Mara says, “From the looks of it, my son’s going to be an actor, too. He’s very dramatic.” As evidence, he says that at age five, his son was looking in the mirror and saying, “Daddy, daddy, this is my sad face.” Of course, this makes his parents cry, “Oh, no! He’s going to be an actor!”

• Like many other actors, Edmund Kean studied life to gain effects to use in acting. Once, he was wounded while fencing, and he fainted. When he regained consciousness, his first words were, “How did I fall?”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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