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Production Diary: Do You Believe in Miracles? With Me, They Happen All the Time

Miracle at the BBC

I am making a VidiWall about the first 50 years of British television. I am in the office of the head of the BBC’s library.

It’s 1986 and I say, “I used to work at BBC Ealing Studios in 1965. I edited TheWars of the Roses.”

She replies, “Oh yes, I know that program. The film cans would be downstairs with ten million films and tapes.”

We go down to the vaults. It’s vast; row after row of racks stretching into infinity. Our librarian leads us to the royal vault, a locked cage. “This is where all the films about the royal family are stored.”

She turns and looks at me and goes white. “Where did you get that from?” I look down. I’m holding a 35mm film can labeled The Wars of the Roses—Part 1. I have no recollection of picking it up. Now it’s my colleague Bob Auger’s turn. “That’s impossible,” and he too goes into shock. I’m the only one looking normal. “My party trick,” I jest.

Friends, this is 100 percent true. Out of 10 million films and videotapes, I wind up with my 21-year-old film can mysteriously in my hand.

Strangers on A Train

I’m on a train from Calais to Toulon. It’s a couchette carriage, meaning that the seats are also bed bunks—four to each compartment. Normally there are couchettes for guys and separate ones for ladies. Someone has screwed up and I’m with two middle-aged ladies. They tell me to stay.

The older woman is an actress, Jean Anderson; she is in a BBC TV series, Tenko, and going to Le Lavandou to stay with her friend Betty Franks. “I know Betty.” The other lady is surprised that I should know the person she’s staying with.

She is a dignified, well spoken lady. “You wouldn’t know any of my friends or contacts.” “Let me guess: you live in London, in Hampstead.” “You saw my passport.” “No, of course not. I just guessed.” “Good guess, but where in Hampstead?” Hmmm—it’s like picking a street name in San Jose or Boise or Culver City.

We lived in Gayton Road, Hampstead, so I say, “You live in Gayton Road.” OMG, now she’s turning pale and fidgeting. “What number?” We lived in 56. Our next door neighbor rents out his basement apartment. “You live in 58 Gayton Road.”

Bulls eye!

Next time you’re in a train or on a plane, try guessing where the person sitting next to you lives. You know that’s impossible, but I did it.

Le Chien Miracle

I’m in France shooting for Esso. I’ve written a script where a dog lies down in front of a car. The driver tries to reverse out but the dog runs round to the back of the car.

It’s a five-day shoot. My French Esso client keeps asking me, “Stefan, mon ami, when are we doing the dog scene?” I tell him that it was a silly idea. Nope, he wants the dog.

Now it’s the last day of the shoot. “Stefan, you naughty man, the dog scene, s’il te plaît?” We are in a nondescript suburb—lawns, houses, trees. I look across the road and there in the distance is a man walking a dog. I run over.

“Excusé-moi, je fais un film…” “I speak English, what do you want?” “I’m making a little film over there, I need a dog for a shot.” “But how did you know we were here? This is Radar, the Wonder Dog. We have a show on French television: Radar, Le Chien Miracle.”

That’s three miracles. I have more …