Essex Boys on Location

by Jo Cousins

 

Last Update: 29 March 1999
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The first I heard about Essex Boys was when I went to get my hair cut one Saturday afternoon in February. There was a small poster in the window saying Essex Boys, Extras Wanted, so - being a bit of a movie buff anyway - I though it was a good opportunity. Then a name caught my eye…in small letters underneath it had Sean Bean, Alex Kingston and Charlie Creed Miles.

Well, that was it! I asked my hairdresser to write down the address of the audition, and she gave me a specially printed leaflet - which I have now laminated to keep nice. I felt very sorry for her that day as I was so excited I found it hard to keep still. Just imagine it: Sean Bean coming to my town to make a film!

I went into work on Monday fairly buzzing and begged for the next Wednesday off work. My bosses were (and have been) great - and said yes.

They held auditions in Brentwood on the 20th of February, and then went to a local theatre in Southend on the 21st. So there I was at 7.30 in the morning trying to be first in the queue. (I was just beaten to it by a couple of students on their way to college.) Auditions were due to start at 8.00, and I was beginning to wonder whether I should have taken my tap shoes!

Two of the three Assistant Directors - Emma and Andrew - turned up at 7.45 with a pile of forms and a camera. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when they assured me I would not have to perform anything. To be more informal, they held the auditions in the bar. All we had to do was fill out a form and have two photos taken (a close-up and a full length). I was a bit worried as I am not particularly photogenic! They said not to worry as they were looking for normal looking people. So I filled out my form (#502 - only the third person that day) and had the photos taken. It was all over by 7.55am!

I had told my mother-in-law what I was doing and as she works two minutes away I told her I would pop in and see her on the way back. The only thing was - she didn't start work till 9.00. So I had an hour to kill, and as I had already waited a while talking to the theatre staff I asked them if they would mind me hanging around for another hour or so. They said no, and at 8.15 Emma came up to us and asked if we knew where she could get film and batteries for the camera straightaway as they had just run out!

Well, having lived and worked in Southend all my life I knew just where to go - the photo shop where I used to work. Knowing they opened at 8.30, I offered to show her where to go. She said not to worry as she had someone on the way passing a supermarket, but ten minutes later that person called her on her mobile to report no film or batteries there. So Emma came back to me and I took her up to Bonus Print.

My old manager was a star! Not only did she help her with films and batteries - she gave her the discount I used to get when I worked there!

On the way back to the theatre Emma thanked me and told me how friendly and helpful I was, and that she would make sure I was definitely in the film! She put a big red star on my form. I thanked her…and that was the last I heard, until.…

…the 16th March. A friend of my father-in-law's - a professional extra - was called to go to Clacton (a town about 50 miles away) to be a Doorman in the film. Having heard that I had also auditioned, he offered to take me with him. I jumped at the chance (well who wouldn't!) and since I had heard nothing else from Emma I assumed they had either forgotten or not wanted me.

Work gave me the afternoon off on Friday the 19th, but - disaster - I got a call on Thursday - they had moved the filming to Sunday and my Doorman was advised not to bring anyone as they were filming in a club and no one else would be allowed in!

I was disappointed…but accepted it. And I was so glad I did.…

Monday, the 22nd March - a day I'll never forget. At 4.35pm I got a call.

"Hello, is that Joscelyn Cousins? This is Andrew from the film Essex Boys…."

I was so shocked I was lost for words - unusual for me!

Andrew went on to ask if I could go down to Southend Seafront on Tuesday night at 6.30 pm, and would I wear dark winter clothes (not a problem as I generally wear black and it is quite chilly here at the moment). Filming was due to end at 5.30 in the morning, so I grovelled again to my boss and said I would need to leave work early on Tuesday to get there in time and would probably be in late on Wednesday.

Tuesday at work I could hardly concentrate on anything and I'm sure my bosses came to the conclusion I was totally mad! I left work at 4.30 pm and drove home along the seafront (my normal route when I have a car). There were huge lights all the way along - cranes and scaffolding everywhere - and that's when it really hit me: I was really going to be in the film. I was shaking so badly I thought I'd have to stop the car.

I calmed down and got ready - put on my best warm clothes and did my makeup. And I put my camera in my bag; even though Andrew hadn't said whether Sean would be there, I wasn't taking any chances! I got to the large car park behind the seafront where we were told to meet about an hour early. It's only a ten minute drive from my house but I was so excited I couldn't sit still. I parked and had a look at the cordonned-off area which was full of cars, trailers and coaches. It seemed a bit early to go in, so I walked down to the seafront to see if there was anything going on there.

It was pretty dead (apart from the usual traffic). I bought a milkshake and sat in my car, and soon saw people arriving, though I wasn't sure if they were cast or crew or other extras. I went over anyway and started talking to some girls: Emma, Tracy and Rebecca. (Rebecca is also a huge Sean Bean fan.) We were told to help ourselves to food from the catering van - breakfast, they called it, though it was 6.15 pm (because it was the start of their shooting day) (and it was all free). We stopped for lunch at one in the morning - and it was very odd having a cooked meal at that hour of the night - but I was starving.

We were told to sit on one of two coaches reserved for extras only, and as we boarded Andrew gave us a form with our names on it and what type of extra we would be (Passer By, Teenager or Clubber). I was a Passer By. The form was worded very cleverly - basically we had no rights to anything other that the £50 we were getting paid; they could have literally put words into our mouths if they'd wanted.

At 7.00 pm we were walked down to the "location" - our seafront - a road I've walked up and down countless times before…and now Sean Bean would be there.

Southend seafront is a beach, then a road, with a central reservation then a row of arcades full of slot machines and computer games. This was the side we were filming on. First, we had to have our "costume" checked to make sure it was nothing that would stand out too much, as we would be used several times in the same scene in different positions. We were taken into a bar, which had been shut for the week so that we could use it between takes to sit in and warm up through the night and to have the free tea and coffee that was being provided.

Basically, we did as we were told, when we were told to.

I'll have to apologise now as I was so nervous I can't remember the exact order of events, but I'll do my best even though they might seem a little muddled.

We were all put in positions dotted around the seafront and were told to walk in a certain direction when the command "background action" was given. Rebecca and I were put together and told to walk up the road - unfortunately, away from the action. It was then that a blue Jaguar drove past us with - yes you guessed it - Sean Bean sitting in the back! We both nearly collapsed with excitement - it was the first time either of us had seen him in person, something we never thought would happen in our wildest dreams!

For most of the night we had to walk the same way, over and over again, while they did different takes and camera shots behind us. As we talked to some of the other extras, we discovered they had been filming on Monday night too. If had only known I'd have gone down to watch.

On Monday, they filmed Sean pushing a bouncer out of the first floor window of a made-up club called Blondz (very Essex Girl) - crashing onto his car bonnet, then running him over. I was sorry I missed this as it sounded very exciting.

Back to Tuesday! As so many people had come to watch, they stopped filming for about ten minutes, and I raced up to where Sean was and asked him for a photo. He was really nice and said, "Sure." I looked for someone to take the picture - and the only other person was one of the other actors. Sean also signed a picture for me (I had laser copied the front of the Sharpe's Sword video just in case). I couldn't say anything more to him as I was shaking so badly! I thought it would just come out as gobbledegook. Rebecca and I just held onto each other. Then we had to go back to work.

There were no more photo opportunities that night, but he did drive past me several times in the Bentley, so I did get a good look. Mostly, though, my job involved a lot of waiting and standing around, and my feet and back were killing me by the end of the night and my bag felt like it weighed a ton.

At about 4.00 am we got a bit of a shock as Sean Bean, Larry Lamb and a couple of others came into Chinnery's - where we were warming up - and had a pint of bitter and played a game of pool. They were standing about ten feet away from me for 15 minutes. I couldn't help looking over and Sean smiled at me the couple of times I caught his eye, I did get really embarrassed the third time but just couldn't help myself.

We finished filming at exactly 5.30 am. I was impressed, as I thought we would have run overtime, but it was starting to get light. I was absolutely shattered - though I didn't really notice it as the adrenalin rush of being so close to Sean Bean so often was incredible. We queued up to get our contracts signed off by Andrew, and when it was my turn I asked if it was possible to come back the following night. He said, "No problem," so I went home and finally got into bed at 6.15 am.

My husband was not impressed as he gets up for work at 6.45 and wanted his sleep.

I was too excited to sleep but I must have dropped off eventually. I woke up four hours later and went to work.

That afternoon I left early again and got to the "base" at 6.00 pm and had a bacon roll for "breakfast" as I hadn't had time for dinner. This time I got talking to a girl called Julia who had not been before. We got on like a house on fire and were put together for most of the night. This time we had no photo opportunities at all as where we were put was too close to the cameras. This turned out to be the best scene for me, as Julia and I walked directly behind the car as it was stationary, with Charlie sitting on the bonnet and Sean looking at him. The camera was pointing directly at Charlie and we walked very slowly on purpose to make sure we would definitely be seen!

At 3 am we were put back in Chinnery's, the bar, to warm up. I went back outside to experience the "atmosphere" and to see if I could get any more photos, though all I saw were a few cars driving round. Andrew reappeared and grabbed a dozen of us and took us down to another part of the Seafront, right under the Pier. Another extra called Nikki and I were put in front of one of the two cameras set up for this shot on the side of the road, the other was in the central reservation, with our backs to it. We were told to walk away and react to the next action sequence. The director directed us personally for this part - though he didn't say what was going to happen!

"Background action" was called and we started walking. The next thing we knew, the Bentley was coming towards us on the opposite side of the road, swerving all over the place! We turned to look - as you would - and saw a Volvo, one of the other stunt cars coming straight for us! It was swerving out of the way of the Bentley! We jumped back in surprise and the cars carried on down the road. Our reaction was exactly what the director had wanted - though we did have to do the same thing several times after that!

There had been rumours that they were filming a car chase - and that is what it turned out to be - though the four actors in the car had actually gone back to their hotel by then, and had been replaced by their stunt doubles.

That was it then for that night. "Cut" was called and we queued up to be paid. Unfortunately, the accountant hadn't turned up so - no money - and we were asked to come back the following evening at 5.30 to be paid. I asked Andrew if it was possible to come back again for the following night (the last night in Southend) as I had enjoyed myself so much. This time, though, he said he didn't need me. I was disappointed but asked if I could just hang around after we were paid, so if they did decide they wanted me I'd be there ready (I had told the people at work I was needed, just in case). So once again I got in at 6.00 am, had another four hours sleep, then went to work.

When I got to the Seafront on that evening, I didn't bother to go to the base - I just sat in the bar and talked to a couple of the other extras and to Charlie Creed Miles, who was having a drink and playing pool. The two extras, Julia and John, were both asked if they could stay and work that night…but not me, I wasn't wanted.

I was a bit upset so I went to call my husband to tell him I'd be home early. Then, I went back to where they were starting to organise things. That evening there had been a short article in our local paper. Andrew asked me where he could get some copies. I told him, but as he didn't have time I offered to go for him. He was really pleased when I got back and said that he would have to put me in now - even though they only needed 20 people that night - so I got in again!

We were warned that it would be very boring as we would be doing exactly the same walk all night long. Interior shots of the car were being filmed during an important conversation. They had to change the camera angle lots of times.

To film the conversation, the Bentley was put on the back of a low-loader, with the camera crew under a canopy in front - and to get a close-up of Sean and Larry Lamb in the back, they took the front seats out! I hadn't known that this was one of the ways they did interior car shots.

I got some very good views of the scenes, as Julia and I were put at the side of the road and told to cross as soon as the Bentley had gone past us. Sean was sitting in the back on my side of the road, so he drove past me again and again and again - something like 15 times, I think.

Each time the car went past, Julia and I couldn't believe it. We had been told to act naturally - which was hard - but we managed. Then, we did exactly the same shot - but with police cars chasing them - and as they were being chased the low-loader swerved right at us and then away. We had to cross after the police cars this time, so we got a really good view - because you would look at a car chase, wouldn't you!

We stopped filming again at 5.30 am when it started getting light. While I was queueing to be paid I looked out of the window and saw Sean and Larry Lamb driving past in the Jaguar.

I can't describe how disappointed I felt, as I had hoped to get some more photos. I tried to reassure myself that the one and only picture I'd already taken would come out well (as it is, it is the best one!).

Afterwards, Julia, Sam and I wandered back to the car park and, glancing in at the enclosure, what should we see but a blue Jaguar, the blue Jaguar! I also saw a couple of other extras waiting for an autograph - they had asked a member of the crew to get it. The crew member came out and they went. I asked Sam if she wouldn't mind waiting a while - I was getting quite excited by now. We had no idea how long we'd have to wait… and then there he was - and my heart jumped up into my throat.

Sean had been getting changed, swapping his wedding ring back onto his left hand and taking his costume watch off. I summoned all my courage and asked him if I could have a couple of photos please. He was really nice and said yes - although it was 5.45 in the morning. Julia took the pictures for me and Sam took the pictures for Julia as I was shaking too much.

Sean put his arm round my shoulder and I put mine round his waist, and there are really no words to describe how I was and still am feeling. I thanked him for being so patient, as he must have been really tired. He said, "No problem," and when I told him I had to go to work in a couple of hours he said "Oh no!" "Well," I explained, "we all have day jobs - we can't all do this for a living!"

As he was getting in the car to go, Sam and I walked away and I just burst into tears. I couldn't and still can't believe it…I met and talked to my HERO!

Now all I've got to do is wait for the film to be released…which should be at the end of the year.


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