September 4: Fame and fortune

The BBC version of Jane Eyre is on TV here this week, but as it will be dubbed in French, I won’t watch it. If ever I am mistaken for a spy and captured, I will reveal all I know to my torturers when they force me to watch dubbed English or American TV shows.

Movie star material?

I interviewed the English actress Ruth Wilson, who played Jane Eyre, for the National Trust magazine a few years ago. She was at the very beginning of her screen career, and was very thrilled to be in her own trailer on set at Belton House in Lincolnshire. I spent most of the day waiting for things to happen, sitting in an old red double-decker London bus the caterers used as a canteen. At the end of the day, the chef asked if anyone had a dog and wanted the bones they’d stripped for the lamb curry. As no one even looked up, I said I’d take them for my nephew’s Labrador, Printer. I expected a small neatly wrapped package, but the chef gave me a huge plastic garbage-bagful of loose bones. I dragged them home on the train from Lincolnshire. At one point I had to change trains, and I noticed with horror that my film-set swag was actually trailing blood down the carriage and out onto the platform. One shiny blue lamb joint was even poking through the bag. I talked a British Rail ticket collector into finding me some plastic bags in her little office. I didn’t explain why I was dragging a bag of bloody bones around, and she didn’t ask. I guess it’s my face – I just don’t look like someone searching for a shallow grave.

That was the last time I spent any time on a movie set, and I should know better than to think spending a few days on another one would be exciting. But I fell for the casting call that I noticed in the local newspaper this week. Nicole Kidman is to play Princess Grace in a movie called Grace of Monaco, set in the 1960s. They’ll be shooting on the Riviera in October and November. They need extras!

I love the idea of friends and family scanning the passing crowd, the party guests, the other passengers, the fellow shoppers, etc etc etc, for a glimpse of their extra friend or relative. I’ve done it a few times myself, and it makes even a terrible movie entertaining. Joel is a spoilsport, however. The day of the casting was very hot, and men were asked to wear suits, women dresses. He pointed out that the production schedule might clash with his now zealously observed gym schedule. And he wasn’t going to put on a suit and tie in August in the South of France for anything.

My chauffeur waiting at La Victorine Studios…

Frankly, I might have thought twice if the casting were in some boring central Nice office. But the icing on the temptation cake was that it was in La Victorine studios – and Joel offered to drive. There are only a couple of places left in Nice that I really want to see but haven’t got around to yet, and La Victorine studios is no longer one of them.

Back in the days when Hollywood hadn’t yet taken over the planet, Nice’s very own movie studio, opened in 1919, was as chic as chic could be. All French people look a bit sigh-y when you mention La Victorine: Truffaut’s Day for Night was filmed here, along with And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot, and even the ultimate south of France movie (for Anglophones), To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly herself, was finished off on its soundstages. Once upon a time it must have been stupendous, sitting on a hill with palm trees, pools, and a great sea view. Sean Connery’s last outing as James Bond was filmed here! David Lean died here! I’m not a movie-buff, but I can see how that’s valuable trivia.

Unfortunately, the whole complex is now part of something called Euro Media, a name which makes me fall asleep on my keyboard. There were a few posters for cool French 1960s movies with Jean Paul Belmondo, but otherwise it was just a hot parking lot with lots of warehouses, surrounded by highway and ugly apartment buildings. I was hoping for a museum or a shop or something, but… this is France. They’re just not as entrepreneurial as the people who put together the Universal Studios Experience (which I’ve heard about, though not seen).

Anyway, I should find out in a month or so if I got a part. I’ll have my people call your people, ok?

Meanwhile, something amazingly, incredibly, wonderfully fortunate happened. I went to my sister Sarah’s house in Connecticut and we met, me for the first time, the grown children of my eldest brother, Sean.  The only reason I’m tacking this extraordinary meeting onto the end of yet another frivolous blog is because it’s been quite overwhelming and I don’t know what else to do.  It’s also difficult to explain to those of you who didn’t know of Sean’s existence. But those of you who do – old, old friends – will love this news. They have all found each other, and us. I keep thinking, what would my mother say, what would my sister Lucy say, what would Dad say? Sean, troubled, died in 1990. I kept seeing ghosts walking among my newfound nieces and nephew, and great nephews and niece, history for them, close enough to touch for me. It’s too precious for mere silly blogging, to be honest.  I’ll writing something else.

My sister Sarah, her son Luke, our nieces Melissa and Charlotte, their children, and my nephew Lennon. To say I love this photograph is an understatement of enormous proportion.


About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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4 Responses to September 4: Fame and fortune

  1. Deb Brenner says:

    Suellen! You were nearly on my doorstep and didn’t let me know? I can only assume you were too too busy reconnecting with family – and I can certainly believe that – to make time for old, old friends. Great photo! I haven’t seen Sarah since she was maybe 11. Next time you visit her, please remember me, a hop, skip and a jump away.

  2. Harriet says:

    Utterly wonderful, funny, absorbing and moving. I always want your blogs to be three times as long and at least twice as frequent. And I need to know what is happening with Ted! Keep on blogging…

  3. Robin Morris says:

    Yes, you are movie star material, and next time you are in New England, let me know. I’m in Massachusetts!

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