Twenty Years Ago Today Page 5

I had lost a lot of weight in the hospital but it would prove useful filming the youthful Dirk McQuickly. Neil was meanwhile bashing out Rutles songs in a small barge on the Regent's Canal. I was in no shape to join him. I was swamped with all the preparations for shooting. I was co-directing, I was making last minute script changes, I was down to play four parts and there was still no sign of Gary Weis my co-director. In any case Neil made it clear he was keen to have an actual band which he could rehearse and bash into shape so he invited his friend Ollie Halsall to play and sing the Dirk vocal part. Together with John Halsey and Rikki Fataar they were forming a good tight sounding group. I cast Ollie as "Leppo" the fifth Rutle so he would at least get to appear. Still sore from the Operation and its unpleasant aftermath, I was happy to finally welcome my co-Director Gary Weis to town. We had only three weeks to go. Somehow we made it. We shot for five weeks in London and Liverpool. It was great fun dressing up as Beatles being chased around by young girls. Gary and I slipped swiftly into a comfortable co-directing relationship, he operated the camera and I stood in front of it yammering away as the incompetent interviewer and it all worked remarkably well. I cast Tania in four different roles to save money, one as a hooker outside the Rats Keller in the Rieperbahn bar, one as the bikini girl lying beside Stanley J. Krammerhead III (the airhead Professor from California), one as a Rutles merchandise model and she also appears as a fetching Gypsy hippie in "Love Life". Highlights of the filming were shooting "Ouch" on the sands of Southport, on the sand dunes where I had played as a kid and where the sun came out and shone so very perfectly as we were trying to fake the West Indies. The then Mrs. Jagger, (Bianca) came up to play Dirk's wife "Martini" (my first screen kiss) and we ad-libbed happily in the garden of poet Roger McGough. Ronnie Wood played a Hell's Angel, Roger McGough played Roger McGough and George Harrison played an interviewer interviewing Michael Palin playing Derek Taylor. One day outside Abbey Road studios (just by the legendary crossing) Neil and I were dressed as the Beatles, me as Paul and Neil as the full Lennon in beard and white outfit. That day George was visiting. He was talking to us when he was roughly pushed aside and almost flattened by a breathless tourist anxious to ask us if we were really the Beatles. He totally ignored the real Beatle!

It was a time of fun, magical madness and confusion and all too soon the five weeks were over. We said farewell to Neil Innes who had been masterfully playing Nasty, his role of a lifetime, and Gary and I began cutting the movie. Eventually we took the film off to New York. I felt it still lacked something: a big performance, so I hastily wrote a scene for Belushi as Alan Klein. He was filming Going South with Jack Nicholson, as well as doing Saturday Night Live and lots else, so we got him for about half an hour on no sleep whatsoever. He did it in two takes. I sketched in a nice scene for Gilda Radnor, which we shot in the village and Bill Murray improvised madly as Murray the "K." Finally we shot Danny Ackroyd in the bowery loft where I had lived and written the Rutles. He played the poor sod who 'passed' on the Rutles. "What's it like to be such an asshole?" I asked him. This was the only line NBC would cut, though we put it in the longer British version.

We flew to New Orleans to film a very bad pun by the Banks of the Mississippi (the First National, the Chase Manhattan...) and some of the stuff about the black roots of Rutle music where we were fortunate to find very talented local actors. "He's lyin'... he's always lyin'." I was reluctantly persuaded that it would be a very bad idea to film a Ku Klux Klan gag in white sheets in New Orleans. One difference about British and American humor is that Brits don't shoot you. I was persuaded that it would be better for my life if we didn't do the shot. I saw the sense in this.

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