Last week I was offered a job in Pinewood Studios. Before you get excited let me explain, I wasn’t shooting a film there, I didn’t even get to see a set – I only passed them on my way from the parking lot and they just looked like gigantic metal tins you could store a gigantic tunafish in. What was I doing there? ADR. What is ADR? Well, in Italy, where we’re not such fans of sofisticated acronyms, ADR sessions are called “fegatelli”, ie giblets. It’s basically background noise. In most films there are “crowd” scenes that need to be re-voiced because the microphones on the set were just focused on the main characters and didn’t pick up the voices in the background. When a British or American film that was shot in Italy needs background re-voicing, they get together a group of Italian voice over artistes (or pseudo) and ask us to improvise some casual conversation. To be precise, as both the British and the American think Italian people shout at each other on a regular basis, we’re usually asked to yell. Often we’re asked to be street vendors, vegetables seem to be a popular choice, as if Italian streets were always full of people selling tomatos door to door.
Anyway, Pinewood is in the middle of nowhere, impossible to reach by public transport, so I ring a colleague of mine, J., asking whether she is driving and could give me a lift. She replies no, sorry, she isn’t driving, but she knows another woman, A., who is going to Pinewood on the same day, a dear friend of hers, so we can both go with her. Great. “Meet me at 7.20 in South Kensigton”, J says.
On the following day at 6.30 I’m already on the Tube (South Ken is on te other side of London from where I live), cursing against the commuters who squash me against the door and in desperate need of caffeine. At South Ken station I see J. crouching on the floor, pouring hot tea from a thermos. We look like two earthquake survivors. We leave the station and start walking along one of the most elegant streets in London, towards Kensington Palace. I start wondering whether A’s second name is Windsor as I’ve never known anybody living in such a location. After 5 minutes we reach a beautiful building with a marble courtyard and J rings the bell. A well preserved 40 something woman in a bath robe comes to open the door.
“Ciao, tesooooro!” she whispers to J in a husky voice, her scruffy hair all over her face. I introduce myself and try to shake her hand but she merely nods at me.
“Avanti, come in,” she says, mixing Italian and English (heavens knows why, we’re all 100% Italian there), “I’m running a bit late…”
We sit down in the high ceilinged sitting room while A. disappears in the bathroom. She returns 10 seconds later with no clothes on, a cup of coffee in her hands.
“Oh, J., I MUST tell you everything my therapist told me yesterday. It was PIVOTAL. You know, since I came back from China I’ve been thinking and thinking…”
I don’t know where to look. I’m not a prude but I’ve only known A. for half a minute and she’s standing naked in front of me talking about her therapist. I’m either the most uncool person in the world or this is too much information for a first meeting. Especially since we’re late and she should be already dressed and ready to go.
Suddenly the bathroom door’s opens again and a man comes out. He’s considerably younger than A., very good looking and also almost completely naked – just a little towel to cover his genitals.
“Hi there, I’m Tom,” he says, crossing the sitting room and disappearing into the bedroom. This is a film, I think, no need to go to Pinewood.
A. finishes her coffee, slips into a pair of knickers, skinny jeans and a long white vest that almost reaches her knees (my grandad used to wear vests like that). No bra. Then she throws on an oversized grey jumper, wears her boots and, without putting any make up on or brushing her hair, grabs the keys: “Ready girls?”
We’re ready but you look like my grandmother’s impersonation of Kate Moss. Ever heard of combs?
In the car, I sit at the back and for at least 45 minutes A. talks nonstop to J. about her therapy and her problems with commitment and abandonment. She keeps mixing English and Italian randomly, as if she was too confused, too fluent in both languages (we all are, you bitch, what do you show off about?)and too supercoolly bilingual to stick to her mothertongue. But somehow everything in her “casual” style seemes perfectly studied and devised. After mentioning her numerous trips to China again, she goes into the details of her relatioship with Tom, their sex life, their financial agreement (he’s quite obviously not as well of as she is, being just young enough to have finished college)… I almost want to stop the car and walk to Pinewood but then I think, resist, only five more minutes and you’ll be there.
But of course I should have been so lucky… So engrossed A. is in her conversation that she misses the right exit and we end up in the middle of the countryside.
When we finally reach Pinewood we’re over one hour late. Not that we’ve missed much, the other actors have been… shouting for an hour.
As soon as A. enters the recording studio she kisses all our colleagues, sits on the men’s lap, and laughs loudly waving her arms like a Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. To overcome my discomfort I stood up and offer myself as a volunteer to “dub” a coughing girl in the next sequence.
“Beautiful, very good!” says the director, absolutely transfigured at the idea that an Italian actress could actually cough on sync. Well, at least I’ve earned my money today.
I don’t know where J and A ended up on their way back to London because I managed a lift with another guy who has never been in therapy and in the car just talked about a videogame he had worked at and how hard it was to find a suitable voice for the Incredible Hulk’s son.