There is a blue, blue sky as I come out of the underground station at 6.20. The best weather of the shoot so far. But Saturday night saw thunder and rain of tempest-level force. So I’m truly worried as I walk towards the location about whether we have lost any more of the ceiling. In particular, what will be the state of the set where we are scheduled today to shoot the assassination scene. But all’s well, and although there have been further leaks through the roof (including in the production office) the set is dry and undisturbed. By 7.30 there is much art department scurrying around, a lot of last-minute cleaning and a good deal of activity with lamps. For the killing itself we need sun streaming down a staircase from a skylight above. And for that we have really big lamps on the roof under a tent – so it’s just as well there seems only to be a light wind and, by 9.15, just a few small clouds.
In fact, the riggers have been struggling since 6.30 with the tenting around the roof lamps. What feels like a breeze on the ground is ripping the drapes out of their eye sockets and making it really hard to ensure a full black out. This is a big, complex scene all round, and it is 10.03 before we turn over with slate 91. The shot, however, is worth all the effort and – to my (somewhat biased) eyes – looks sensational. Apart from anything else the viewer should buy completely that we are in the depths of a modern conference centre below the Senate House. Caesar and the conspirators enter from behind camera, dressed in their spectacular ceremonial costumes. We are at the top of Act III, Scene 1. ‘The Ides of March are come,’ says Caesar.
We are fated to spend much of the day on this scene, shooting first a wide shoot and then breaking it down to achieve coverage of the various close shots and reactions that we will need for the edit. I have to say that much of the assassination itself looks terrific – and truly scary. And when around 13.10 we reach the notable slate 100 – meaning that we have shot on hundred distinct set-ups to date – we are on a medium close-up of Jeffery Kissoon forcing out ‘Et tu, Brute’. Somehow, this seems entirely appropriate.
Outside, the sun continues to shine, but inside it remains bitingly cold – to the extent that we can sometimes see the frozen breath of the actors. Which is a problem that we will have to solve later. Between takes, the conspirators huddle around the blow heater, and when they can sneak outside to soak up a little of the warmth on offer there. Lunch comes and goes (Thai green curry, salmon with cous-cous, or goat’s cheese tart) and we continue to work on Caesar’s death.
There is a lovely post today from Sylvia Morris on The Shakespeare Blog about about Julius Caesar as the Bard’s African play. She writes about the Robben Island Shakespeare that was such an inspiration to Greg Doran as he was preparing this production, and she says – which I didn’t realise – that it is to be an exhibit in the British Museum’s Shakespeare: Staging the World exhibition that opens on 19 July.
On set today are Ian Serfontein and Matt Flack who are filming our ‘making of…’ material. We will use this for the DVD, of course, and the RSC will also feature some of it on their web site. We are also developing some exclusive educational shorts for The Open University and these too will draw on this material. Ian and Matt shot the rehearsal for the assassination last Wednesday and today they are able to get close-up on the actual filming. These sequences together with extracts from the finished film should make for fascinating viewing and give a really strong insight into the working methods of Greg and director of photography Steve Lawes.
Later: … and we finished the day on slate 114. As Kristian said, that’s ‘a shed load of slates’ – and I think you’ll think they are of the very highest quality when you get to see the results in the summer. The Ides of March, however, are not gone, for we are back in the same set tomorrow.
Previously on the Julius Caesar blog:
‘Good words are better than bad strokes’, 27 April
‘Whoever knew the heavens threaten so?’, 26 April
‘Peace. Count the clock.’, 25 April
‘When it is lighted, come and call me here’, 24 April
‘Tell us the manner of it’, 23 April
‘Their battles are at hand’, 21 April
‘A very pleasing night to honest men’, 17 April
‘Be patient till the last’, 12 April
‘Now they are almost on him’, 6 April
‘A mourning Rome, a dangerous Rome’, 2 April
‘Tell us what hath chanced today’, 30 March
‘Shakespeare’s Africa play’, 29 February
‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’, 24 November