Start of week four. The nineteenth day of filming. We’d have shot almost two Ripping Yarns by now. At the make-up house by 7.30. Tunisians, eager for work, cluster round the wrought iron gates of the two-storey villa lent to us as a wardrobe and make-up base. I have to shoulder my way through. They stare at me, unblinking stares.
Emerge three-quarters of an hour later as Pontius Pilate, in short grey wig and long white under-toga and, thus attired, pile into my Renault, under the half-smiling gaze of a beautiful dark-haired, dark- eyed little boy working with his father, who is building a wall from a dusty pile of rubble.
A delay for lighting, then a very gruelling day shooting the first Pilate scene. The need to keep the vital giggling ingredient fresh and spontaneous made it a little bit harder to play than an ordinary scene with set words and reactions. The success of this scene will depend on the genuineness of the guard’s reaction to Pilate. It can’t all be acted, it must be felt.
So I have to do a great deal of ad-libbing at the end of the scene – and by the end of the day I must have thought up over twenty new names for Biggus Dickus’ wife – ranging from the appallingly facetious Incontinentia Buttox to the occasional piece of inspiration which resulted in breakdown from the guards. Bernard McKenna in particular did the nose trick spectacularly – once right down my toga.