FILM: TAKE ONE ACTOR / Plastered in Paris: OK, so it's a TV commercial for sticking plaster. But it won't be shown here. You're the star. And it pays . . .

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
I am sitting in a cinema watching Tom & Viv when I see it. It's in the scene where the doctor discusses Viv's illness with Eliot. It's on the surgery walls behind them. The perfect green - just the colour I've been looking for.

At home I ring the producer. I congratulate him, then ask where he got it from.

'It's a special mix,' he tells me. 'Very expensive.'

So, I'm sitting in my study, working out that I really can't afford this colour when the phone rings. It's my agent.

'What do you think about ads?' she asks.

'I'm not sure about Heineken's smooth-talking bar steward.'

'Would you do one?'

'I don't think so.'

'What if they offered you five grand?'

I am in a small cramped office in Soho. I am here about an overseas commercial for French plasters, a large pack of which has been thoughtfully placed in the middle of the room. Just in case.

Apparently, ever since Lord Olivier made one for Polaroid cameras and Woody Allen for Japanese spectacles, the entertainments industry has been queueing up to flog merchandise they never use to foreigners they've never met and, more importantly, are never likely to.

I am sitting among a group of extremely familiar faces. This may be, however, because we all look exactly the same. As we wait, everyone talks to each other with almost incredible enthusiasm. I momentarily wonder if some kind of miracle hasn't occurred here - something like a family of sextuplets, separated at birth, being strangely reunited at an audition for sticky-back plasters.

In the audition room, the director emerges from under a strip of inquisitorial cathode rays behind which the clients are seated. From the sound of things, they are less interested in me than in unravelling innumerable toffee wrappers for some sort of Blue Peter Special Appeal. I can hear the little Herge angel on my shoulder screaming, 'GET OUT NOW]', but I listen to the other side whispering, 'Five grand for one day's work - what the hell]'

The director, a notable features maker who has a large mortgage and private school fees for three daughters to pay, gives me two glasses, one of which is filled with water, and asks me to pour it from one to the other 'with intent'. I do this. Then he asks me to do exactly the same but this time with 'more red'. I do exactly the same but this time I leer. 'Grrreat teeth]' I hear someone whisper and I have visions of being sold to the highest bidder and dragged across the Sahara with a manacle around my neck.

I am in a studio in Paris. There are very few exports from the English-speaking world that the French will admit a passion for: Marks & Spencer, the Scotch House, the Royal Family. And then there's Jerry Lewis - the French are mad about Jerry Lewis. This ad is a skit on one of his films about a chemist searching for a potion that will turn him into a pop idol. It's called 'The Nutty Professor'. I'm the nutcase.

I'm about to be knocked down, spun round and blown up, and after each time they're going to slap a product plaster on my head. It's hardly a case of subliminal advertising.

I am sitting on a contraption that will spin me at about 1000rpm, having had my hair professionally electrified by a man who used to be Ursula Andress's personal stylist.

The clients are peering at me, then turning away and shaking their heads. If I wasn't the absolute professional I am, I might think I was doing something wrong.

So, I'm sitting on my spinner thinking, 'I'm doing something wrong,' when a PA finally approaches. She pulls a plaster off my forehead, readjusts the angle and sticks it back on. The clients then stare, smile and nod their heads in unison. They just wanted to read the label.

For the last shot, having been miraculously turned into the Pop Idol of Everyone's Dreams - the most amazing feat of the day - I must spray the product range of breath freshener into my mouth. I do this 15 times and then, while blathering on about how I can now afford to paint my study whatever shade of green I like, I am finally stretchered back to my dressing room. The breath freshener was 98 per cent proof.

I am returned to my hotel near Pere-Lachaise, the cemetery in which Oscar Wilde was buried in penury. I remember his famous last words - 'either that wallpaper goes or I do' - and I wonder how much things have changed and how much easier it could have been for him today.

Today, he could have been filmed in a boulevard cafe as a 'smooth-talking bar steward', flogging the latest brand of granulated coffee, 'Light 'n' Mild - The Oscar Wilde'.

Of course, he may still have had to have gone into 'exile' to make them. But - what the hell - it could have made the world of difference to his plans for home improvements. It certainly has mine.

Hugo Blick will be writing regular reports about his life as a working and resting film actor