I had already co-starred with Gillian, in a manner of speaking, when she presented the BBC series Future Fantastic (affectionately known as Future Fanny by the staff). I was working as an assistant producer on Tomorrow's World at the time, and the producer and director of Future Fanny, David McNab, knew I had been a professional dancer and wasn't averse to shaving my head, getting my kit off and prancing around semi-nude.
So, they dressed me in just a thong and my girlfriend, Jessica, covered me in blue body make-up, which she rather messily applied in the men's lavatories of the BBC's science department. Overlaid with graphics, I became the "Wongbot", the representation of a dystopian future where diabolic robots usurp humanity. And so it was that as a bald, blue man- machine, I first got to share the screen with Gillian.
I had thought the Wongbot was dead, but then the whispers started. When David told me about the idea for a pop promo and single featuring Gillian, I couldn't quite believe it would go ahead. And when he said that I'd have to writhe around in bed with "the world's most sexy woman", I thought he'd become delusional as a result of staring at his Gillian Anderson screen saver for too long.
The months passed, then the call came. Plying us with wine, David talked us through the video. "Gillian is sleeping in bed. We enter her dream world, where there's the two of you as robot lovers. Gillian comes over, switches you on somehow and you start to do this dance. She watches as you do your thing with a kind of voyeuristic fascination. Then you," David pointed to me, "get to go for Gillian. You approach her and we end up finding the both of you in bed, all over each other, in reality, as she wakes up from her dream." All this to a souped-up version of the Future Fantastic theme music, with added breathy semi-monotone vocals from the luscious-lipped one herself.
Jessica and I worked on the choreography in our front room, bearing in mind David's descriptions of "sexy in a contemporary dance fashion, sexy enough to be almost banned, but not quite, from MTV". There was a series of lifts and vertical 69s, lots of writhing around on our Ikea flooring and slaps and caresses with shades of sado-masochism.
On the day of the shoot, we arrived at the studio at 7am. On the set, David was talking to a woman in a baseball cap and jogging outfit. He introduced me, and the woman turned her bespectacled gaze on me. It was her, Gillian Anderson, I had seen that gaze of limpid scrutiny hundreds of times on the The X Files. She smiled politely and said "Hi", somewhat detached. She was paler and smaller than I'd imagined, and in her early- morning casuals, without make-up, she appeared incredibly normal, pretty with plump lips, but not necessarily a sex goddess.
Preparations then began in earnest. Jessica was the first to be rubberised. Lying in front of a huge jet-gas heater, she was covered in blue paint. We smeared on the latex with our hands - I painted her crotch, bottom and breasts and Steve, one of the make-up artists, did the rest. Then it was my turn. The worst parts of the process were applying the paint to the nipples (the evaporating ammonia chilled them and there was a weirdly uncomfortable sexual thrill involved) and feeling the latex dry, pulling my body hair.
After two hours, Jessica and I were beings of golden-blue. A further hour and a half later, Gillian reappeared, with her cortege of hair and make-up experts. She was transformed. The track suit and glasses had been replaced by a Wonderbra, see-through purple dress and velvet coat. She looked like the goddess we all know and (would like to) love.
After what seemed like hours of shooting Gillian, David called out, "Can we have the Wongbots, please!" The lights blazed, the music played and the camera rolled. Jessica and I hugged each other and began to sweat in the rubber under the heat of the lights. With my eyes closed, I felt Gillian's hand stroking my shoulders and back, her false nails scraping against the rubber, sending shivers down my spine. Cut. David gave some more directions and Gillian repeated the caresses. The sweat began to dribble on the inside of my rubber skin. I could feel Gillian place her hands on my body and kiss my shoulder, a soft but forceful kiss that almost threw me off balance.
People arrived on the set as Jessica and I did our routine, our rubber skins sticking and squeaking as we rubbed each other. As we tentatively jiggled, short and curlies being pulled in strange places, our audience grew. There was the band who wrote the music, their girlfriends, the record company representative, two of Gillian's friends and David's family. So much for a closed set.
During a short break, Gillian announced: "Hey! What's the matter with everyone. You're all so quiet, so serious. Let's have some fun here. Does anyone know a joke?" Everyone murmured but nobody volunteered. "No? Okay, here's one..." And she told a joke about a paranormal convention - not a very good one, but it was a brave effort.
After lunch, I found myself alone with Gillian. She sat in her chair smoking, staring glacially into space. I noticed a tattoo of two turtles on her ankle. Nervously, I asked her about it. She answered politely: "It's a Balinese symbol for good luck and direction." I asked if it worked. She said it seemed to. She smiled. Silence. I searched my mind for witticisms, small talk, a way of mentioning that I wouldn't half mind a job on the The X-Files, anything to keep up a conversation with one of the world's most famous women. Nothing.
After having her hair and make-up refreshed, Gillian sat in a gynaecological chair (her idea, apparently) and drew up a sheet between her legs. The camera slid up her body. It was a tricky shot, as she wasn't wearing any underwear, and the cameraman had to time his move tastefully.
My big moment had arrived. Gillian had to walk back to her gynaecological perch, and, as she turned, I had to pounce on her. We did the first few takes and each time I found myself almost nipple to nipple with the diminutive star, who was standing on a metal box. We did it again and I worked up the motivation in my mind: I was going to get her, I was filled with cybernetic lust for her, she was mine! She turned. I ran forward. I stubbed my toe on the box she was standing on. A flicker of sympathy crossed her face and I tried to stifle my whimpering.
A few hours later, after a complete restyle for Gillian, we were finally ready to shoot the bed scene. Gillian was sporting a new, less-styled hairdo and was dressed in a metallic-grey, silk negligee. She got in the bed and munched on some biscuits.
David gave directions: Gillian had to toss and turn in bed and I had to to crawl on top of the bed, towards her. "Okay, Paul, just move closer, that's it, I want you right on top of her," David whispered in my ear as the camera rolled. Gillian turned to face me, her lips and cleavage quivered as our mouths moved closer together. "Cut!" I hovered over Gillian as she turned away and grabbed some more biscuits. "Paul... you're finished. Thank you very much," said David. Everyone whooped, Gillian smiled and said: "Thanks a lot."
'Extremis' will be released on 28 April by VirginReuse content