I could go on for pages, because the cast is very distinguished, but there is one special actor I must mention even though he really is not very good at all. I mean myself. Yes, I have been cast as an Anglo-French merchant in Cherbourg, a friend of Jack's long-lost, red-haired family.

Even before I arrived, I was ordered to stop shaving. Few medieval men shaved every day, so most of the male cast have beards or stubble.

I was fitted with some of the medieval clothing I have often written about but never actually put on: an undershirt, hose, boots and a heavy overtunic of brown-and-green wool. By the way, the temperature in Budapest was 30 degrees Centigrade, so we were all sweating like medieval pigs.

My hair was condemned as "too modern." I must remember to tell my hairdresser, Matthew at Nicky Clarke's—he will be pleased. But for the film it had to be combed forward and curled under in a style that would definitely cause me to be refused admission to any decent London club.

In the makeup trailer, I sat next to Matthew Macfadyen, who was being made to look 70 years old in preparation for a scene set late in the story.

Although I was playing a very small part, my makeup was not simple. I got a slightly blotchy tan, the reddened cheeks of a man who does business in taverns and some grubby smears because medieval people did not wash much. My hands and wrists were similarly made up, and I even got some artificial dirt under my fingernails.

My scene was with Aliena and Jack—Hayley Atwell and Eddie Redmayne—and Jack's grandmother, Piroska Molnar, plus numerous Hungarian extras, all with red hair. My role was to reveal part of the mystery of Jack's past. The scene was short—it will probably be less than a minute of screen time. It took two and a half hours to film.

For the first time, I realized how hard it is to remember your lines and act them at the same time. But I noticed director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan smiling, so I can't have been too bad. And, after all, I was telling a story, so I only had to be myself.

Next blog: Ken Follett on casting Ian McShane and The Pillars of the Earth movie cast


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