The first morning after my wedding, I found myself donning torn and muddied clothes and playing a zombie in a German language children’s film. I wasn’t amused. I had been roused in the wee hours and dragged to Spreepark, an abandoned (and not just a little creepy) amusement park in the heart of Berlin, where the wind was whipping around with a vengeance, and the holes stitched together with little bits of cloth that I was wearing were doing little to keep me warm. The finery of the wedding day had been washed away in a flood of green make-up and hairspray. I caught sight of myself in a mirror and almost stumbled back in fright. Then, I watched as the husband pranced around the place, looking like a mirthful leprechaun, as I practiced my zombie walk. It wasn’t really the sort of start I’d had in mind for our marriage, and I was in this peculiar situation because of him. He’d needed to work the morning after our wedding.
He wanted me with him, and it wasn’t enough to just have me in the vicinity — I was to be an integral part of the production. This was achieved by converting me into a movie extra, playing a zombie. “You’ll have fun,” he smiled at me. How little he knew his wife. A motley bunch soon surrounded me, who weren’t at all like me — they had wanted to be zombies. Some were practising grunting, others were perfecting the double-jointed way in which zombies stumble around, and still more were contorting
their facial muscles in a manner that rendered them twisted yet expressionless. I just sat there, rather surly, wallowing in zombie self-pity. That didn’t last long, though, because I was soon rounded up with the rest of the herd and dunked in the middle of some sort of swamp. It was here that we, a rather closely-knit zombie group, were supposed to protect a little zombie girl from the evil that was likely to befall her for befriending a human boy. Humans were icky. The young ones needed to learn.
When the camera was rolling, I stretched my hands out, sort of hung my head to one side, let my eyes roll about in the sockets and stumbled along. “Try and grunt a little,” the efficient assistant director, complete with clipboard and headset, said to me. And, so I did, but I did it without letting my teeth show. After all, I’d just escaped the clutches of a make-up artist who’d tried to paint my teeth green. It wasn’t the colour I had a problem with, just the fact that he was using the same brush for the teeth of all the zombies. I contemplated giving into the reflex action that my diaphragm was displaying and just hurling
all over the place. But, did zombies hurl? I wasn’t sure.
We got through two scenes. I wasn’t having fun. But, following the example of my fellow zombies, I tried to live up to Stanislavski’s line, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors.’ I obediently shuffled along and grunted. I caught sight of the husband doubled up with laughter somewhere behind the camera. I was tempted to run right at him and throw a couple of punches. As the day wore on, and as he saw his dearly beloved having to shuffle through muck, shiver in the cold and be stung by a variety of bugs, he relented. “I’m so sorry,” he mouthed. You certainly will be, I thought.
At the end of the day, as a sympathetic make-up artist helped me get all the gunk o my face, “Will we be seeing you tomorrow?” she asked before I left. “Not as a zombie,” I replied. The next day, I tagged along with my significant other to the sets, where, to my surprise, Lou Bega was guest starring as a zombie who was partial to Mambo music. I was armed with a volume of Sherlock Holmes to while away the time. The detective from Baker Street has always been an inspiration to me. He taught me the remarkable power of observation, and it was also Holmes who taught me to believe in karma, because in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, the bad guys got what they deserved. And, so it was with an amused, yet philosophical, bent of mind that I took in the news that there was a scene that day which required a zombie to pull stunts on a quad bike. Seeing as the husband was the stunt driver, it was his turn to have make-up slathered on his face, and be transformed into the undead. What goes around does indeed come around. I didn’t say I told you so. It wasn’t needed.