"My blood pressure rockets north!"

Film Books In the self explanatory titled The Wah-Wah Diaries: The Making Of A Film, actor Richard E. Grant records the process of producing his autobiographical directorial debut, from development hell through to distribution. It’s very much a companion piece to his earlier With Nails which described the earlier part of his on-screen career and pleasingly features that same honest voice which unlike many such journals really suggests that the reader is gaining an insight into Grant’s thought processes and not simply being fed a candy-floss machine full of fluff.

This is about a man who is burning to tell in celluloid this unusual story of his early upbringing in Swaziland (familiar to anyone whose read his earlier book) which was filled with incidents which, if they were put into a movie, no one would believe, such as the impromptu moment during his father’s funeral when the priest climbed into the grave, shouting up and down and entirely determined to raise papa from the dead. Some of the most effect moments occur as relives his childhood during shooting, setting all of the key scenes at actual locations and employs figures from his past as extras.

The surprising backbone of the book is the battle of wills between Grant and his producer, the exotically named Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, who as he frequently jokes has one French film under her belt which was a flop and seems as least in Grant’s description of their battle, to have no realistic idea of the boundaries producer’s job (frequently asking the director to intervene when things have gone oval fruit shaped) or what the word ‘deadline’ means. Time and again, Grant is hampered by her non-communication and apparently empty promises to the extent that spends much of the time referring to her simply as MC and trying as best he can to work with intermediaries.

But in the end, fortunately for us, it’s during these and other development and production escapades that the book is most entertaining. The casting process in most films is usually shrouded in mystery, except on those rare occasions when an actor has been replaced on a high profile film (see Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight). Here everything is laid bare as various drafts of the script are sent to a diverse range of potential cast members, some of whom are just right for their suggested roles and there’s real page turning excitement as you will Grant to be allowed his perfect cast. As Grant explains, a film in the order of Wah-Wah simply doesn’t get financed unless ‘names’ such as Gabriel Burne are attached, and they’re so sought after that a change in the shooting schedule of another film can be catastrophic.

In the end, despite finding distribution and a round of media interviews, Wah-Wah did not set the box office alight which, in hindsight, gives these diaries a melancholic tone. The shear effort of making the film, from finance to casting to shooting to post production and then it’s seen by relatively few people on release (grossing just over forty thousand pounds in this country on its opening weekend), blunting somewhat all of the mini-victories that occur throughout. But it’s difficult not to describe Grant’s book as a success story since in the end, he manages the task at hand, and creates the film he wants and it’ll still be out there on dvd and television waiting to be discovered.

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