I was in the shower last night.
Except for my underpants of course...you never know when the fire alarm might go off and you have to make a quick dash for the safety of the street. Imagine that. Your house on fire and you naked on the street with all the firemen staring at the length of your hose. Terrifying.
Just as I prepare to work up a real lather with the Imperial Leather my telephone rings.
I popped my head out of the shower to see who it was and I didn’t recognise the number.
Normally I don’t answer the ‘phone if I don’t know who it is but on this occasion I jumped out of the shower and answered.
“Hello, this is Paul Laird”
“Hi Paul, this is Ben Miller”
At this point I felt very exposed.
I had met Ben Miller...actor, comedian, writer and director Ben Miller...at a screening of “The Crab” a few days earlier and given him my card and asked him if he would mind answering a few questions for me. He had said sure and I had, reasonably, expected never to hear from him again. Now here he was on the other end of the ‘phone and I was naked, save for my soggy underpants.
In the interests of protecting my carefully crafted “Oh, yeah, I’m a proper journalist me” persona I decided not to tell Ben about the wet pants or the wet anything else. Nor did I tell him that I had never conducted an interview over the ‘phone before and did what I do best...faked it.
Ben is here at the EIFF and is a jury member so I asked him what film he would choose to close the festival if it were the final festival ever.
“I actually think I would choose “The White Ribbon”. It’s the best film I’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s so technically accomplished but it also has something important to say. Some directors are technically very good but have nothing to say or have something to say but no real ability, Hanneke though manages both. It really is an amazing film, “Hidden” was another of Hannekes films I loved but “The White Ribbon” just addressed a series of important issues about race and outsiders...big subjects and themes like what exactly we did in the 20th century. I think it’s a really important film.”
At the other end of the spectrum Ben what film would you play for Judas, trapped for all eternity at the bottom of Dantes “Inferno”. How would you torture him?
“Ah, I have to be diplomatic here really don’t I? It would have to be something without a soul. The sort of film that, on the surface perhaps, appears appetising but is actually just an exercise in plot points and demographics. Gosh, this is tricky...I’m going to go with “Sex and the City 2”. I mean, anything with “2” in the title isn’t done for love is it? Or art. I like the idea of a moral man like Judas, he was a disciple after all, being confronted with references to Jimmy Chu shoes too.”
I like the idea of crafting fantasy films featuring the people I’m interviewing...what about “The Ben Miller Story”, who would you cast to play the lead role?
“Rob Brydon. It has to be. There is no other man for the role.”
And what about the soundtrack, what music would you have playing over the opening and closing credits?
“While I do like “pop” music I think I would want something scored, so I would probably ask someone like Christian Henson, who scored “Huge” (this is Bens new feature film) or maybe Mark Mothersbaugh, formerly of “Devo”, who scores most of the music for Wes Andersons movies”
At this point the true extent of how bizarre this whole situation was; me, naked and wet trying to appear all calm and professional while interviewing a performer who I really respect and who I would like to be asking more searching questions of but unable to do so as I was holding a ‘phone in one hand and typing his replies to the, frankly, fatuous, questions I was asking in the other became too much and so I thanked Ben Miller for being kind enough to give me some of his time and went back to the shower.
Ben Miller...a funny man and, clearly, a very nice and a thoughtful man.