Letter from Nigel Steggall, : "The girls got a bit giggly"
Hi, my name is Nigel. I live in Perth, Western Australia, and originated from England and spent most of my youth in Africa. I knew people who worked on “Zulu” (film) and met James Booth when I was directorial assistant on “The Hellions”.
James Booth was the most popular actor on the set. All the extras and local yokels looked up to him and the girls got a bit giggly over him. He was pretty menacing as “Jubal”.
On the setting of the film, it was decided to film
at Brits, a hick town north/east of Johannesburg. Filming was done in the Asian
Indian centre of town, as it looked a la western somewhat. Street lighting
poles were removed and the Indian merchants were promised a blacktop (tarmacadam)
L-----O-----N-----G after the film was shot did they get their lights
back and a strip of tar! Also one merchant was a bit ‘miffed’ and sent his son
around with a kerosene (paraffin) can with instructions that it was a drum. I
spent a lot of time ‘amusing’ him so that it wouldn’t be on the sountrack!
Some of the film was shot using a portable generator powered by a V8 Cadillac
motor. The operator was an Italian and spoke no English. Some wag told all the
starlet wannabe’s and film groupies that he was a billionairre (excuse the extra
‘r’) and that he had financed the film and the generator was his hobby. He was
just a fraction less popular than James…he couldn’t believe his luck!
Some of the bit part actors were amusing. The guy who played the organ was called Louis Levy (not the famed British orchestra leader) and he was somewhat eccentric but looked the part and was an accomplished keyboardist. Ricky Arden, a golden-voiced elocutionist, played the part of the gambler. Water was thrown from above to drench him...by a buddy who was an ex-wrestler. The latter thoroughly enjoyed this task. Ricky had the hots for the make-up girl but the 'engagement' petered out. He used to take her into halls and belt out Shakespeare stuff.
The Zulu cart driver was a venerable old gentleman who was the cleaner in a building used by one of the casting agents... a fantastic Jewish guy called Barnabus Barnabus Smith (a great buddy of mine). Barney had been struggling with his business until “The Hellions” came along. Zena Walker, the second female lead, was described erroneously by one of Barney's hangers-on as a “lousy actress.” Somehow she found out.. It cost him a large bunch of roses and a groveling apology!
One of the many assistants to one of the directors was somewhat bombastic and not well liked. One day at lunch he got up and stretched to get some succulent tit-bit across the table. A sheath of filthy photos fell out from inside his jacket. He fled. End of story. I was called upon to fill his place. So I moved from a bit-part actor getting a pre-packed lunch to sitting with the stars under the marquee tent!
There was another guy who was a stand-in who shot himself with a low calibre pistol. Apparently he leapt from the back of a truck and also spilled the gun from inside of his jacket!!! He was not badly hurt (arm in a sling). Still, it looked quite funny, him standing in with his arm in a cast.
Some of the hillbillies/local yokels thought the film was 'real'. The action director Bob Simmonds leapt through a glass door and landed under a metal washbasin...Gashed his eye. The S. African actor/director Jamie Uys started off with one camera and an African servant trained to film him. Another S.A. film, “Zulu,” was also quite “hairy.” The Zulu extras were somewhat carried away and their assegais had to be fitted with rubber tips, as a lot of people would’ve been speared. The Canadian actor Al Mulloch got a game of acey-deucey going and skinned a lot of the wannabee's.
The cast must’ve signed over a million
autographs…as it was a giant novelty…..A full blooded feature film in the back
Nigel C. Steggall