You are shown into a large room. You are nervous. Your heart races, your palms are sweating lightly. Your chair sits facing a long table. Behind the table a panel of faces look at you coldly. A man gets up and stands next to you.
‘We are going to play Russian Roulette,’ he says. Is he crazy? Do they expect you to risk your life for a job? You look at the panel. They are serious. You look at the speaker. He forms his fingers into the shape of a gun.
‘This,’ he says, ‘is a six chamber revolver.’ He puts it to your temple. ‘It has one bullet in it.’ He jerks his finger. ‘Click. No bullet in that chamber. I’m going to pull the trigger again. Before I do that, do you want me to spin the cylinder of the revolver? You have three seconds to answer.’
The panel are looking at you intensely, analysing your reaction. Welcome to the favourite situation of high powered job interviewers. Answering complex questions under pressure. Can you give the right answer?
I was a teenage Indie kid. Dark blond hair cropped short at the sides and a fringe over one eye. Black jeans. Shirts the closest thing to psychedelic you could find in Ilford’s charity shops. Some army-surplus hooded jacket. Sneakers. You get the idea.
This was all back in the late 1980s when Margaret Thatcher ruled the land and indie music worshipped at the altars of The Pastels, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and the American noise scene. I smoked Rothmans, bought a lot of records, and sneaked into pubs that didn’t ask for ID.
It was the days of cider and black; lumps of dope in matchboxes; flicking through the LPs in HMV and the Virgin Megastore, Oxford Street; watching gigs at The George Robey, the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, the Town and Country Club; sitting on the floor next to girls at parties; wandering round Camden Market and buying Velvet Underground posters and bootleg cassettes of indie gigs in photocopied covers on bright coloured paper. I had a metallic red guitar I couldn’t play very well.
My school friend Simon Ward taught me the chords to Revolution by Spacemen 3 and I daydreamed about being in a band.
The 1988 action picture Die Hard launched Bruce Willis into stardom and gave Alan Rickman his first foothold in the movie business. It’s an action-packed 2 hours and 11 minutes of gunplay and wisecracks as Willis takes on a gang of German terrorists holding an entire office block hostage. An incomparable modern classic according to some; a well-paced slice of 80’s bloodlust to others.
And it almost starred Frank Sinatra.
The producers asked the 73-year-old singer and actor to take the lead role that would go to Bruce Willis. They had no choice thanks to a decent bit of 60s neo-noir called The Detective.
The story began back in 1966 when a New Yorker who’d been a private eye and published a book that didn’t sell much decided to write a detective novel about a man on the verge of losing everything.