A Galaxy of Stars

Bill Hootkins on Death Machine

A scene from 1993's Death Machine, directed by Steve Norrington, who went on to do Blade and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That's his nose and beard on the left. Next comes Bill, then Ely Pouget and holding the board, Tony Haynes my clapper loader. The guy holding the guns is 1st AD Kieron Phipps, and he is presumably holding them in this manner so an actor can easily reach out of shot, grab them and bring them into shot, pretending they were on a table or something. It's quicker and easier this way. When an actor walks through a door, the door never swings closed, but stays open. Why? There is almost always a propman down there holding it open - or if there isn't room, a propman holding a length of string holding it open. I have this feeling that no matter how technical films become, you'll always need a propman on a door.

Bill Hootkins

This series is about actors I've worked with who were memorable in some way. And no, there will only be the good stories about nice actors.

Bill Hootkins I worked with on 'Death Machine', a low-budget 1993 British cyberpunk horror we shot in Pinewood with Brad Dourif. Remember him from 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest'? Right. Him. Also present was Ely Pouget, John Sharian (who looks the same now as he did then) and Martin McDougall who had a shaved head and weird red streaks on his face, and who we all thought was a little nuts. He wasn't, he was a really sweet guy.

Bill was truly charming, and worked a lot. He'll probably be best remembered for either 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' or 'Star Wars'. He had a relatively small part in Death Machine but we loved him because he would readily banter with the crew, something which was seriously welcome as it was, well - how shall I put it? - a tense set for the most part. He did tons of voiceovers, radio work - you name it - in this fabulously fruity deep bass voice of his. Always happy to amuse, he did a stock Movie Trailer voiceover: "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss ten bucks goodbye".

In another lull in shooting, we asked him, of course, what it was like to destroy the Death Star because he'd been Red Six, 'Porkins' in the 1977 film. "Oh, did we win then?" he asked, "Do you know I've been wondering about that." (Porkins was killed, fans will recall, before Skywalker destroyed the Death Star). We all laughed, and he then told us that it was all a little odd, because he'd been on set for several days, trying to get George Lucas to decide on whether he'd be wearing a pig's snout or not. "what did you prefer?" I asked . "I didn't care one way or the other," he replied, "But I needed time to get into character."

It was generous of him; he must have told the story a thousand times - but to us, it was as though the first. An engaging and very funny man, who brightened the set whenever he was on it. I found out later he'd passed away in 2005 at the ridiculously unfair age of 57.

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