Last week, I took two Corona tests in preparation for my role as an SS officer in the forthcoming Netflix movie Munich ’38. The first one was on Monday, before the costume fitting. The second one was on Wednesday, the day before the shoot. The Wednesday one took place in a trailer on a movie set and was only a 10-minute walk from my apartment. I thought this would be the location for the filming I was to be doing the next day and started thinking about how I’d be so close to home, I might even be able sneak home for lunch. The only problem with that idea was that I would be wearing full-on Nazi regalia, and might draw a little attention to myself, not to mention get me killed or arrested.
I didn’t need to worry about it as it turned out.
The shooting took place the next day at 7 a.m., and was all the way out in Lichterfelde, a 45-minute journey from my place. I got there in 3 hours of sleep, if even. I can never sleep if I feel I HAVE TO. Too excitable, I guess. Can’t shut off my crazy brain. Luckily, I wasn’t tired at all. I think I’m getting used to all these days of 3- and 4-hours sleep. The coffee of course helped. Even the mud they were dishing out on the set. I drank a cup as I got in my costume and got waxed. I say ‘got waxed,’ what I mean is got my hair styled and sculpted by a make-up artist who had no idea what she was doing so she overcompensated for the fact by shoveling great quantities of wax in my hair and troweling it into position, as though it were cement or mortar.
We didn’t have to sit around for too long before being called up to the set. It took place in the huge, softly lit ballroom with a long candlelit table in the middle. The table sat something like thirty-five people, and the seat I was assigned was at either the head or foot of it, depending on your opinion. In the middle of it were the main actors, none that I recognized, but I did recognize the characters they were playing: Hitler, Himmler and Goering.
The scene we sat through was very short, but was shot over and over again, from at least eight different angles, so it took several hours to do. My task during the scene was to sit at the foot of the table drinking my make-believe wine and pretending to eat the cold mushrooms and Knödel on my plate. When I wasn’t doing that, I was pantomiming in German with the two Nazis to the right of me, a thick-set, gray-haired Russian and a Frenchman who looked like a cross between John Barrowman and Charlie Chaplin playing Hitler. The Russian had a remarkably stoic disposition. There was nothing about him that indicated a sense of humor, or charm, or spunk, or verve. He was grave as a cow of the field, and when he turned to me while we were pantomiming with each other, all I saw was this big heavy almost unresponsive cow’s head that seemed much more suited for munching on grass in a meadow than make-believing it was a Nazi. The Frenchman, on the other hand, seemed a better fit to the thespian profession and, what with his slicked-back hair and the little Hitler mustache they’d carved out on his top lip, was a very convincing SS officer. He also had a sense of humor. I didn’t realize it at first because he was directing most of his attention to the Nazi next to him, but when the camera changed angles, he moved his chair closer to the Russian and me and things started getting comical. The humor began with the Russian’s right hand. While pantomiming, he would hold it out in front of him in an upside-down fist, opening it as though it were an exploding mushroom cloud, and peering at us both with that dull, stolid death’s head. There’s no way, I thought, this guy has a soul. No wonder they cast him as a Nazi. The next scene I decided to do something like he was doing, only more exaggerated. I pumped my fist in the air and gave the Frenchman a fierce expression. “MACHT,” I whispered, angrily. “POWER!” Then I slammed my fist on the table. “DO NOT FAIL,” I hissed, and he burst out laughing. The next scene, he did something similar with his fist, and pretty soon the three of us were all clenching our fists and pounding the table, causing a great commotion in the blurry background. “SUCCEED OR SUCK EGGS!” I kept saying. “ACHIEVE!” And growing angrier and more animated with each scene. I was truly livid. But before I had a chance to do anything rash, like smash a champagne glass over the Russian’s head, the scene was called, and we were done for the night.
I said goodbye to Hitler, Himmler and Goering. I said goodbye to the Russian and the Frenchman. Then I handed in my outfit and headed home, my hair looking like a wax sculpture and remaining that way through many showers and blowdrying sessions.
It took me a good three days to get it all out, and only when it was gone did I realize that I’d wasted it. I should’ve used to it make Christmas candles or grease the door hinges around the apartment.
Maybe the hairdresser knew what she was doing after all.