The first time I met Comedy Cafe owner Noel Faulkner was shortly before I got dragged down into a basement in north east London and had a gun shoved in my mouth while former boxer, hairdresser, comedian and now EastEnders actor and film director Ricky Grover shouted at me, “You’re a fucking cunt! You’re a fucking cunt! I’m gonna fuckin’ blow yer fuckin’ head off!”
He was not a happy man.
In fact, he had ‘lost it’ – his eyes were blazing at me, his voice had gone up in pitch, he was sweating and shaking with uncontrollable anger.
Noel Faulkner was supposed to be directing a documentary at the time, though I think he and the crew were left upstairs when I was dragged downstairs.
Your memory strangely forgets some details when you are being threatened with a bloody death by a large man who knows from professional experience how to hurt people.
In the sadly largely-reviled movie Killer Bitch, I played the part of a charity collector who was, I felt, unfairly gunned-down in the street while collecting money on the pavement for Help For Heroes. I was shot in the face by a rather grumpy character played by Big Joe Egan (although, off-screen Big Joe was extremely charming and I am sure will go far on Irish charm alone).
I am, alas, not in Ricky Grover’s new movie Big Fat Gypsy Gangster – a major casting blunder by the normally spot-on Ricky – but I was in a showreel version he shot several years ago to raise money for the project. At that time and, indeed, until very recently the movie project was called Bulla: The Movie and I played the part of a bank manager who was, I felt, unfairly brutalised by Ricky’s character Bulla.
“Can’t I play a more sexy role?” I asked Ricky at the time. “Is there no dashing romantic role for me?”
Ricky replied with, I felt, unnecessary honesty: “I’ve always thought you looked like a bank manager, John.”
I tried to take it as a compliment.
So that was how I ended up in the basement of a disused bank on some suburban Essex high road in north east London with a gun being stuck in my mouth – I think it might have been Woodford Green.
I have never seen the footage, but I think I carried it off with the style for which I am known.
The character I played is not in the actually-shot version of the film, although there is a brief similar scene in a bank vault towards the end. Perhaps Ricky is saving me for a romantic role in his next film.
But there is the thought lingering in dark recesses at the back of my mind that perhaps he cast me because he had always wanted to degrade me and stick the barrel of a gun in my mouth.
There are worse things which can happen to you in the wonderful world of film making.
Noel Faulkner has been replaced by an American.