On the Art of Name Dropping

I’ve been following the tweets and blogs of Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright recently, which are great value, though sometimes odd. But I’ve been hugely impressed at the casual way he name drops – ‘as Quentin (Tarantino) said to me and Tim Dalton’  kind of stuff.  Which you’d expect of course from a film-maker who’s broken into Hollywood; but it still impresses the hell out of me.

Neil Gaiman’s tweets are also good at casually name-dropping – he saw an episode of QI recently, in the actual Green Room. Thus implying, without saying so in as many words, that he and Stephen Fry are bosom buddies.


Sadly, name dropping is the one of the many things I’m hopeless at.  After working in film and television for a fair number of years, I’ve met my share of famous people.  But my casual name dropping anecdotes always manage to make me sound like, er, a dope.

For instance – I had dinner with Alan Davies and Josie Lawrence once, in a smart Soho restaurant -  and was seized with a violent coughing fit that lasted about twenty minutes.  Alan’s gracious good manners never ebbed, but as the quarter hour struck I could see a hint of terror in his eyes.  Josie, bless her, dodged my coughy spittle adeptly.

I met Harry Potter actor Richard Griffiths on the set of a TV show and we had a nice chat. (You see! That’s not a proper anecdote!)

I was once horrendously late for the screening of a David Puttnam film, and the man who ushered me brusqely to my seat was, um, David himself. And he recognised me of course, though gallantly never mentioned it again.

I once script edited the great and legendary Colin Welland, and started out with the conviction we would become firm friends and rugby mates.   Instead, I decided he was a pain in the arse, and we’ve never worked together since.

One time, I met the beautiful actress and impressionist Ronni Ancona in a London club, and momentarily forgot my own name.

HER: ‘Hi, I’m Ronni.’

ME: ‘Um, um, um.’

On another occasion, I almost met Richard Gere when he gave a talk at the National Film and Television School, where I had a part-time role as a tutor; but I didn’t.

I did meet Martin Sheen, several times, when he was doing a show at the Royal Court Theatre and I was working there.  And actually we had a few nice chats. But my only actual anecdote was about the time when I was watching a dress rehearsal of the play in which Sheen was the star (The Normal Heart), when a member of the backstage crew suffered a fit. All of us who were there backstage were frozen, not knowing what to do – but Sheen realised something was amiss, leaped off the stage, put the man in the recovery position, and galvanised the rest of us into helping. 

This is a great story about Martin Sheen of course - but I’m the Zelig in that anecdote. I just stood by and watched.

The people whose friendships I treasure tend to be other writers, who are famous among their peers and to their family, but not celebrity material.  I realise therefore I will never make the pages of Heat magazine; except, perhaps, in the back of shot, having wandered into a photograph on my way to the bar.

All in all, I name drop in much the same way that Inspector Clouseau drops priceless Ming vases.

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