New Musical Express, September 20, 1986

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A Fistful of Pesetas


Lucy O'Brien

In the badlands of Spain, a strange scenario .. Joe Strummer is shooting everyone in sight, Shane Macgowan has been killed, Elvis Costello is serving coffee ... and Lucy O'Brien is hiding her tape-recorder. Yes, the NME presents live action from the set of Alex Cox's spag-B, Straight To Hell.

Monday: To Hell With A Bullet

6.30AM. Decidedly sparse summerwear packed into a bag and I'm off.

The plane journey bounds into a good start when my foot becomes a trip wire to the toilet. Air hostess gives me murderous looks.

In the club class sits Cilia Black. I ask for a graphology sample and she showbusinessly responds. On her way to a blind date in Torremolinos no doubt.

1.15 we arrive. A barefoot in sandals man arrives with a Straight To Hell T-shirt and drives me the hairpin bends from Malaga to Almeria, a clean undisturbed town in the southern foothills. A freelance butler in his spare time, he regales me with tales of the Royal Family and Charles & Di's infinite capacity to say "Fuck you".

We reach Blanco Town at sundown to see a hold up in the hardware store and George in his Rambo gear. All is chaos. Cameras, countless people, and producer Eric Fellner saying "Hi Lucy", smelling sweetly of jacuzzis and the credit card tax bracket. But Straight To Hell is a cheap B budget film costing less than $1 m and shot in three weeks, a socialist Cox enterprise with every participant on 6 profit-sharing point system.

A man bawls out the general hubbub: "Would you be quiet! We're about to shoot!" He has sunblonde hair, a headscarf, shorts and wild eyes. Some California beach bum, I surmise. "That's Alex Cox." Oh.

10pm and we're in the hotel. Me making some mad attempt to talk to Cait O'Riordan and Declan McManus, their arms entwined on a sofa and table piled high with drinks. "The last thing you need in a story like this is a verbatim report," says Elvis, switching off my walkperson. "It'll be a hard job getting a straight answer out of anybody here. They're crazy from the heat."

"Just observe," Cait advises.


Tuesday: Mad Dogs & Englishmen...

Alarm call 7am and I'm back on set. The 40-minute drive from the Hotel Residencia Grand to the location is a balm for disordered nerves. Once out of town the mountains of the Sierra Nevada roar gracefully as if to be appreciated. Apart from film furore the main features of this mini-Hollywood area are dust and silence. It is one man's job to regularly stir up the dust before each take, but often the wind, unbidden sends it eerily scudding.

I 'hang out'. Breakfast with Cait and Declan is characterised by my spilling tea all over them. They are very polite. Five minutes later Xander Schloss, actor and Circle Jerk, sends his skimming too. I don't feel so bad. The two McManuses strum show tunes and tell me to cover myself with sun block. Elvis delivers a version of The Hollies' 'King Midas In Reverse'.

We walk from the 'tents' fa makeshift food area) to the first take of the day — the killing of Shone McGowan. He plays Bruno, key member of the resident McMahon clan who destroy any stranger daring to come into town. Religious fundamentalists, they don't drink, swear or smoke — their only addictions being coffee (which they steal and sell contraband) and killing. Simms (alias Joe Strummer), Norwood (Sy Richardson), Willy (Dick Rude) and Velma (Courtney Love) are the disruptive quartet of crooks who arrive from afar to clash with the locals. Here, Strummer ("I've been waiting all night to do this") shoots Shane. "Don't look at the camera", shouts director. And soon we're engaged in real pathos as Shane trundles up behind an abandoned Chevrolet and with three short sharp shots Strummer sends him to the ground. Once dead, Zorra Pogue lifts his head and chuckles an irresistable wheezy Muttley laugh -clapped out teeth 'n' all.

Lunchtime. Joe Strummer and I trudge to the tents, my recorder in hand. Have you found acting difficult?

"It's all timing. Obviously music helps 'cos you get into timing and singing."

Do you see much difference between your approach and that of trained actors?

"They keep five or six things running at one moment. The really good ones don't get out of the frame or block other people, they still remember what they're supposed to be, the way they're gonna say their stuff and the reason for saying it. I've learned about their control."

In working for Cox he says "it's best to keep quiet, know your lines, and do it really good." I wonder if Simms is a heroic spagetti Humphrey Bogart but "not really, he's a dirty rat, a poseur who knows his guns but when he comes to getting it right he's pretty damn useless."

We park ourselves at a table. Are you writing any songs now?

"I sing about England all the time", Strummer says. "It took three people and a motor scooter down in Almeria to make me realise what a trick they've been playing on us all these years. I was outside a cafe thinking of England, and suddenly this scooter went past with a big fat woman sitting side saddle, bum sticking out over the pillion, guy driving with a fag in his mouth and a kid standing in front of him on the


Remaining text and scanner-error corrections to come...

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New Musical Express, September 20, 1986


Lucy O'Brien reports on the filming of Straight To Hell.

Images

1986-09-20 New Musical Express page 36.jpg1986-09-20 New Musical Express page 37.jpg
Page scans.

1986-09-20 New Musical Express page 39.jpg
Page scan.


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