Hollywood is a beautiful town, full of beautiful people and Lee Van Cleef. But it has its ugly side and the name of that ugly side is prejudice. George Kennedy has warned me not to speak out. ‘Neddy,’ he said, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you,’ but something must be said and I’m the man who’s going to say it. I’ve seen racism and I didn’t like it. I’ve regularly been accused of sexism. But there’s a new ‘ism’ that we must get some do-gooder, maybe George Clooney, to organize a telethon about, and that is ageism. My name is Sir Edwin Fluffer, and this is my story.
Whenever I get a phone call from my agent, Julius ‘Gripper’ Levy, I’m always filled with excitement unless it’s about one of my ex-wives wanting money. This time he had an audition for me. ‘It’s based on a book,’ he said. ‘There’s no script as such, but lots of nudity.’ It sounded quite arty to me and already I could hear dear Tommy Hanks saying those immortal words ‘and the Academy Award goes to…’. The picture was called Fifty Shades of Grey, which is exactly the sort of project a veteran of stage and screen like myself should be involved in after missing out on both The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. I rolled up to the audition ready to give them the first act from my one man-touring version of Chicago, but before I’d even said a word the producer took one look at me and said that word every actor hates to hear: next! I just picked up my trousers and left.
I don’t mind not getting the part, even if ‘Twinky’ Redford ends up doing it. I don’t mind that I could hear them sniggering and saying ‘wasn’t that Edwin Fluffer?’ as I left. But I do mind not even being given the chance to show them what I could do. After all the years I’ve given to this industry I thought that common courtesy was the least I deserve, but apparently I was wrong. I’ll bounce back, like I bounced back after they got Dick Burton to replace me in Cleopatra. And next time I won’t get mad, I’ll get even.
I got mad when Paul Newman ate the boiled eggs I’d brought for my lunch on Cool Hand Luke, but that’s another story…
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