A Return to London

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

I was just in London making a movie for an Indian/British co production company. The movie and company are entitled Provoked. It’s about a young Indian woman (played by Aishwarya Rai) who, after years of abuse from her husband, is “provoked” into setting him on fire.

Kind of reverse suttee as a friend pointed out. I play her defense attorney. This means in the British legal system, that I am a barrister in the court, and get to wear the funny wig and robe, and say “my lord” a la John Cleese, though he of course says “m’lud.” I suggested this pronunciation to the general assembly of lovely Indian camera crew and Brit actors, but was voted down, unfortunately.

I lived in London fifteen or so years ago, was a poor (impoverished) student, and then a poor actor, signed a record deal with phonogram, and became a not quite so poor actor/singer in a rock band. I left quite suddenly (I had fallen in love with an exotic American) and moved far away from old blighty never to return for an extended trip, except for a brief stint making a movie called The Winslow Boy.

So it was a nostalgic walk down memory lane being there to work again. For some reason I decided not to go on the tube. I had never liked it. I suppose the truth is, that apart from being horribly claustrophobic, I always seemed to attract undesirables. I regularly was pinched, pilfered, subject to unseemly exhibitions and generally harassed. It was all just too exciting. I had to stop. I bought a second-hand fiat uno, and whizzed around London, following cab routes, learning little pieces of “the knowledge,” and sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, happy to be above ground.

So, visiting in my guise as an American, I took cabs, and toured London in style (very expensive, but worth it) and viewed all the old places where this or that happened with such and such, or so and so. Every memory came back so vividly. It almost seemed as though I had never left.

I saw old friends. My best friend, a London actress, had gotten in touch with two of our old school chums from Edinburgh, who were now living In London. We hadn’t seen these guys since we were seventeen! We had dinner at the Critereon in Leicester square, all gilt and candlelight and champagne. And of course we were grown up, but still we talked about old school friends. Who had done well, who was a prostitute, who was in jail, who was dead.

After several glasses of champagne, one chap brought up 9/11. He said how it had come to symbolize something in Britain, something that he couldn’t quite explain very well, but reading between the lines it sounded to me as if he meant, in headline form, “arrogant America gets come uppance.” In a haze of jet lag and alcohol, I emotionally inquired of him whether three thousand innocents really deserved to die because of American foreign policy, and suggested he had no idea what he was talking about, and that perhaps maybe he shouldn’t be such an ass. Things are a bit of a blur from that point on, but I do remember we all kissed and made up. None of us had changed much, certainly not temperamentally; we were all nice people, fond of each other, with a shared history, and too much champagne.

It was a lovely evening.

Back home in sunny LA, my six-year-old son asked me, “Mom, who is the person who has the power to take over the world?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“God,” he said, “but God doesn’t want to, because God is not evil.”

I switched on the news and learnt of the bombs in the tube and on the bus in London. I immediately phoned and e-mailed my family and friends, many of who live in the vicinity of the blasts. Everyone was okay, thank God. I thought about the people who were not.

I used to think it was a big world, but of course it’s not. It is, as we all know in moments of wonder, a small one.