It was what they call in baseball, an infield pop fly. The ball landed just beyond the ladies tee box (thankfully, I could keep my pants on), greeted with a collective sigh from the press corps. Personally, I found it rude for the press corps to make their “sigh” known; after all, this is a gentleman’s (and lady’s) game—Not to mention I was the one holding a golf club in my hand… (But, I’m thinking about what my Dad always says, “Never lose your temper, because no one will help you find it”)—so, I sucked it up and was already thinking to myself, “it could have been worse… right?” I was about to hand over the tee box to Sir Connery, but before I could take one step, another little white, despicable golf ball came rolling up to me accompanied with the words “try that again,” said the Knighted one. C’mon, Man, a Mulligan? – In front of all of these people??
I wish I could say there was something charming about the way he said it, his distinguished voice and all. I wish I could say it was so endearing—the fact that it came from the most famous James Bond of them all… but are you kidding me? I have to try this again in front of the entire press corps? Let me put it in perspective, a basketball metaphor (as I am watching the NBA Finals). Let’s say a championship basketball game is on the line; your team is down by one point. There are zero seconds on the clock, but you have two free throws to win the game. Miss both, and you lose. Make one, you tie. Make both and you win. Which do you think is the more difficult scenario? Taking the first free throw or taking the second free throw after you have missed the first one? If you chose the second one, you are right—and if you can imagine yourself shooting that second one, with a championship on the line, then you can imagine how I felt at that moment. A mulligan?—who invented that concept anyway? Maybe it was the Scots after all.
So, here we go again. I teed the ball up, this time a little lower—I mean who really cares at this point, right? I mean, even if I top the ball, it will probably go further than my first drive, right? I went through the same routine—the practice swings… then locked my sights on that ball same as before. Only this time it was a little bit different. It wasn’t the same despicable golf ball that I used before (probably one I fished out of the water during a previous round), no, this one was different. This one had Titleist 007 written on it! But at this point I was beyond the point of no return. My swing was in motion, my hips were already rotating forward and I was going to hit or miss that ball no matter what it said…
I don’t know what it was about that ball, but that Mulligan traveled a Prague kilometer (which in these conditions; beats the pants off of a New York mile). More importantly, “where was the clicking of the cameras this time around?” —as I held my finishing pose a little longer than usual…
Then, came Sir Connery’s turn, the moment everyone was waiting for. I had a Mulligan burning a hole in my pocket just in case he duffed it. But immortals like Sir Connery don’t accept Mulligans because they don’t need Mulligans. He took his stance behind the ball– all 6’4”, 220 pounds of him, and wearing nothing more than a short sleeve shirt and vest (I could swear even the rain was too intimidated to fall on him)… he took a swing that may have knocked the 007 right off the ball (I didn’t check it). The ball traveled like a laser beam, right down the middle of the fairway… and, right past my ball—I hit it about 220 meters, he about 240, which in those conditions is “crushing it.”
Thankfully, the press corps was not permitted to cover past the first tee, and because of the conditions we had the entire course to ourselves. As magical as the rest of the day was, that opening tee shot is what comes to mind when I want to share a story about meeting Sir Connery for the very first time. I am not going to bore you to death (unless you ask me to) on how the rest of the round went (though it was certainly anything but boring to me)… and there are some things I learned about Sir Connery on that day and the many times we played over the next four months—but certain memories should be kept sacred in order for them to last forever. Reminds me of a quote, one of our very talented directors, Christian Riebe told me:
Over the course of the film and throughout that magical summer, Sir Connery and I became very good friends. I know for sure I learned much more from him than he learned from me. He made me a better golfer, a better person, a better production service company— he taught me what it was like to work with the big dogs. And, that’s what someone special, someone Knighted, does for people; they are the tide that floats all boats. I was lucky to have been one of those boats in his harbor. I was lucky enough to be part of what would be his very last film in a career that spanned longer than my lifetime. I can look back on it now with a smile, on those words from Fred Baron, “Make sure Sir Sean Connery is happy at all times.” I smile for so many reasons, foremost at how easy and fun that job was—Sir Connery was so unassuming, so low maintenance, so much fun—he had sooooo many great stories, WOW, what a life he lived—what a life he lives. But, I also smile because “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” may go down as one of the most difficult productions in the history of filmmaking (right up there with “Gone with the Wind”)—Blogs for another day, I guess. But, mostly, I look back and smile because I simply cannot help it. It’s just one of those very special memories in life. Neither Fred nor I lost our jobs, thankfully. And I never told Fred just how easy a job he had assigned to me (it was better for me if he thought I was working really hard at it). Meeting Sir Sean Connery and getting to know him was a real privilege… and a helluva lot of fun.
And if you’re one of those people who just cannot sleep at night without a clear-cut moral of the story? TAKE THE MULLIGAN—you never know if you’re ever going to get another one