Sebastiane and the dodgy producers
The cast and crew are assembled at Derek Jarman’s apartment in London, prior to leaving for the airport. Government policy at the time limited the amount of actual cash you could take out of the country, so ‘The Producers’ of the film hatched a plan, each member of the cast would secrete huge amounts of cash about their person. I don’t know the collective amount, but I did know that if we were searched, it was straight to jail.
We fly to Sardinia via Rome without incident and check into our hotel in Cagliari a small village on the southern tip of the island. The next morning the costume truck arrived and we are all decked out in Roman armour and togas. I’m delighted to be wearing Richard Burtons costumes as featured in the epic Antony and Cleopatra. But, there’s a setback, the people of the village are an inquisitive lot and are hellbent on finding out the nature of our business there.
Derek Jarman’s film, “Sebastiane” centres around a young Pretorian centurion during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in 32 AD Rome. The centurion, or St. Sebastian as we now know him, is a favourite of the emperor, who becomes enraged when his young lover turns to christianity. The senate in Rome would have Sebastian thrown to the lions, however, the emperor is more lenient and simply banishes Sebastian to an outpost far from Rome. Once there, he falls amongst a motley crew of exiles under the command of Severus, a brutal centurion. The story culminates in the death of Sebastian, an iconic figure depicted throughout the ages as a homoerotic figure, naked and tied to a wooden stake then shot through with arrows.
The controversy of the films content would have had the Italians up in arms, so a way of placating the local feeling had to be made. Once again up step ‘The Producers’ and some more of their illicit practises. A press conference is called at which the producers simply lied through their teeth, saying that the movie was a semi-doc centering around early Roman occupancy of Sardinia. I was then approached by ‘The Producers’ to deploy other session musicians to the island and perform a free concert by way of a diversion. Despite the minor setbacks, filming continued at a pace with instructions to never mention the S word.