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What the actress said to the artist

Nick Hallard may have a successful career as an artist but it didn't help when he asked Kate Winslet out for a pint.

Jobs as a film extra have seen Nick appear in movies starring Kenneth Branagh, Jim Broadbent, Charlton Heston and Dame Judi Dench.

He has most recently worked on BBC2 drama Babyfather but it was his first job, on Branagh's version of Hamlet, which saw him come face to face with leading lady Kate.

Nick, 28, from Broadwater, Worthing, was a student at the University of London when a friend introduced him to the world of a film extra on the movie, being shot at Blenheim Palace.

After filming one day, he saw Kate, who was playing Ophelia.

Having said hello and given her a weak smile, he asked her out for a pint.

She replied: "Oh, I'd love to, really, but Ophelia's dying tomorrow. I have to be up really early and I'm staying on set tonight."

For filming, Nick donned a carpet coat which had been used in the film Dr Zhivago to become a member of Fortinbras' army storming the palace.

He said: "There were about 100 extras, mostly from the Forces.

"The film stock being used was 70mm, which is very expensive, so the crew was not exactly delighted to see that after the first take one of the extras had stormed the castle with his hat on back to front.

"By the end of the day's shoot we had signed up with the extras' agency and were asked back.

"We marched, stormed and charged for nine hours a day but for the most part just waited in sweltering coats, ankle deep in fake snow.

"We'd talk to anyone on the cast, which was very impressive, a film student's dream. There was Jack Lemmon, Julie Christie, Gerard Depardieu, Richard Briers, Charlton Heston, Derek Jacobi, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Judi Dench to name the ones I remember.

"We were among the first people ever to be digitally matted into the same shot (five times), so it appeared there were 500 extras instead of 100. The technique is used all the time today.

"We started turning up on days we knew we weren't needed. I made tea for Branagh, much to his amusement, and I carried vicious-looking weaponry around, actually made of foam.

"The final day at Blenheim was the day of Hamlet's lying in state. An overhead crane shot would pull back on Branagh's face in an ornate coffin and then pull back further to reveal the palace courtyard, covered in snow, with 100 cloaked figures standing guard, about 80 per cent of whom were cardboard cut-outs.

"However, Branagh had to see each take, as he was directing and acting, but could only sit bolt upright in his coffin after every take and view it on a small playback monitor.

"Somehow, the tabloids found out and were taking photographs outside the perimeter fence of Branagh sitting in his coffin watching TV."

Nick has also appeared in The Borrowers, starring Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent.

On average Nick, who paints murals and pub signs for a living, earns £80 a day as an extra, but can pocket £150, especially when there is danger money involved. His latest job for Babyfather traced the lives of four men who are starting to settle down.

He said: "I was going to be eating a fry-up in a cafe sequence. I went to Brixton, sat in a minibus for four hours and was then told to go home after they paid me £100. I never did a take, that's the way it goes."

Nick has an exhibition of his acrylic paintings at Littlehampton Museum until December 13.

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