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Ian McKellen’s Blog – Swakopmund Is The Village

Ian McKellen will play “Two” in AMC’s forthcoming mini-series,The Prisoner. His diary entries from the set during filming and production will appear periodically in The Prisoner blog.

The more we film The Prisoner, the more appropriate Swakopmund seems as the factual element in Bill Gallagher’s fictional Village whence there is no escape for Number Six, nor indeed for those of us involved in telling his story. Not that there are walls to detain us, either in life or in the screenplay. Rather we are trapped by our contract’s schedule, between the aggressive breakers of the Atlantic Ocean and the inhospitable dunes of the Namib Desert.

The connection between the ocean and the desert is the wind and the tides. Far to the east is the Kalahari Desert whose sand has been carried by the Orange and other rivers to the west coast of southern Africa, where offshore winds have then blown it back inland, mounting it up into the barren dunes of the Namib. You can easily get lost and dehydrate and perish in these dunes: What better barrier to escape for villagers or actors?  There are a few hardy native inhabitants – head-standing beetles who let the morning dew slide down their backs into their open mouths, thus becoming a thirst- quenching delicacy for long-tongued chameleons: There are thin-skinned lizards and the sly snakes who lie in wait for them under the sand, only eyes and enticing tip of a tail visible, so when the prey comes to investigate, the end is fatally nigh.

When we film in the dunes we are well protected from the
sand and the sun. This week Peter picked me up at 6:15 a.m. and drove me away from town along the bumpy
roads of beaten sand. As the dawn dawned, we trundled along, and all we could
see through the gloom was sand, more sand, and the occasional flashing red light
warning the production’s drivers of the turnings that led closer and closer to
our destination, Dune 6. It looked as if it might be too foggy for filming,
particularly for our first scene which specified “Burning, dazzling
sunlight”. Then, the sun burst over the horizon up into an impeccably blue
sky where it burned and dazzled on cue and revealed the oasis of our tents and
trailers, generators, ovens and provisions of water and food.

My trailer has a water closet and a television set and
microwave oven. I have a bed with linen and a duvet. From the comfy sitting
area, there’s a view of the dunes outside so perfect that it looks as if
generated by computer. I visit Nadine and Fernanda and Raine in the
Hair-and-Make-up Trailer until I step
down and head across the sandy way to the make-up trailer and then to the tented
breakfast area for scrambled eggs on toast. Luxury on the edge of the desert is
a real treat. Maybe that’s why most inhabitants of the Village are happy with
their lot and are not persuaded by Six’s declaration that there is another
world elsewhere.

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