CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Emma Samms: Driving Miss Ditzy

PUBLISHED: 09:14 26 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:14 26 October 2015

Emma Samms on location with General Hospital in San Antonio

Emma Samms on location with General Hospital in San Antonio

Archant

Acting and driving at the same time is hard enough, but acting and learning to drive a manual, in front of a whole film crew would seem unwise

My children are learning to drive, which I consider to be a mixed blessing. The plus side of them passing their tests will be the immediate redundancy of their chauffeur, leaving me with merely the roles of chef, maid and concierge. But the downside is the loss of chatting time. So many good conversations can be had on a car journey, even with teenagers. The second downside is the issue of the terror. No matter how sensible you believe your children to be, watching them drive away is heart-stoppingly scary.

I’ve been no help to them at all with driving lessons because my license is for automatic cars only. I fully acknowledge that this is pathetic but my excuse is that I learned to drive in America, where manual cars are rare and if you take your test on an automatic, you get a license that’s good for manual anyway.

I always send an urgent message to the producers of any film I’ll be required to drive in, telling them must give me an automatic car. Acting and driving at the same time is hard enough, but acting and learning to drive a manual, in front of a whole film crew would seem unwise.

Driving vintage cars in period films has proven to be tricky. Possibly my worst experience was driving a massive, vintage Cadillac down the multiple hairpin turns of a cliff-side road in Acapulco. The car had exceptionally loose steering and my character was repeatedly described in the script as a recklessly fast driver. By far the scariest part of the equation was that in the back of the car, being driven by me, were Tony Curtis and Peter Ustinov. If there had been a mishap, if I’d caused any kind of injury to those beloved icons, the world (quite rightly) would never have forgiven me.

One film that I did in New Zealand required me to do a fair bit of driving in a rather flashy Mercedes convertible (automatic, of course), which drew quite a bit of attention in downtown Auckland. I remember a day when we were filming a ‘Drive-by’ which is when the camera is stationary on the street and they film you as you drive by in your car. I had a walkie-talkie in the car with me and the director would tell me when to start and stop. After the first pass the director told me to drive around the block so they could get the shot again, which I did. When I stopped at a traffic light around the corner, I encountered some workmen digging a hole in the road. The men duly whistled and since I was right next to them, I gave them a little wave and a smile. This would have all been fine if I hadn’t been required to do the ‘drive-by’ shot another 4 times, meaning I had to also drive around the block another 4 times. The workmen, understandably, thought I’d come back to see them. 4 times. I was mortified.

Sometimes driving in a movie can be dangerous. I was in a car with George Hamilton, being driven by Christopher Atkins (of Blue Lagoon fame). It was in the middle of the night and we were driving across a field just outside of Johannesburg. A large camera was strapped to the front of the car, almost entirely obscuring our vision but all Chris had to do was drive us in a straight line down the middle of the field. What we didn’t have was a walkie-talkie in the car with us, which meant that when Chris got the angle slightly wrong and started driving at quite a clip towards the forest at the side of the field, no-one could warn us. All of a sudden we were confronted by dense and massive trees, which, miraculously, Chris managed to avoid. We emerged from the forest to see the ashen faces of the film crew who had watched us hurtling towards the trees, convinced that we were all about to be killed and unable to do a thing about it. The camera was a right-off, but they were so thrilled we were alive they didn’t care.

So as I now watch my children driving off on their lessons, I try to hide my own ashen face and the only advice I can give them is not to wave at workmen and not to drive with movie icons in the back if they can help it.

Did you enjoy this article? You can read some of Emma Samms’ previous features here...

Emma Samms: Why Twitter is the best thing on the Internet

Emma Samms: The secret service

Emma Samms: My antique obsession

1 comment

  • Great article and so spot on. Taught 2 boys to drive and still feel the willies seeing them drive off alone. Love your writing.

    Report this comment

    Marsha Bess

    Monday, October 26, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Yesterday, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search