Hardcover, 197 pages
Published: February 1,2010 by Fizzypop Productions (1st published December 30, 2007)
From early childhood, Emmett James has been enchanted by the cinema.
Along with the standard ice cream and popcorn came extraordinary bags of sweets. They were a dentist’s worst nightmare, like props from the Land of the Giants, only available in such large sizes thanks to the Odeon cinema chain, all perfectly displayed in front of us. In your day-to-day life you could live happily on a normal pack of Opal Fruits, Maltesers, or a Mars Bar, but in the cinema you needed a wheelbarrow to cart away the king size, jumbo, Henry VIII, fat-bastard packs, sold for gluttonous consumption. The Odeon cinema lobby was like walking into Willy Wonka’s factory on a weekly basis. And fuck the golden tickets — we had tatty, yellow paper tickets given to us by Stubby Knows, upon our arrival, to hastily grant us entry.
Growing up in Croydon, England, he savored family trips to the theater, and he eventually moved to America and become a television and movie actor. In his eloquent and often hysterically funny memoir, he begins each chapter with a movie title and description that offers a clue to the facet of his life explored in that chapter. In a very real sense, movies are the milestones by which he navigates his memories.
James’s account of his childhood and adolescence, though laced with sad moments, made me laugh out loud. As an adult, his acting career went awry after he overzealously tried to land a role in a superhero film. Then he moved to Hollywood, where he had a slippery uphill struggle to success. His adventures included learning to properly crash Oscar Award parties, being lured into lending his talents to a VERY bad rip-off of the Rocky movies, and being led briefly into a life of soft-core porn.
Later, he lands a role in Titanic. I was fascinated by his account of working with James Cameron on this movie. As a director, Cameron had an amazing passion for his project, an incredible memory, and mind-boggling attention to detail. Emmett James’s account of his time spent in Mexico, during the filming of this movie, was intriguing, quirky, and at moments, heart wrenching.
It was difficult to believe that the wealth of the American nation was propped up along its border by such poor, needy people. We drove upon row upon row of shantytowns. Wooden shacks these citizens called home, twisting and tumbling as if it was a city made of precariously placed cards under the blistering sun. Doors to their homes were left ajar as if there was nothing worth stealing, filled only with the dignity of their inhabitants.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. James has a delightful writing style and a knack for storytelling, and his life story took me places I’ve never been, including a working class English neighborhood and a high-budget movie set.
There were several moments when the line between reality and fantasy seemed blurred and I wondered whether an event he described was real or imaginary. But that is why we write memoirs instead of autobiographies — they offer more artistic license. This is a terrific read, especially for memoir lovers and movie buffs.