It's the dream of every film geek to have a lead character in a film named after them. I'm sure it happens a lot to you, Mr. General Public – there are five 'H. Callahans' on the White Pages website in Sydney alone, and I'll bet at least two of them are 'Harrys'.
But for this humble movie nerd, monikered with the largely-forgettable name 'Simon Foster', the joy of hearing ones name bandied about on-screen with raffish movie star charm has entirely passed me by. Until now...
I got excited when I'd heard through the grapevine, that a character in Armando Iannuci's razor-sharp political satire In The Loop was indeed called 'Simon Foster' and that for most of the first third of the film he was referenced by his full name.
The grapevine gave no real details, mind you, but nor did I seek them out. I wanted Simon Foster's cinematic debut to be a slow reveal; this was my time to shine, and I was going to revel in it.
Oh, I've been close before, albeit on a first-name basis: Alan Arkin played a gullible professor in the awful 1980 comedy Simon (right). There was even a wizard once, Simon The Magician, played by Jack Palance in The Silver Chalice – the worst movie Paul Newman ever made, according to Paul Newman.
But what little I knew of In The Loop's Simon Foster seemed like the real deal – an up-and-coming young British politico with promise, pizzazz and upward mobility – character traits befitting my on-screen alter ego, I thought. And so it came to pass, that I settled into a small cinema (worryingly, the only patron at the session) to bask in the radiant glory of having my own name at the centre of the filmic universe.
At first, hearing one's name yelled in the darkened Dolby 5.0 confines of a cinema is disconcerting. It disorients you, messes slightly with your perceptions – all my life, movies have spoken at me; this movie was talking to me. I felt like a snoozing dog, who had heard his name spoken for no apparent reason and didn't know how to react.
But, like watching Avatar, I got used to the sense of woobly hyper-realism; of feeling- but not really being- involved. Ultimately, that was the least of the problems I had with In The Loop's Simon Foster. Because, you see, after waiting my whole life to cheer for myself on the big screen... well, turns out Simon Foster is an idiot.
And not your bumbling, lovable Mr Bean-esque idiot. No, he's an imbecile on a grand scale, a gaffe-prone sycophant who almost undoes British/American relations with his pathetic yearning for media acceptance and a dim-bulb approach to self-promotion.
Here's what some of the characters had to say about Simon Foster:
“You know, if I could, I'd punch you into paralysis!”
“You concentrate on nothing! You stay detached, or else that's what I'll do to your retinas.”
“If he'd asked you to fucking black up, or to give him your PIN number or to shit yourself, would you have done that?” [Response: "I would have blacked up, yes. It was radio, nobody would've known."
“In the words of the late, great Nat King fucking Cole, unforeseeable, that's what you are.”
“Simon, I called for back-up and you sat there like a dumb sack of shit. Only maybe worse, because, actually, on a molecular level, shit is probably fizzling with energy.”
Harsh words; all a bit too reminiscent of Christmas Day with the family. This was not how my name's big-screen debut was meant to go down.
The dream was destroyed. Visions of Alicia Silverstone (Google her, kids) leaning in and whispering “Kiss me, Simon Foster...” were fading; of a seething Alan Rickman barking to his henchmen “I want this Simon Foster dead!”, now just a cloudy memory. Simon Foster got his moment before the cameras; was ready for his close-up, Mr De Mille. And he blew it.