I first met David Bowie in August 1982 in Auckland, New Zealand, where the crew of Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" had come together for the flight to the film's location in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. From the outset he came across as a man of great personal warmth, devoid of any pretence. And this proved to be the case throughout the shoot, which lasted from late in that month until the end of September, when we returned to Auckland to film the flashback scenes in the life of his character, Maj. Jack Celliers.
I was with him every day, on the set and off, drinking with him in the seaside hotel bar, at the little island's Chinese restaurant (the Jade Garden, no longer there), and in scene after scene in the jungle's clearing. I stood in for him in a sandpit in the dead of night. In fact, I should say "sat in," because there was a chair in that pit. Boards with sand on them covered the area around my head. I spent about 40 minutes in that pit, trying to blow away huge moths attracted to the bright lights. Bowie was rushed over from his room. He entered the pit and five minutes later the shot was taken. He threw me a sympathetic smile as he was whisked away.
"I feel terrific on this island," he said to me as we strolled to the old courthouse in the town of Avarua. We were going to a wedding ... a real wedding. Producer Jeremy Thomas and his fiancee had decided to marry on the island.