There are, presumably, a great many people who dream about what they will say when the day comes that they get to meet David Gandy – but I have to confess I wasn’t one of them. So when I found myself, six months back, sitting across from him in the ‘interview room’ of the Sun Hill police station, I felt somewhat under-prepared. I mean, it’s not like this was actually supposed to be an interview.
If memory serves, we ended up discussing dogs (with reference to Battersea?), weddings (mine; his in theory), foreign travel (Africa, I think), British manufacturing (he’s bought a boot company), the rights and/or wrongs of the Canadian Tuxedo (he’s fine with it), and yes, the fact that David Gandy would genuinely rather wear a suit every day of the week than do almost anything else.
And then he was called away to do a line-up with a pair of hookers.
I should explain. Mr Detective Man is the weird and wonderful brainchild of BAFTA photographer Rich Hardcastle, whose deeply ‘alternative’ portraits (of Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Steve Coogan, et al.) you might well be familiar with from the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Rolling Stone and the Sunday Times. He and Gandy collaborated this time last year for a single image in Hardcastle’s Dark Tales exhibition – ‘Kill Yourself to Get Ahead’ – and so taken was Gandy by the fact that Hardcastle’s work did not predominantly involve looking nice in a suit (or less) that when it was suggested they team up for a detective-noir kind of narrative photo series, Gandy leapt at the opportunity.
‘Looking nice in a suit’ is, in fact, about as inapplicable a summary of Hardcastle’s oeuvre as you are likely to come up with. Unless, of course, it’s a bear-suit (ask Billy Zane). So it’s no great shock to see, first thing in the summery morning, David Gandy lying in the dirt of a Wimbledon Studios loading bay, clutching a stuffed sparrow in a slingshot, hiding from a plastic robot and looking all Butch-and-Sundance at young Grey Worm out of Game of Thrones. ‘This is the stuff that’s in Rich’s head...?’ somebody murmurs, quietly.
A small team of assistants bustles about, facilitating matters with this scene or getting things set up for the next one. Gandy’s co-actors come and go: Jacob Anderson, Paul Anderson, Adam Hills...
There’s even a behind-the-scenes photographer (a job Hardcastle himself had not so very long ago, on Extras) taking photos of everyone else taking photos. My job is to take notes on the behind-the-scenes photographer taking photos... (etc.). A lot of the day is spent trying not to get lost between the ‘hospital’ where they filmed the scenes for Casualty and the ‘police station’ where they shot The Bill. Oh, and sausage sandwiches. About a million of ‘em.
At some point someone realises they’ve underbooked it on the bit parts, and suddenly I’m being whisked off to the costume department to be kitted out in a policeman’s onesie, boots and a riot-helmet (see picture above; extreme L/R). For any readers considering going into this line of work, let me just say that at two in the afternoon, in late-July, a dark canvasy jumpsuit, flak-jacket and lid is not a look you want to be rocking in an un-airconditioned building, surrounded by photographer’s lamps.
Everyone is getting pretty drowsy, in fact – Rufus Hound has been asleep for twenty minutes in the make-up chair – and I’ve only just figured out that I’m standing in a dressing room with a half-naked model when Hardcastle comes crashing down the corridor, arms full of children’s toys, photographic paraphernalia, and a gigantic teddy-bear he’s hell-bent on eviscerating. Also, a packet of frozen spare ribs.
‘Oh, and Adam,’ he calls back over his shoulder – ‘I’m counting on you to tell me what this is all about!’
A.S.H. Smyth is a freelance writer with a sideline in modelling riot-gear