Song for Marion: Christopher Eccleston is James
This is a scene from the then nine-year-old Orla Hill's first day's filming on Song for Marion, or any other movie. Previous professional experience: one voiceover for a pre-school children's TV show; one TV commercial for Argos. Orla is the little blonde thing, squinting in the sunlight. The other children and the grown-ups whose faces you can't see are people from the neighbourhood on the edge of Newcastle where the filming was taking place. The grown-up whose face you can see is, of course, Christopher Eccleston.
Partly, Christopher was doing what actors on film sets have to do quite a lot of - waiting for the director to be ready to ask him to act. But mostly he was doing something else he seems to do very well - being good to people.
In Song for Marion he plays James, the son of Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) and Arthur (Terence Stamp), and the father of Jennifer, played by Orla. When we rolled up - Mummy, Daddy and the small debutante in pink leggings - he wasted no time demonstrating that he is as generous and thoughtful as you somehow expect him to be.
The dark blanket you can just about see wrapped around Orla was his idea, to prevent her getting cold on what was a blowy day, despite the sun. His hands placed lightly on her shoulders as he talked to the other kids - about Doctor Who, mostly - demonstrated just the right, low key protectiveness towards the child with whom he would shortly walk towards a camera.
If Orla, though far less nervous than her parents, had needed a little no-fuss reassurance as she too awaited the director's call, Christopher was providing it. And when that call eventually came - it was a complicated shoot that day, not helped by the erratic weather - he told the other kids and their mums and dads not to go away, he'd be back in a few minutes to answer all their remaining questions and sign all the autographs they wanted. And he was, of course, as good as his word. Top man.
He and Orla got on very well throughout the making of the film, which included his teaching her how to play table tennis - speaking of which, this blog hopes in the future to provide exclusive video footage of a titanic, sci-fi ping-pong encounter between the heroic erstwhile Doctor and dastardly former General Zod. Bet you can't guess who wins.