The hunting of John Cleese

2010-03-27 00:00

FORGET bird-watching and trout fishing. A new sport has taken over along the Midlands Meander: Cleese-spotting.

Since British actor John Cleese arrived at Michaelhouse to begin filming Spud, KwaZulu-Natal residents have been vying to catch a glimpse of the lanky comedian.

The Academy Award-nominated actor is playing “The Guv” in the movie adaptation of Spud: The Movie, John van de Ruit’s best­selling novel, which is a hilarious chronicle of the boarding-school life of John “Spud” Milton.

Keen Cleese-spotters should be warned: the task is an arduous one. Since his arrival, Cleese has kept his movements and whereabouts well hidden.

Although he has occasionally ventured out to enjoy the fine dining on offer along the Midlands Meander, wide-eyed, tight-lipped hospitality staff — threatened by management with their jobs or worse — shook their heads and shrugged shoulders when asked for details of Cleese’s visit to their establishment.

Staff at Hartford House, where Cleese dined this week, were more eager to share their impressions of the “very tall man”.

“He was so lovely,” said one. “He spoke so freely to everyone. He was friendly and is just a nice man.”

The friendly, nice man also has a flair for the extravagant.

Security staff at one establishment admitted to not really knowing who he was, but knew of the fuss being made over “that man in the BMW X5”.

Cleese’s tastes extend from German motor vehicles to French wines. It is rumoured that he enjoyed a R3 000 bottle of white wine with a meal this week.

A resident at Michaelhouse described Cleese as “very private”, saying he prefers people keep “around 40 yards, or something like that, away from him”.

“I doubt that he’ll be wandering around and visiting places,” she said.

And while an eight-hour Cleese-hunt proved fruitless yesterday, the drive around the areas the actor has visited was breathtaking.

The crew were said to be filming outdoor scenes with Cleese yesterday, meaning the movie will most likely feature KwaZulu-Natal’s blue skies and rolling hills, which at the time, were dotted with bright pink cosmos typical of Easter-time.

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