In search of Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in Cockenzie

Nicole Kidman on set filming The Railway Man in Cockenzie
Nicole Kidman on set filming The Railway Man in Cockenzie
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THEY had lights, there were certainly cameras, and someone who made a death-defying climb on to slippery rocks to peer inside some rather mucky windows definitely heard the unmistakable call of “Action!” and “Cut!”

There were several crowd control barriers – more than there were crowds to control. And there were beefy, bored-looking security men eyeballing a gaggle of women of a certain age who “just happened to be passing” but would not say “not today, thanks” should a certain Mr Darcy emerge from the grim confines of Cockenzie and Port Seton Royal British Legion Club.

Certainly, word was that somewhere within the Legion’s rather dreary exterior, beyond three smelly wheelie bins and past the large white tent erected at the entrance to prevent mere mortals gazing upon her milky white flesh, lurked Australia’s most famous person.

No, not Kylie. Nicole, of course.

Hollywood rolled into downtown Cockenzie yesterday in a blaze of blacked-out silver Mercedes for star Nicole Kidman, with accompanying minibuses for the lowly extras, to continue shooting scenes for her new movie The Railway Man.

The film will tell the moving story of Scot Eric Lomax, caught up in the fall of the British Empire in Singapore in 1942, tortured by Japanese captors and left emotionally wrecked by his experiences. Indeed, those who read Lomax’s book talk of its themes of deep hurt, reconciliation, man’s cruelty to fellow man, unbelievable forgiveness and utter despair.

All of which is very good but, of course, what the rest of us really want to know is whether anyone has actually seen Nicole in Cockenzie. Or better still – pause for slight swoon – her co-star Colin Firth.

For should Mr Darcy, sorry, Mr Firth really be on location in East Lothian then surely he deserves the opportunity to mingle with the locals? Or more importantly, me?

Film crews arrived in the harbour town on Monday coinciding – unfortunately for the security staff – with a local schools holiday. Two days off for Port Seton High School meant one 13-year-old lad had ample opportunity to torment them by pedalling his go-kart up and down the cordoned-off narrow lane, skidding to a halt at their feet before wheeling away again, which resulted on Monday in police being called.

In his pocket is a BlackBerry – essential kit for a budding East Lothian paparazzo. He scrolls through his images until he finds a reasonable snap of Ms Kidman’s profile, captured outside Cockenzie House.

But he is one of the lucky ones. Fed-up Louise Cairns, 15, of Prestonpans, waited three and a half hours on Monday to see her favourite film star and the same again yesterday, sacrificing precious Standard Grades study time.

“I saw her driver,” trills the Preston Lodge High School pupil. “I’d love to see Nicole. I’m gutted she’s not coming out to say hello to us.”

For Catrin Wilson, nine, of Cockenzie, there’s equal disappointment. “I want to see her because she’s Australian,” she says, “and because I like drama.”

Still, a girl in search of her Mr Darcy – or indeed an Aussie Oscar winner – sometimes has to sharpen her elbows, polish her brass neck and leave her pride somewhere on the road leading to the Legion.

“Where do you think you’re going?” snarls a security man as I attempt to trot past, adopting an unconvincing air of “actually, I work here”.

Likewise, any hope of getting near the quite grand Cockenzie House – Monday’s location – is instantly scuppered by a brusque woman wearing squeaky Crocs who promptly calls for security before squelching comically across the gravel.

Watching is Fiona Crombie, sitting outside her Marshall Street home, bemused by such futile attempts to breach the security cordon. “You’ll not see a thing,” she shrugs. “They started setting up here on Sunday, but not a sign of Nicole Kidman or Colin Firth. Sorry.”

Fiona, 50, a freelance artist, has sat outside her front door for large chunks of two days now, a privileged position yards from the Legion which, to the despair of regulars, has cancelled the week’s bingo sessions to accommodate Ms Kidman and Mr Firth.

Worse still, there was consternation in the town on Monday when the drayman’s lorry was turned back at the top of the lane, sparking rumours that by the weekend supplies at the Legion may be running low.

“I’d like to see Colin,” muses Fiona. “Oh, he was fantastic as Mr Darcy. And as the father in Nanny McPhee. And in Bridget Jones.”

Not averse to some Darcy spotting is Alison Greer from North Berwick and friend Elizabeth Duncan from Aberlady. They came to Cockenzie not to mingle with Hollywood royalty but to get the dog clipped. But if they happen to bump into Mr Darcy, well it wouldn’t be a day totally wasted.

“We didn’t know it was happening,” sighs Alison. “It’s quite exciting to think that what they’re filming here will end up as a movie.”

But, as all stars know, you’re only as famous as your last blockbuster. And soon a new celebrity will be in town to steal their light. “Yes,” nods Elizabeth. “Pippa Middleton’s coming up to a wedding at Aberlady next weekend. That’ll be nice.”