An electrician remembers: I worked with Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick

Bob Tanswell landed a job as a spark in 1979 on the set of The Shining and got to see close up what it was like spending time with the legendary actor and director

I grew up around Notting Hill when it was still pretty rundown. A lot of us local boys were electricians. Id just been sacked from a job when my dads mate took me on. He knew a guy who had worked on A Clockwork Orange and when they were crewing up for The Shining they invited me along. It was 1979.

Id heard of Stanley Kubrick but didnt realise how special he was. Hed do 150 takes of a simple scene. He knew everybodys job. If he asked you a question and you didnt know the answer, you really got it not me so much, because I was just a spark. After having a go at someone hed be walking away and give you a wink, like: See that? Thats got him going. He was more tongue-in-cheek with us workers on the floor than with the upper echelons. They all looked up to him so he played the part.

We played chess now and then. Hed slaughter me. Some people were scared of him because he could make or break a career. Not Jack [Nicholson], though. Jack called him Stan to wind him up. You could call him Stanley, Mr Kubrick or Guv, just not Stan. But they liked each other.

One time Jack said he had done his back in and needed a few days off. Thats a lot of time when youre shooting a big film, but Stanley said OK. The next day we were in the sparks room watching Wimbledon when Stanley walks in. He asks what were up to and as he turns to look at the telly, there he is: Jack Nicholson sat in the crowd with a girl on either side. Stanley went mad.

It was a small crew and he used us for bit parts. Because they rarely shoot leading artists when you cant see their face, he said to me: You look like Jack put on the jeans and boots. In the film, when a semi-conscious Jack is dragged into the food store, those are my legs on screen. He asked me to be the guy in a bear suit with his arse hanging out and his head in a mans lap at the end. But I said: No, mate, I aint having that. Could you imagine? Everyone at home saying: Thats Bobby Tanswell. Nope, sorry.

He kept a toffee hammer and a centre punch in his car. We asked why and he said it was for when he drove past the lake to get to his house. If he got pushed off the road and into the water, he had something to get through the window with. It seemed reasonable to him.

He was a fair guvnor. If he saw you were interested he always had time for you. I watched the film a few times, but it drove my wife mad because I kept pointing out where I was standing. I learned everything I know from working on that film.

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