2 May 2009

I have a mate called Chris Ryan, who regularly faces the kinds of problems that don't occur to somebody called "Mark Dapin". For a start, he is not the most famous Chris Ryan in the world. This distinction is held by a British SAS-trooper-turned-thriller-writer who wrote a memoir entitled The One That Got Away, about his escape from behind enemy lines in the 1991 Gulf War.
Chris is not even the most famous Chris Ryan in Australia. That guernsey belongs to a former rugby league player who turned out for the Manly Sea Eagles and Perth's Western Reds in the 1990s.
Like most of my friends, Chris is a journalist. Despite performing stunts, such as eating a kebab while standing on his head, that have redefined the parameters of journalism to include eating a kebab while standing on your head, Chris is not the best-known Australian journalist called Chris Ryan. That byline is the property of a slightly older Chris Ryan, who writes about cricket and, to confuse matters, is often known as Christian Ryan.
As a boxer, my friend Chris had more than 100 fights, so he could reasonably expect to be the most famous Australian boxer called Chris Ryan. Sadly, however, he only entered the ring as an amateur, so his record will always be overshadowed by a Queensland light welterweight who fought twice as a professional in Brisbane in 1944. Chris had never heard of the earlier boxing Chris Ryan until I found his name on a website.
When I told him he was not the first boxing Chris Ryan, he asked me, "Who's the other one?"
Well, er, his name's Chris Ryan.
"Wherever I go in my life," said Chris, "another Chris Ryan's got there first."
Recently, Chris made his movie debut as a man who wanders past in the background of a scene in the new Australian movie Samson and Delilah. He also worked as unit manager on the film, so his name had to be entered in the Internet Movie Database website. When he found out he was at least the 23rd Chris Ryan to try to make it in the movies, he decided to be credited as "Christopher Ryan", of which there were only 11 already on the site.
As unit manager, Chris was responsible for towing the Portaloo between locations, and keeping it out of shot. He was not entirely successful at this last task, as the toilet does, apparently, make a fleeting "Hitchcock appearance" in the final cut.
Chris did not find the movie business as glamorous as he had hoped.
"I was unit manager but I had no one to manage," he said. "Maybe on the big shoots the toilets are cleaner, and I'd be in charge of a team of toilet wranglers."
Confident that I would at least enjoy the Portaloo's cameo, I went to a preview of Samson and Delilah, which did not sound like the kind of film that I would normally watch, since it was not about (a) a gang of mismatched thugs and criminals assembled by an underworld mastermind to pull off an audacious bank robbery; or (b) a professional killer lured out of retirement to do "one last job".
Instead, Samson and Delilah is the story of two young indigenous people who leave a remote desert community to live with a homeless alcoholic under a bridge in Alice Springs. Unless I missed something, the two leads never say a word to each other, although several meaningful hand gestures, and a number of significant glances, do pass between them. There is probably more petrol sniffing than in any other film in the history of cinema, but - against heavy odds - it all adds up to a compelling and beautiful movie, in which the Portaloo is, for the most part, expertly managed.
Every Chris Ryan excels at something, and Chris has finally found a place where no other Chris Ryan can touch him: on the toilet.

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