Notes by Ian McKellen on WALTER. Part Four of Five.

Walter (Ian McKellen) confused on his first day of incarceration in the mental hospital

Walter (Ian McKellen) is trusted to lead his fellow-inmates round the grounds of the mental hospital

Jim Broadbent (white-coated nurse on the rear left) oversees Walter (Ian McKellen, front left seated) and his companion (in real life an injured ex-boxer) in the mental hospital during their Christmas party

Walter (Ian McKellen) with other inmates at the mental hospital

The most affecting aspect of filming Walter was working with mentally-handicapped and physically-handicapped people who were recruited to join the cast of extras in the hospital scenes. For the first time in their disadvantaged lives, their handicaps were transformed into invaluable specialties, as far as the film was concerned. They were brought to London from their hospitals or sheltered housing and in the care of their nurses stayed in hotels near to the main location in a disused hospital in Liverpool Road in Islington.

I was touched by how hard they were prepared to join in the rigours of filming, how much they enjoyed the lunches with more adventurous menus than they were used to. Particularly it was overwhelming that Walter was adopted as one of their own and became their representative and hero even. This atmosphere pervaded the central scenes of Walter, a daily reminder to the film-makers of our responsibility to tell the truth about the handicapped.


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