The 1973 film The Day Of The Jackal made a deep impression on me. I was about eight years old when it aired on television and I was desperate to watch it again. There weren't video recorders then and I had to wait months or years until it was repeated. I've wanted to be an assassin ever since. Even 40+ years on I can still remember the small photo in the Radio Times magazine of the cold-hearted assassin aiming a rifle at President De Gaulle. Also many other scenes from the film - where he practises shooting a melon, how he kills the gunsmith who made his special rifle, how he made the imprint of a key in a slab of Plasticine, the fake amputated leg used to get passed De Gaulle's security and, of course, the finale where he gets shot. The Jackal was played by Edward Fox and here I am outside his home in Little Venice in north London.
Most of the film is about the hunt for The Jackal who is on route to assassinate President De Gaulle. Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel simply must track down the ice-hearted killer. Only at the end of the film do they meet. The Jackal is in a high apartment and just taken a shot at President De Gaulle who bends forward to adjust a soldier's medals and dodges the bullet. The Jackal can't believe it. Heís about to reload and make a second attempt when Lebel shoots down the apartment door. A very tense moment ensues as both men panic to reload their weapons. The Jackal gets blasted up against the apartment wall (I've practised this moment many times and don't know how he gets yanked back toward the wall.) As boys me and my friend Ste used to practice at getting shot and dying, flying back onto a couch/pile of cushions/bed, rug/etc with dramatic aplomb.
Edward Fox seems to have retired from acting and these days he and his wife live mostly in Dorset. I've read that they still use this place as their city pad but they claim Londonís too impersonal and they donít know their neighbours. The house looks onto a canal lined with boats and barges though this pretty view doesnít justify the houses each worth many millions of pounds. A few years ago The Jackal's real life daughter Emilia Fox was a guest on Who Do Think You Are? and she visited her parents here to ask her dad a few questions. I did some detective work to find the address and just had to find it out on my next visit to London. While there I sort of walked around a bit, not quite believing I was outside the house of the actor who'd made such a deep impression on me.I just had to go and touch the knob on the gate. I thought to myself, Blimey The Jackal - THE JACKAL - has touched this and Iím touching it now! I could be an assassin like The Jackal; about 20% of human beings are blooming horrid and need culling. I could help eliminate them and help make the world a more agreeable place. When I'm out in the car there's usually a spot of dirt on the windscreen. I move my head to place this dirt over someone on the street and mentally assassinate them.
I still watch The Day Of The Jackal and it's still ace. Oddly there is no incidental music in it. The special lightweight rifle the killer used was real (two of them were made for this film - one was handed over to the British authorities and the other now resides in the Paris Cinematheque.) Roger Moore or Michael Caine were considered for the role but thought to be too famous. Frederick Forsyth wrote the novel in six weeks as he was skint. The three main female characters in this movie (Denise, Colette, and Madame Lebel) are redheads. Body count : 10.
I touched the knob one more time, did a salute and left with a satisfied feeling in my tummy. I'd found where The Jackal lived- yeah!