Essentials:

Remember this advertisement for the Honda Accord?

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The bigshots at Honda’s world headquarters in Japan, when shown Cog for the first time, replied that yes, it was very clever, and how impressive trick photography was these days. When told that it was all real, they were astonished.

One of the more striking moments in the film is when a lone windscreen wiper blade helicopters through the air, suspended from a line of metal twine. “That was the first and last time it worked properly,” recalls Tony Davidson, of the London-based advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy. “I wanted it to look like ballet.”

After that, a few yards and several ingenious connections down the assembly line, another pair of windscreen wiper blades is squirted by an activated washer jet. Because Honda wipers have automatic sensors that can detect water, they start a crablike crawl across the floor. It is as though they have come to life.

As take 300 led to 400 which led to 500, a certain madness settled on the crew. Rob Steiner, the agency producer, started talking about “our friends, the parts”, but in the slightly menacing tone of a primary school teacher discussing her charges at the end of a trying day. Some workers on the film went whole days without sleep and had to be asked to stay away from the more delicate parts of the assembly. Others started to have bad dreams about throttle activator shafts and bonnet release cables.

When things were going wrong – a tyre that kept trundling off to the left, or a rocker shaft that kept toppling over like a tipsy cyclist – the production lads on the shoot would start grumbling that “the parts are being very moody today”.

Commercial makers are often accustomed to working with human prima donnas but no Hollywood starlet, no footballing prodigy or showbiz celeb, was ever as troublesome and unpredictable as the con rods and pulley wheels and solenoids that Davidson, Steiner and Co had to work with.

Towards the end of the production, Olivier Coulhon, the first assistant director, had spent so many hours in the darkened studio that his skin had turned a luminous green and his eyes had sunk deep into his Gallic cheeks.

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