Setting History Straight
As Colceri poured
himself into his Full Metal Jacket rehearsals, Biehn
became consumed by something he never saw coming,
riding on a bus one evening with Bill Paxton . . .
One of the passengers drew his eye, a woman in
her early twenties. Olive-skinned, exotic looks; she
intrigued him at once and her eye found his as well:
the pull between them was palpable. Paxton had to
nudge him when they reached their stop. They started
to leave but Biehn just had to say something.
“Do I know you?”
“We slow danced all day
long on the set of Lords of Discipline,” she said.
“Oh, my God, that’s right!”
momentum carried him off the bus before he could say
anything more and he instantly regretted that he had
not stayed. What were the odds he’d meet her again?
Of course he vividly remembered that day with her,
three years earlier. Her name was Zahra, and she’d
been an extra as a cadet in a formal dance scene.
Biehn didn’t have lines, so for hours, they remained
in tight embrace as a slow dance was rehearsed, lit,
and filmed. She moved sensuously and carried herself
with poise and grace. Barely twenty, and the
daughter of welltodo emigres, she spoke cultured
King’s English and seemed worldly beyond her years.
He couldn’t have forgotten her, and now she was
gone. He chastised himself repeatedly for ever
stepping off the bus. But then, days later, she was
walking his way on King’s Road. When he saw her,
Biehn raced across the busy street and her eyes lit
up as she saw him.
“This has to be destiny,”
Over tea and a leisurely
stroll through Hyde Park, they absorbed each other.
He asked her back to his house, intending nothing
more than continuing a conversation neither wanted
to end. He served her cheese and biscuits and they
listened to music — “Tainted Love” would become
Biehn now recalls “I didn’t
realize it at the time, but the minute she walked
through that door, my marriage was over. That wasn’t
my intent; the marriage would have ended anyway;
we’d married too young, and had kids too young, and
we both knew that. But I didn’t intend for it end as
Biehn told Zahra from the start that
he was married, and that his wife would be arriving
with their twins in three weeks, and that he
wouldn’t be leaving her. They knew their time
together would be limited, but that didn’t matter.
“When I wasn’t working twelve hours a day on
Aliens, I was with her. For sleep, I grabbed what I
could on the set.”
She was erudite and
well-schooled; they read most of Crime And
Punishment together. They saw a few movies,
Bladerunner and Scarface notably, and
occasionally dined out, but their time together was
just for them. Once, as he struggled to express how
deep his feelings were, that he’d never experienced
anything like this before, she stopped him and said
“She doth teach the torches to burn bright/It seems
she hangs upon the cheek of night/Like a rich jewel
in an Ethiope’s ear/Beauty too rich for earth too
Awed, all he could say was, “That’s
what I mean.”
As idyllic as their time was
together, the day when it would end inevitably
arrived. Biehn left her bed, grabbed a cab, and he
pulled up to his house just his wife and sons
arrived. As soon as they were alone, Biehn told his
wife about Zahra, and for her, the breach was too
profound. She took the kids back to Los Angeles the
Biehn raced back to Zahra; they
could be together now for good, free of all
constraints. The passion and emotional impact had
never left, and only built now that they were where
they were meant to be — in each other’s arms. Their
life together seemed so perfect and pure.
was deeply in love,” Biehn sighs.
A week had
gone by before Biehn began to notice the small
signs. She’d nod off at odd times. A small burn mark
appeared on her chest. Biehn knew early in their
relationship that she was nine months out of rehab
and had been following Narcotics Anonymous. That she
was using again didn’t matter to him; she was fully
functioning and Biehn was no stranger to
recreational drugs himself. Indeed, he was already
on the way to the full blown, crippling alcoholism
that lay a decade ahead. They continued without
missing a beat.
But, evidence of her use
increased. Facing a quick turnaround in his shooting
schedule, Biehn chose to spend their first night
apart at his house. He was surprised when the phone
rang at six in the morning. It was Zahra; her
parents had cut short their vacation and flown back
to London. They were taking her straight back to
rehab, but would stop at his house long enough to
say goodbye. While her clearly pained parents looked
on, she handed him a letter and kissed him goodbye.
The letter contained two phone numbers: one for
her and one for a friend. When he tried to reach
her, he was told she was in rehab and would not have
access to a phone for several weeks. Her friend
confirmed Zahra was in rehab and insisted she’d get
word to Zahra as soon as possible. But the friend
grew less accessible, and finally told him she
didn’t want to be involved.
“I never saw her
again,” Biehn now recalls, “but if things had just
been a little different, we could well be together
to this day. If only she’d known that I’d be
returning to her . . .”
For both both Biehn
and Colceri, the “what if . . . ?” question is the
postscript to that Autumn in London.
Anderson & Michael Biehn -