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Walter Sparrow
(1/22/27 - 5/31/00)

With great sadness I learned of the passing of Walter Sparrow the heroic Crazy Pete in the movie "Now and Then". I haven't heard any news about his death as I just happened to come across it while surfing the net. I really don't know a lot about him. He was born in London, England in 1927. It appears he took up acting rather late in life as his first recorded appearance was a small role in a 1966 horror movie at the age of 39. Since then he acted in numerous movie and TV roles most notably as Duncan in the 1991 movie "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" with Kevin Costner and as Ben Weatherstaff in the 1993 movie "The Secret Garden". But to me of course his best role was that of Crazy Pete.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sparrow during the filming of the movie "Now and Then". It was of course exciting to have Hollywood filming a movie right here in my home town. I really didn't know what to expect. Would you be able to get close to the filming site? Would you actually be able to meet some of the stars? The day I arrived they were filming the sewer scene. It was of course at night and extremely cold. The filming area had been roped off but you could actually get very close. I had my camera and a sharpie pen just in case I might have the opportunity to get an autograph. From where I was standing I could clearly see the biggest attraction of that night Demi Moore. She and a staff of others were just to the right of where the sewer was located behind a TV monitor so they were able to see how the filming was going. Gaby and Thora I clearly recognized as they were enjoying themselves riding their bikes up and down the street between takes. But who was the older man I wondered and when I asked around no one seemed to know. Eventually, I worked my way over to the other side of the street where many of the movie people were and asked them. Oh, that is Walter Sparrow they replied. I also learned of his roles in "Robin Hood" and "The Secret Garden" both movies in which I've seen so now I knew exactly who he was. Definitely someone who I would love to meet if I got the opportunity.

One reason the filming crew had chosen Georgia was for its relatively mild winter climate but this night it was far from mild. It was down right cold. To make matters worst the scene was filmed in the freezing rain. Well, not real rain but Hollywood rain. Picture a huge crane and at the top of it is a large shower head connected to a fire hydrant. By turning the hydrant on and off you had instant rain. Of course filming the scene once was never enough. I know I at least counted ten times they filmed the same part of that scene over and over. Each time poor Thora, Gaby, and Mr. Sparrow would get drenched in the freezing rain. They would then be rushed inside a building to warm up and dry off only to be sent out again to do the scene over. This process took over 4 hours before they were satisfied with the results. It was now nearing midnight as things started to wind down. Gaby, Thora and Demi were quickly whisked away in an escort of several policemen. There would be no autographs from them that night. As they disappeared into the night me and a few others sat our sights on Mr. Sparrow. I remember him putting on his long coat and making his way back to the trailers where they were all staying. He was walking alone as there would be no police escort for him. We all ran and caught up with him about half way to his destination. Now here was an elderly man, who had just spent 4 hours in the freezing rain, filming a scene over and over. It was past midnight now and I am sure he was cold and tired and ready for bed. The last thing on his mind was being delayed even further by having to sign a bunch of autographs. But sign them he did and not only did he sign them but he did so in the most gracious of ways. He took the time to speak with each of us as he signed our autographs. I remember his distinguished British Accent not recognizable in the movie. He then allowed all of us to take pictures with him. Once again he was the perfect gentleman posing and smiling for all of us. I guess he spent over thirty minutes with us that night. Besides our small group most everybody else had left for the night. I remember thinking to myself boy are they missing out on the opportunity to meet such a generous man.

No, Mr. Sparrow was never a huge movie star but for me that night just like in the movie he was a hero. His generosity gave me the encouragement to later obtain autographs from Christina, Thora, Gaby and Ashleigh. I have his autograph framed with a picture of him in the long black coat he was wearing. I also have the pictures I took with him. I will always treasure them and the memory of that night. Rest in peace Mr. Sparrow, you surely will be missed

Wendell Cowart