Who’s That Guy? by Marcus James Heslop is a record, not only of the remarkable tenacity of the author, but the incredible professionalism of the subject. Guy Standeven was an actor who appeared in hundreds of film and TV shows from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. Unlike many actors, he was happy to accept non-speaking roles as an extra. This means that his appearances were varied and often unbilled. Over the past few years, Marcus James Heslop has been tracking down every appearance of Guy Standeven, swelling his IMDB entries with every hour. Who’s That Guy? now puts those statistics into context with the life story of a man who was determined to spend his working day in the business he loved.

In the first chapter, Marcus James Heslop answers the question, “Why write a book about someone nobody’s ever heard of?” The answer is that Guy Standeven “contributed more to the entertainment industry than many famous people do, but received little recognition for it.” Publishers rush to publish autobiographies by reality TV stars who have accomplished relatively little, so surely there is room for someone with a 40 year track record. Guy was also notable because – as an actor – he was happy to take work as an extra. “When he was doing extra work he wasn’t trying to hog the camera or.. steal the limelighthe just got on with the job.”

Reading Guy’s life story, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast with the life of Patrick Wymark. The two men were born two years apart in the north of England, Wymark in 1926, Standeven in 1928. Both had parents involved in amateur dramatics, and both Wymark and Standeven made their first stage appearance with local societies. Both were conscripted towards the end of the war, although Standeven was unfortunate to be invalided out. This did, however, provide him with a service pension that helped supplement his later career.

Where Wymark auditioned for the Old Vic Theatre School and then graduated to leading theatre companies, Standeven found work with regional repertory theatres before moving to London in 1950. Here he registered with Central Casting, the agency which provided extras to the British film industry. What makes Standeven notable is that while most actors would have refused further extra work once they had ‘graduated’ to speaking parts (The Hostage (1956) Standeven continued to accept the non-speaking roles.

In time Guy built up a reputation as a ‘dress extra’ (an extra who could provide his own costume) and whose acting skills gave him an edge as an someone who could be relied upon to provide a reaction or deliver a small line. Over the years he became high on the “shopping list” of assistant directors and was therefore always in work. However, he was also still cast in stage plays (some quite substantial roles) and Marcus James Heslop documents these too.

Wymark and Standeven’s paths never appear to have crossed, although they did appear in the same films such as Cromwell and Operation Crossbow. Ironically, while Wymark has what is effectively a cameo role as a partly-obscured Winston Churchill briefing Richard Johnson’s character in the opening scene, Guy Standeven gets an amusing dialogue exchange with George Peppard which illustrates his versatility.

Who’s That Guy tells a wonderful story, and for anyone who likes watching 1960’s TV shows (or for any viewer of Talking Pictures TV) it’s worth buying just so that you can start totting up the appearances of Mr Standeven (he’s even got a speaking role in the new Woman In Black BluRay from Network). You can buy Who’s That Guy for £14.99 from Amazon.