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!”

Biehn’s 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,” Biehn thought.

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 their song.

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 it did.”

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 dear.”

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 next day.

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.

“I 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.

- Jim Anderson & Michael Biehn -