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Interviews

Interviews with stars and programme makers from various CULT TV universes.

by
Sunday, 17 January 2010

In the 2009 Cult TV Awards, our membership voted Lex Shrapnel as the “Breakthrough Performance” for his starring role as Jamie Cartwright in the new version of Minder.  Just before Christmas, we managed to catch up with Lex and present him with his Award.  Having Lex with us for the afternoon, we also took the opportunity to film a short interview to find out what’s happening at the moment in his world. He also agreed at the time to help us out with one of our upcoming projects - you can find our more next weekend.

In addition, you’ll find out what the television series of choice was while he was between performances for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  The show in question is a cult favourite, and let’s put it this way – it’s something of a surprise! Our thanks to the Iznik Restaurant in Highbury. London, for providing us with the venue for the meet-up!

by
Sunday, 15 February 2009

In “The House Bunny”, Anna Faris (“Scary Movie”, “Lost in Translation”) gives a beguiling performance as Shelley, a clueless Playboy bunny who, after being kicked out of the Playboy mansion, takes a job as ‘house mother’ to a group of socially awkward university campus girls on the verge of losing their house.

This DVD and Blu-Ray release has a host of great bonus features, including deleted scenes, the music video by Katharine McPhee “I Know What Boys Like” (a cover of the song by The Waitresses) and 12 behind-the-scenes featurettes spotlighting the film’s production.

by
Friday, 21 November 2008

Out in time for Christmas is the long-awaited return of NEW X-FILES - in the shape of the second big screen movie for the franchise - "I Want To Believe". Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are reunited as the iconic Scully and Mulder to show the diehard fans what has been going on in their lives since their small screen adventures concluded.

Gillian Anderson takes times out from her busy schedule to give us an insight into returning to the character that made her famous...

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

Oscar Goldman speaks out about all things bionic ...

 

Over the phone, Richard Anderson takes great pride in telling me that on his side of the Atlantic it's a sunny 75 degrees. I decide not to make much of the fact that in England it's wet, extremely windy, and only just above freezing.

Anderson has had a long and varied career, and from appearances on both the big and small screen, he has moved on to become a wheeler-dealer behind the camera.

The interest in production was triggered in 1988. He and Lee Majors came to England for a benefit for blind children spear-headed by Princess Margaret. The two of them continued on to the south of France for a barge holiday with a group of friends. Majors went off running one day, and Richard and friends headed off on bikes. The two of them met up in the middle of nowhere and improvised a short scene.

"Hi, Steve", said Anderson. "Hi, Oscar", replied Majors. "I've got one more mission for you", expanded Anderson, who was being met with the sort of reluctance you would expect from a retired bionic man. With the series having been out of production for over a decade, a revival was difficult to set up, and it took Anderson over a year to get the project moving. Since then, that first TV movie, "The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman" has been followed up by two further movies - "Bionic Showdown" and "Bionic Ever After".

"We're looking at doing a theatrical feature next", comments Anderson. "It was while we were editing the last one that it seemed time to do a motion picture. I'd tried once before, but this time around the studio were more receptive. We're currently in development, for what will be a high adventure movie with the latest special effects. "Mission: Impossible" made $450 million, so perhaps the time is right".

Anderson's personal view is that the movie should involve as many of the original cast as possible, but they're not yet up to that point in the film's development. Anderson is in partnership with producer Larry Gordon on the project, and they've considered that the show's original child audience between 1973 and 1978 will now be in their 30s and 40s. Add to that daily reruns of both Steve Austin's and Jaime Summers' adventures on Sci-Fi on both sides of the Atlantic, and the new young audience will have familiarity with the show, too. Australia has even been screening the shows again in prime time. It all adds up to a ready-made worldwide theatrical audience for the project.

Will Anderson himself be appearing again as Oscar Goldman? "Look at Bond", he notes, "They've changed him before without changing 'M'. The same could be true in this case".

Richard Anderson made 29 motion pictures for MGM at the start of his career in the 1950s. In fact, there's so much to Anderson's wide-ranging career that he's due to soon have his own Home Page on the Internet! Of particular note was the SF blockbuster "Forbidden Planet" in 1956, "The Long, Hot Summer" with Orson Welles and Paul Newman in 1958, and the Kubrick movie Paths of Glory in 1957. "That was tough to get made", he advises. "Stanley was a very visual director, he had an overall concept in mind, and his interest was always in telling the story. He had read something at 11 years old about a British Army outfit who had shot five people in their battalion, and that influenced the movie. He got me being a dialogue coach while he was attending to other things".

Richard began his TV career in 1961. He was a series regular in "Bus Stop", playing District Attorney Glenn Wagner. One episode, directed by Robert Altman, caused concern at the time, with a story about a teenage psychopath, and was widely criticised for its violence. "Altman was way ahead of his time. I remember there being concern about it", notes Richard.

A regular role in the war drama "Twelve O'Clock High" followed, before he went on to join the cast of "Perry Mason" for its final season, as police lieutenant Steve Drumm. A few years later, he was back in series television alongside Burt Reynolds in "Dan August", playing Chief George Untermeyer. "Burt is very magnetic, very bright, and has a great sense of fun", Richard says warmly about his series co-star. Reynolds went on to major stardom soon after the series finished, and reruns of the series on the back of this celebrity meant the show did better than ever.

Richard is very proud of his involvement in the career of Sandra Bullock. She got a major break when she was cast as the new bionic woman in "Bionic Showdown". "We saw some tapes of her, and I knew we had to get hold of her", notes Richard with his producer's hat on. "We spoke to the network about doing a series with her, but nothing happened. I admired her presence, and she's a very interesting lady. She stepped in to do "The Glass Shield" a couple of year ago with me, and was great. I have a sense about actors, and it takes time for them to develop. I knew Kristen Scott Thomas was going to make it big, for instance".

Rumours of on-set friction between bionic stars Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner were commonplace in the 1970s when the shows screened in the UK. Could Richard confirm if this had been the case, him having worked on both shows at the same time? "As you know, Lindsay came in as a guest star, and then got her own show. There's a lot of puff going on in many a series, and it all helps to hype the shows. Everyone worked extremely hard, for instance the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN episodes were turned around in six days, with THE BIONIC WOMAN taking just slightly longer. With that sort of turn-round, and the long hours, there will always be some disagreements".

Richard is getting much more fan mail from England now that SCI-FI are rerunning the bionic adventures.

 

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

Whatever Happened to Bob Ferris?

 

It's 1996. I'd just witnessed Rodney Bewes in a Thursday Theatre Matinee. Funny Money is a West End hit - a farce in the traditional vein you would expect from author and actor Ray Cooney. Having not seen Mr Bewes practising his craft for some time, I considered it important to see him in action - and it was well worth it. As usual with plays of this genre, a chance happening, in this case the discovery of a briefcase full of cash, leads to one lie after another, each making the scenario more complicated and implausible than the last. I enjoyed it, as did the rest of the audience. The cast (which included Henry McGee, Trevor Bannister, Bill Pertwee and Carol Hawkins) obviously enjoyed performing it, too, as every now and then that famous theatrical sport of "corpsing" (the action of not quite stifling laughter brought on by the performance of another cast member) was evident.

To the stage door I go for my appointment, and I'm escorted down some very uninspiring passages into the underworld beneath the Playhouse Theatre. Rodney greets me, explaining we'll have to wait a little while, as he has to share a dressing room with Henry McGee, and he's not quite decent yet. "This is what used to be the boiler room, you know. They sold off the original dressing rooms as office blocks or something", Mr Bewes notes, with some bewilderment, and perhaps just a twinkle of Bob, his character in "The Likely Lads", coming to the surface. I could hear Bob finishing off the statement in my head - "so unfair, so very unfair".

Time passes, and eventually the dressing room is vacated. One side of it is Henry's - the mirrored wall and table in front of it neat, uncluttered, with just a few sticks of make-up lined up in a row on a napkin. Rodney's side, by contrast, is cluttered with memorabilia - photos neatly arranged on all the mirrors, books, notepads, allsorts acting as triggers of inspiration for him. He proudly shows me the recent Evening Standard review of the new series of The Liver Birds, a justifiably savage attack by Victor Lewis Smith. Highlighted is a section where he compares these new episodes, to the repeats of Whatever happened to the Likely Lads on BBC2. As far as Victor is concerned, there's no comparison - the vintage classics win hands down, and are still fresh.

"I'm sending that clipping to Ian La Frenais, one of the writers of The Likely Lads. I think it's time we did another series of it". Rodney's face beams with expectation. He loved making the series, and in this time of revivals, The Likely Lads has serious justification to consider itself worthy of an update.

A combination of Rodney's enlightened and liberal Bob Ferris, and James Bolam's reactionary and straight-talking Terry Collier, The Likely Lads made their first appearance in the 1963 Christmas Night with the Stars, introduced by Jack Warner. The two characters spent the entire seven minute scenario arguing about Rupert Bear annuals, with Terry quizzing Bob's encyclopaedic knowledge of them. After all, who WAS in Rupert's magic garden?

 

This taster introduced the audience to the characters they would meet in the first series they would appear in - called just The Likely Lads. Filmed between 1964 and 1966, 20 episodes were made of the story of two Newcastle lads trying to get on in life, of which only seven still remain in the BBC archive - so much material from that era has been lost forever. In fact, Mr Bewes informs me, those seven themselves were originally "junked", and only turned up thanks to recent searches through foreign film vaults. "The shows were screened for a long while on merchant navy ships, and some episodes ended up in an archive in Gibraltar. It's a part of my past that's gone in those lost ones, which we'll never see again".

Bolam and Bewes used to drink real Newcastle Brown Ale during show recordings, and things got very merry when more than a couple of retakes were required of certain scenes in the pub!

The final episode of that original series saw Bob thinking of joining the Army, Terry deciding to sign up, too, only for tragedy to strike when it turns out that Bob has been discharged because of his flat feet!

Soon after the end of that first series, Rodney helped Basil Brush get his own programme, as a spin-off from The David Nixon Show, where the excitable fox with the incredible laugh and his "Boom Boom!" catch phrase had originated. "I wrote and produced The Basil Brush Show, and was the first co-presenter. We were very popular with our audience because there was a lot happening each week. We'd have a collectors' item section, a weekly serial that always ended with a cliff-hanger, and an anarchic pop group in the middle. Arthur Brown set his hair on fire one week, and that was all the children could talk about for ages - they thought it was great. These days it's just psychedelic madness - perhaps the people in charge just don't know much about children - you can be anarchic without shouting at them.

"I remember ringing my mother at one stage and telling her I wasn't going to do any more, because I was going to do a film with James Mason, and my mother asked whether I was making the right decision. She thought Basil Brush was more important than any international production".

Rodney was then able to get a series off the ground with Thames TV. Called Dear Mother, Love Albert, he wrote, produced and starred in it as Albert, a character who wrote letters home to his mum every week, which were an embellishment of the truth, to say the least. Rodney also sang the signature tune for the series, and even used to be involved in the post-production editing. "They wouldn't let you do that sort of thing now - everything's done by committee. Then, you could arrange a pilot episode over lunch with one decision maker". The show was a hit, being a mainstay of the ratings Top Ten. He did three seasons of this series, followed by a sequel just called Albert.

Then came the offer to reprise his role of Bob Ferris in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, which would see the duo re-united, with Terry returning from his stint in the Army, to take on the 1970s together.

"It meant giving up Albert, but I was so fond of playing Bob, and loved the premise enough for us to begin again".

The new version had a longer run than its predecessor, ending with an extended Christmas Special in 1976. In colour (the original series being in Black and White), the show has a timeless quality to it which has earned it the right to regular re-screenings. The classic episode No Hiding Place, seeing the duo trying to avoid hearing the result of an England football international before seeing the late night highlights on TV, always seems to get a re-run when big soccer occasions are on the horizon. And One for the road remains a poignant indictment of the perils of drink-driving.

"One day, an Indian guy recognised and approached me in Putney, just in the Street, and told me that after he'd arrived from Uganda, having fled from Idi Amin's regime with just a suitcase, he said 'you gave me my first smile in a strange country, when I had nothing', and thanked me. It was such a nice thing to say that the Likely Lads had done that for him".

Rodney has been acting for nearly 50 years. He believes very much in promoting anything that he is involved with - whether it be a new stageplay, a new TV appearance, or something from his past that he is rightly proud of. I remind him of his role in the Doctor Who story Resurrection of the Daleks from the Peter Davison era of the early 1980s.

"It was sheer joy to do. The atmosphere on the studio floor was terrific - I took my children to see the recording, and there were actors shooting machine guns off, and my children were picking up the blanks and keeping them as souvenirs. It was great that they could do that, studios are so sacred normally, but it was remarkable that the crew were so laid back and happy while doing their recording to allow them to be there. I think that atmosphere comes through to the viewer, and is probably one of the reasons for the show's enduring appeal".

Rodney has been recently touring with his one man show Three Men in a Boat, having done it for three and a half months first off in 1995. "If it's just you on stage, and they've paid money to come and see your performance, you have to be so many extensions above good. It'll be brilliant to do it in London - the original book was written in 1889, but it doesn't sound dated at all, and is still funny to a modern audience".

"I'm on a real high at the moment. I know that the writers of The Likely Lads, and indeed I'm sure the BBC, would like to do some more of them, but whether they could get it together is something else. I'm not sure whether James Bolam would do it. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the writers, live in Hollywood now, and they've been working with Sean Connery on The Rock. That's one of the appeals of this business, you never know what's just around the corner".

 

 

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

A profile of Profiler's Bailey Malone ...

 

Make no mistake about it. Robert Davi is Bailey Malone. If an actor could write a character to suit himself, Robert would have sketched out the male lead in Profiler. The actor and the character share common interests, and if anything that makes the fiction all the more compelling.

Profiler has previously screened this side of the Atlantic and what was once called NBC Europe - the first two seasons of the show, that is. The series continues Stateside, lumbering through a fourth season, still with Mr Davi aboard, but star Ally Walker decided to jump ship at the end of Season Three.

Robert has been an actor all his life. "In the 8th Grade I found I had a voice for opera, so I followed that path a little, but my impulse has always been an actor", he notes, correcting press releases that have placed his career development the opposite way round. "I have always liked cinema, and let's face it, opera singers are just bad actors! I didn't want to translate myself in that direction. My heroes were people like Spencer Tracey, Bogart, Mitchum, Marvin, Richardson, Caine, all those sort".

One hero he played opposite was Frank Sinatra, in his big break, the lead role in the 1978 film Contract on Cherry Street. "To an Italian American kid, I was working with a legend. I'd seen his movies, and his interpretive ability with a song is unrivalled. He appealed to all my interests".

Robert began finding himself playing villains more often than good guys throughout the 1980s. He never felt typecast, though. "If you look at the careers of people like Anthony Quinn, Cagney, even Tommy Lee Jones, they all were cast as villains. There comes a certain point in your life, in your late 30s, early 40s, when suddenly that can change. Maybe a director sees a glimpse of something else within you along the way. I played comedy in The Goonies, which showed something else was going on. Even when I played the Bond villain in Licence to Kill, there were some people who were rooting for that character ahead of the traditional hero. Now, in Profiler, I get to play Bailey Malone, and I get to show another essence of myself. Stage performances show off multi-varied aspects of an actor, film has always been something else entirely. You always have a prejudice as to what you can and can't do, but your soul is able to come out more".

And now Davi finds himself a leading man on network television. "Who'd have thought that? I have a certain look, and while certain characters were for me, others would get the parts as they had the look rather than the soul. I was always cast older than I was in reality, having a certain look, and I grew into that look".

Getting back on the trail of information about his appearance with James Bond, I asked if there had been any pressure on the set, given that Licence to Kill was Timothy Dalton's second 007 film, and there may have been a need to better their first effort with him in the lead role. "It was a relaxed set. The Living Daylights had been successful, and it had even taken Sean Connery until Goldfinger, his third film I think, to really get there with it. What Cubby and Barbara Broccoli tried to do was make Bond more acceptable in today's society. They changed his attitude to women, and I think that was a mistake. The enjoyment of Bond is seeing him in Monte Carlo, with a Ferrari and five babes. Timothy didn't want that kind of image, and that was the mis-step. Tim got reality, not enjoyment. After all, no-one's ever played the role as well as Sean Connery - the presence, the ease, and he made it the greatest screen character of all time. Sean epitomises the essence of what everyone else aspires to be".

I turn the focus onto Profiler. Was it Robert's idea to have Bailey a cigar smoker? "That was part of the deal", he says smiling, and then lights up a Cuban cigar called Punch Punch. "I was featured in an eight page spread in a cigar officiando magazine recently. Cigars have become trendy in America, even women are smoking them". Bailey Malone is also an opera fan. "Again, my idea. I hope to soon have him taking an interest in motor cycles". No prizes for guessing this is another of Davi's hobbies.

So, who's his favourite leading lady? Robert immediately cites Ally Walker, who played female lead Sam Waters in Profiler seasons 1-3, those episodes which have been snapped up by Satellite Channel Living. "Ally is bright and funny. As for other actresses, Joan Severence was okay, Talisa Soto in the Bond film was good. There's so many ladies I'd like to work with, but I guess Catherine Deneuve would be a favourite".

Did he have any reservations about moving from film leads to a lead in a TV show? Did he see it as a retrograde step? "I had no anxiety about it at all. I'm not the kind of actor to worry. Certain actors can't translate to the big screen, so I'm glad I can do both. If 60% of an audience know your name, a lot more will know your face. I have a name which has a certain level of recognition now, which also means producers and directors know me, and are able to recognise the range of things that I can do. I like Bailey Malone, he's a positive character, and playing him each week will help add to the range that I am perceived to be able to cover. Look at George Clooney - he's moved from ER to the big screen". Certainly, Clooney's small screen success has led to him playing Batman as well as an overall extremely bankable commodity.

I ask about the striking similarities between Profiler and Millennium. Both feature characters with similar skills, and the investigation of similar cases. "You have ER and Chicago Hope, they're both hospital dramas. You have cop shows, medical shows, so why not two profiler shows. The difference between the two is that Millennium is a one note show. Profiler is more of an orchestra, an ensemble. People interact with each other, making it more human. Yes, Profiler can scare you, but it can also move you to emotion".

Does he think that Profiler is something that children should be allowed to watch? "It's definitely not for under 10s. As for over 10s, that's questionable. It depends on the child and the parent. We deal with human issues, and there is a moral sensibility in the shows. It gives hope in today's society, where we have rampant violence all around. Role models are being torn down. Malone and Waters, our central characters, have moral fibre. JFK said 'power corrupts, poetry cleanses,' and I hope that we show that the power of the FBI and the poetry of humanity leads to the exchange of lessons".

As for the future of the Bailey Malone character, Bailey has firm ideas. "I'd like to see him develop his own profiling powers. After all, Sam was his protegee, and it would be good to see him making use of that knowledge. He's got a military background, and already has a researching ability. I'd also like to see him gain a personal life. We have many interesting character arcs developing for Bailey over the seasons, as things really start to open up. We even have James Coburn guesting in a two-parter, and that's worth watching out for".

 

 

 

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

In conversation with Skinner and Krycek from The X-Files ...

 

Mitch Pileggi plays Assistant Director Skinner, Nicholas Lea is Agent Alex Krycek in the mysterious world of THE X-FILES. Fans have a very specific idea of what Skinner, the long-term boss of FBI Agents Scully and Mulder, is like. Round-rimmed glasses, over-starched shirts, and a cold demeanour, and Nicholas Lea is the man they all love to hate -- the weasel-like, shadowy character whose motives are almost always unclear. The transformation from well-to-do new partner for Mulder to a force for pure evil is gradual, and his is certainly one of the most well-drawn characters in the entire series. With these visions of the pair of them in your head, it's difficult to come to terms with them in real life. Both are easy going, dressed in jeans and causal shirts. If it wasn't for their striking features, you'd probably pass them by on the street.

Landing the role of Skinner was a case of third time lucky for Mitch Pileggi. On two previous occasions, he had auditioned to play FBI agents on the series, but when the original Section Chief, Blevins (Charles Cioffi) was unavailable for the episode "Tooms," Skinner was created. Skinner's been helping keep The X Files active, despite many attempts to shut them down. Mitch came to fame in the Wes Craven movie SHOCKER, playing the murderous Horace Pinker. TV work has included roles in KNIGHT RIDER 2000, DALLAS, and CHINA BEACH.

As for Nick Lea, he's appeared in such series as HIGHLANDER and THE COMMISH in guest roles. He made his first appearance in THE X-FILES as a survivor of a nightclub attack by a sex-swapping entity in the episode "Gender Bender."

 

That was enough to get him noticed, and director Rob Bowman immediately thought of Nick to play the part of Agent Alex Krycek in the episode "Sleepless." Since then, Krycek has turned from Goody Two Shoes into a double-crossing double agent. It's now 1996, and since I last caught up with the guys in October 1995, when the Cult TV Production Crew flew the pair of them over for CULT TV 1995, Nick Lea has been working on other projects, as well as making a couple of appearances in THE X-FILES.

"I filmed a new pilot, which is going to be picked up in the Fall (Autumn)," announces Nick. "It's called ONCE A THIEF, and it's Executive Produced and directed by John Woo. It's basically the story of three people who come from different backgrounds, my character being an ex-cop, the two others being ex-thieves, and w form an international crime-fighting group. It's sort of THE MOD SQUAD for the 1990s!"

And Mitch? Has he had time for anything else other than playing Skinner? "I have to keep myself available for the possibilities of Skinner being written into an upcoming show, and they've got me under contract now, so it's hard for me to really go out and book something else. If they need me, they need me, and I've got to be there." This being their second appearance in the UK, they seem to have acquired the roles of Ambassadors for THE X-FILES. I wonder if it ever gets boring answering the same questions over and over, having to deal with the media's obsession in asking what David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are really like?

"At times you're just tired of it," comments Nick, "but when we're not, you realise that different groups of people are going to be reading it, or seeing it, listening, viewing or whatever, and you want to make it interesting for them, too -- there's responsibility there to represent the show in a positive light. We both have a great loyalty to it, and I think that it's important to give it our best shot."

"Occasionally, when I get real tired, I just want to start making stuff up", jokes Mitch. So what's the best gag they've come up with? "That David's having a testicle reduction", Nick announces, straight-faced, and the pair of them then crack up with laughter.

We've seen Skinner get shot in an episode. Did Mitch think his number was up when he saw the "Piper Maru" script, where this takes place? "No, not at all. Chris likes the character and he's not going to kill him off...yet. I know that he realises the popularity of the role, and the writers like writing for Skinner, so I don't think that they would even consider it."

Krycek was once imprisoned in a UFO silo, seemingly with no chance of escape. But Nick does make a comeback from that. "Yes, and you can be sure I will keep doing so! I've been told I'm now over the death hump, because they were originally going to kill me - Chris Carter saw no other way that my character could go other than being erased, after having done so many awful things. I called Chris on the phone, a little irregular, I know, and pleaded for him not to kill Krycek, as I enjoy being on the show too much. Lo and behold he didn't. He said that I brought too much to the show to kill me off, which is something of a compliment. I didn't cry, though, to influence him - I didn't stoop quite that low."

But what about the silo he was in? It's a little bit difficult to get out of. "How Krycek gets out of that predicament happens in the following season, very early on". Some jolly japes had surmised Krycek had a key in the heel of his shoe. "I heard a better one", Nick remarks, "somebody suggested at one of the conventions we were at that there was a back door to the silo!"

The final episode of that third season was again a cliff-hanger. Were there any major revelations that Mitch could tell us about at that time? "Skinner pops up briefly in the last couple of episodes, and isn't an integral part to what is happening. What it's going to translate into for the beginning of Season Four, even we don't know".

What do they enjoy most about the UK, now that they've become regular visitors? Nick is gushing in his praise. "I really enjoy the people. I find them to be better educated and wittier."

"It's really vibrant here," notes Mitch. "We went to the theatre last night, and afterwards walked down the streets, and they were packed, the pubs full of people enjoying life."

Nick has family connections which add another dimension to his trips. "My heritage is English, so I'm proud to be back here. We went to the British Museum, and I was looking up my family in the books - pages and pages on it. I really enjoy it here -- at one point I was going to come over to live, maybe even try and get in at RADA - it's probably a little too late for that now. Life seems less complicated here. Another thing I didn't realise, when I went out for a run in Hyde Park, we come over to England thinking we're so different, that life is different, as we live on the other side of the world, but you watch people doing exactly the same things you're doing - Hyde Park looks so much like my home town. It makes you realise that people are the same wherever you go".

Both of them have come to terms with being recognised out on the streets. Mitch certainly has the presence not to be missed. Storyline wise, I note that some people reckon the series should stick to developing the conspiracy theory story, and not be distracted by other plotlines. Mitch ponders for a moment. "I think it's smart for them to continue having all these different avenues to take. You get the monster shows, you get the paranormal stuff, you've got the X-FILES mythology that revolves around the conspiracy. I think it's refreshing to not stay on one track too long, as the audience might get bored of that quickly. Every once in a while, throw in something different - it's very wise and astute to do so".

Nick knows what he would like to see. "A few more mythology episodes would help, because that would mean I could be in it a little more! The mythology shows are the backbone of the series. In STAR TREK, they're normally revolving around the same theme, finding a new life form or intelligence, but in THE X-FILES we go all over the map, both in terms of people and format."

A lot of people discovered THE COMMISH, when it was on Sky One, in which Nick was a recurring character, the easy going cop Ricky Caruso. "I did about two and a half years on that show. It was a great experience in terms of being in front of the camera and learning technique. It changed my life in a lot of ways - before I got that role I was just going from job to job, not really having enough money to be able to do what I wanted to do. You can be in an acting class all you want, but you don't fully learn until you get off that stage and in front of a camera".

I knew that guest stars in the early X-FILES had always been unknowns, at least that had been the rule up until this point. The reasoning had been that such a celebrity appearance would detract too much from the storyline (not to mention the possible ramifications to the budget!).

However, in the final episode of the third season, Roy Thinnes (who played architect David Vincent in the long-running 1960s series THE INVADERS is a guest star. Was this a conscious decision by series creator Chris Carter to pay homage to one of the inspirations of THE X-FILES? Mitch hadn't considered this before. "I honestly don't know, but you have to admit, it was a piece of very smart casting". Nick adds, "I know they were trying to get Darrin McGavin, who played KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, to have played Mulder's father. That would have been a real homage to the show's influences, but unfortunately he wasn't able to do it. I think Chris knows the legacy that THE X-FILES is going to leave behind, the excitement that it produces, and wanted to acknowledge the shows that motivate him from what he's watched in the past". Mitch liked sharing screen time with the one-time star of THE INVADERS.

"Roy Thinnes is brilliant, just wonderful. It was so neat working with him". Some people have suggested that psychological horror that was more evident in the earlier episodes of the show has been replaced with more horror of a graphic nature. How does Nick see it? "I think the show has become more violent. Why this is happening, I couldn't even begin to tell you. I've noticed it, but I also think the quality of the show has stepped up at the same time. When you're doing a series like this, you're constantly looking for new ways to excite your audience. The programme's evolving constantly, and it may well go back into more psychological horror - these things tend to go in cycles in long-running shows. They're still keeping up the wonderfully inventive storylines, but for instance that movie, SEVEN, it's fairly graphic, but still very good".

Speaking of clever shows, we move on to SLIDERS. Did Nick feel any remorse in passing up the chance to become a regular in the series? "There was certainly talk at one point about me joining the cast. Tracy Torme, the show's creator, called me up a while ago and told me he was under pressure from the network to do particular things in the series, which unfortunately didn't involve me. But he did want to have me back as a guest star."

And what next for Walter S Skinner? Where did Mitch see the role going? "They're opening up the character. He has an ex-wife who's a succubus, had a relationship with a hooker, and will continue to evolve. It opens up a whole bunch of possibilities. The episode where they spotlighted Skinner ('Avatar') was a real treat to do, and my favourite of last season".

And what was Nick's favourite from last season? "It's the one called 'Wet-wired', all about manipulation by the media. It was written by our special effects supervisor Mat Beck. My other favourite is 'D.P.O.' the one about a kid who attracts lightning. I mean, that's a story that doesn't work on paper, but when you see it, the performance by the kid makes it. I'm much like everyone else now - I sit home and watch the show."

Does Mitch ever put forward script ideas to the writers and producers? "No, I'm just too lazy. I come up with typical X-FILES character names sometimes - SAM CLUTCH, for instance. That's a character from my childhood - he was the bogey man who would feature in scary stories my mother would tell me. Stuff that had been passed on down my mom's family - maybe that might be the basis of a good episode..."

Indeed in the world of THE X-FILES, the unexpected is never too far away.


Interview conducted in 1996 by Alex J Geairns.

 

 

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Friday, 22 February 2008

This actress may have been Delenn in Babylon 5, but now she's much more ...

 

I had a certain trepidation about interviewing Mira Furlan. Not every actress you speak to has fled from a war zone to the relative peace of the good ol' USA.

"I had to stop giving interviews in my former country," notes former Yugoslavian Mira Furlan, "because both sides would try and twist my words to suit their purpose". We sit together in the plush penthouse suite of the Warner Brothers London office, and she sips fresh orange juice, pausing to contemplate the radical change in lifestyle the 1990s have brought her.

Mira was a household name in her former country, known for a string of features and a couple of TV series. She had been a shining star on their silver screen, winning two Golden Arenas (the Yugoslavian Oscar) for Best Actress. With the start of the troubles, neither side would allow her to stay neutral. Frosty attitudes from former friends and neighbours, and eventually even death threats, meant that Mira and director husband Goran Gajic had no choice but to emigrate, choosing to relocate to the States.

While there is obvious sorrow in her voice, she has been able to find positive points about her move. "I had a long-term frustration as a human being and an actress with the roles I used to be given in TV and film back home. I would always be cast as a bad woman, the femme fatale, in very sexist scripts. While I used to get to play the entire classical repertoire in theatre, I longed for characters on film with dignity, strength and intellectual powers. These never came - until now."

Mira struggled to find work when she arrived in America. The idea of auditions was new to her, having been such an established actress. Agents were something that she couldn't come to terms with, either. Facing a brick wall of a system which doesn't allow you to go to an audition unless you are on an agent's books somewhere, she finally decided to enlist with one.

The benefits soon became apparent. Within days she had a demanding theatrical role, and the Babylon 5 auditions were some of the first she attended, 'under new management'.

"America is just so huge compared to Europe, and there are so many wannabees, with no schooling, trying to get on in Hollywood. Even my dentist has a script he wants to sell!"

As Delenn, the ambassador of the spiritual Minbari, Mira has found a character with all the qualities she always hoped for. "Strangely, I felt frustrated in the opposite way when I first began to play her. With so much make-up, it was difficult to see how I really looked. I guess that was my vanity taking over!"

That objection gradually melted away as Delenn transformed over the years. From the harsh, sexless form of the pilot movie, the image was immediately made more feminine for the first season - keeping the bald head and a wide bridge on her nose, with her ears "lowered". The episode "Chrysalis" at the end of that first season saw her transform into a much more human incarnation - long, dark hair and a sensuality emerging which represented, in physical form, the alliance being formed between Earth and Minbar.

Delenn's assistant is Lennier, played by Bill Mumy, whom those of a creaky disposition will remember as the cute kid on "Lost in Space", over twenty years ago. "That's just another of those strange coincidences happening in my life at the moment. I used to watch "Lost in Space" as a child in Yugoslavia. Now I get to perform alongside the grown up Will Robinson! We've become great friends."

Mira's starting to find out all she can about Science Fiction. Her enthusiasm for the genre has come about from having spoken to SF fans. "Conventions came as a big shock to me. I'd never gone to anything like them before. In my experience, the people I have met at them have had very admirable qualities - they're anti-racist, void of prejudice, intelligent, and with a positive, attentive approach to life - it's very uplifting."

She notes with pride how well the videos of Babylon 5 are doing in Croatia. "I might be unpopular with the government there, but obviously not with the people!"

In the first season of Babylon 5, we see an interesting relationship building up between Delenn and Jeffrey Sinclair, the former station commander, played by Michael O'Hare.

"We both had a common grounding in the theatre, which meant we got on very well together. And then we had Bruce Boxleitner in charge. Bruce brings an incredible amount of experience to the set in a very different way. He's very relaxed about things, a real charmer!" Captain Sheridan soon revealed his feelings for Delenn, which once more brought a new aspect to her character.

Like the rest of the cast, Mira is very evasive about the background of Michael O'Hare's departure. Some say he was pushed, perhaps by TV network executives. Others say it is all part of creator J Michael Straczinski's master plan, which noted experts describe as having echoes of "Lord of the Rings" about it.

"Weeks went by between my first auditions and being finally cast. Then we had the long wait between the pilot movie being made and finally going to a series. We have five seasons before we conclude telling our story. It's a big commitment".

Furlan has been receiving many offers of work following her high profile appearances on the show. "When I received my contract, it was for the pilot movie, with an option for five seasons. It was difficult imagining that far ahead. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't certain that we'd run for that long, so it wasn't a problem. Anyway, I managed to do other work in the summer breaks, including some theatre. Besides, while I have no objection to staying on until the end, I don't plan. You never know what Joe Straczinski has in mind."

She smiles broadly, keen to carry on the mystique which her fellow cast members help to maintain. The story arc is again protected until the big reveal on-screen, and who in truth really wants to spoil the surprises?


Interview conducted in 1996 by Alex J Geairns

 

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

One of the last ever interviews with the much-missed actor behind Mr Bronson ...

 

With over 750 television appearances and 35 feature films to his credit, Michael carved himself a niche playing authoritarian figures. Guest starring in cult classics such as Jason King, The Persuaders!, Space:1999 and Blake's 7, he had a long association with Doctor Who, appearing in six adventures, alongside different incarnations of The Doctor.

Best known for his portrayal of hard-nosed French teacher Maurice Bronson in Grange Hill and the luckless Admiral Ozzel in "The Empire Strikes Back", Michael became a cult personality, witnessed by the success of his autobiographies "Yes, Mr Bronson - Memoirs of a Bum Actor", "Yes, Admiral Ozzel", "Yes, School's Out!", and "Yes It's Photographic - The Party Goes On".

A celebrity guest at the Cult TV Festivals in 1998, 1999 and 2003, he was scheduled to appear once more in 2005. Sue Griffiths interviewed him for the official Cult TV newsletter, The Contact earlier this year, in what has since tragically proven to be one of his last ever interviews.

SUE: I have a few questions… and I’m pleased to say I’m familiar with your first two books.

MICHAEL: Well that should answer most of them I think!

Do you have any time for acting any more with all the conventions and appearances that you do?

The convention circuit and conventions and appearances, etcetera all take second place to performing. That’s what it's all about.

With all the conventions you’ve done, have you got any tips with regard to surviving all the fun and games?

At conventions? Well, having just returned from "Celebration 3", which is new - it's the big George Lucas "Star Wars" convention that they hold before the release of every new film - that was very, very hectic. It was in Indianapolis and what with jet lag and five days of non stop chatting, signing, parties and what have you, it takes about a week to get over it. But my tip is to have a good wife who looks after you and when you get back, put your feet up in front of the telly and watch the Grand Prix, as I intend to do tomorrow.

Anybody can keep going on adrenaline for 48 hours and the most important thing, and I do mean this sincerely about conventions, for a guest to remember and indeed an organiser, is that the organiser is not important, and the guests are certainly not important. It's the lovely people who come through the door that are the important ones. If you cannot enjoy yourself as a guest then don't go. If you don’t enjoy doing them as an organiser, then don’t do them, because it isn’t fair to the attendees – it really isn’t.

Can you tell me a bit more about the Celebration Event?

It's like any other convention but it's on a grander, larger scale. If I were to be absolutely honest, from my point of view as someone who likes to mix with all the attendees and chat and have a drink at the bar, it was almost too large. I prefer a convention that's about 600 to 800 people. With this one we had something in the order of 25,000, which is quite a jump, but the way of coping with it is to get in touch with your particular chums and then you spend time with each group. When you’re doing the signings, you get to meet lots of lovely new people as well.

We did Q and A's as well, ours went particularly well, so I'm told - the Imperial Officers together. Aside from that, it's beautifully run, nicely presented, held in a huge convention complex and our hotel was just across the road. I could look out of my window every morning and see this long queue that went round and round the building of the convention. Your heart almost skips a beat – you think: "my goodness, am I going to see all those people today?" But it’s great fun. You just have to put your best foot forward and work on adrenaline, and then relax when you get on the aircraft – and the week afterwards – if you can.

How does an event like Cult TV compare with such a massive event as that?

Indianapolis is a one off. There are no other conventions I can think of that have such a huge attendance figure. My experience of Cult TV is that it's just about right in numbers. Aside from the fact that it embraces every sort of TV which I took part in, the difference comes in the organisation and what is on the programme and who is attending. Having said that, I meet an awful lot of people – friends of mine – at conventions I've attended and they attend other conventions that I'm going to. It's a great time. Certainly Cult TV is one of those. The first one I did was held in a hotel although I was only able to be there for a short while as I was doing Gencon the other side of the country and Cult TV sent a car for me as I remember. I was only there from midday on Sunday to midday on Monday, but I did return the following year by public demand.

Do you see many of the same faces again and again?

I'm very good with faces – not so great at names. I don't think I can be blamed really because you meet so many people. In my new book for example I have a little competition going because – it sounds pompous but it's not meant to – my latest book is my gift back although it does follow my career, to the lovely people I’ve met at conventions. There are over 700 photographs and if you recognise yourself you write to the publisher and you say "number 493 is me", then you win a prize. I had a couple sent down from the publisher this morning oddly enough, and he said Number 493 is blah blah and so on, and I looked them up in the book, and I recognised them and I could not put a name to them. That’s my one failing. It gets a little bit awkward when you get someone rushing up out of a crowd at, say, "Celebration 3" and saying "oh, Michael, how are you – lovely to see you again!" And you haven't a clue who they are. That can be embarrassing in a way, but I always take Jon Pertwee’s view. He said "I can’t remember all the people’s names – I call all the girls 'love' and all the men 'mate'", and I said that's okay until you come to introduce Love to Mate. Then he said "oh well, excuse me, introduce yourselves I'm off for a pee."

I was reading about all the different appearances you’ve done – is there any type of character you like playing the most? For example good guys or villains?

I always say the villains are the most interesting characters to play, and it's true to say that I wouldn’t have liked to be a leading man, as they tend to be rather soppy – there’s not much substance to them. But having said that I go by the script, and if the script is interesting and I think I can do something with it then I will. We had no idea, having said that, that "Star Wars" would turn into what it has done and that all these years later we would have 25,000 people coming to see us, and I suppose the same is true to a lesser extent with Doctor Who and certainly dear old Mr Bronson.

It must be interesting to see how the following of certain characters develops throughout the years – for example through events such as Cult TV which celebrates shows which haven’t been on in years but still have a place in people's hearts.

Oh, Good Lord, yes – in a way it's what I certainly have done in my last book, because I tried to cover as many conventions I've been to as possible, which is only a very small snippet. Earlier this year I was in Memphis, and the weekend before that I was in Holland which is an absolute doddle – you just go to Waterloo and get on the Eurostar, and it's like going up to Manchester. I will do conventions if I can, if I'm free but if something comes up you always have a clause in the contract which says if legitimate work comes up then you must be released to be able to do it. I do tell the organisers that I won’t pull out with anything less than a fortnight because that is really not fair on them. The only thing that could come up within a fortnight is maybe a day’s filming so you say: "I’m not going to be able to be there on the Friday but I can be there on a Saturday" because films don't film on a Saturday – well, usually anyway.

Changing the subject a little, how does directing compare with acting?

If I have one regret, it's that I didn’t start directing earlier. Not because it would have taken first place particularly, but a lot of actors direct and I thoroughly enjoy it. I did "Shirley Valentine" as the first one, and I can only work with very small casts as they have tp fit in with my schedule. I did the first outside London production of "The Woman in Black". The difference is whereas you are only really responsible for yourself when you are acting, you are responsible for everybody when you are directing, and all aspects and so on – from the lighting to the make up - and I found it very stimulating and most enjoyable.

With directing, would there be a dream project you'd like to take on?

I enjoy the whole thing – I enjoy the casting even. The very first commercial production I did was Christopher Fry's "A Sleep of Prisons" which has a cast of four and the casting for that – I took my time and it was very, very enjoyable. Sometimes it’s a little difficult when you say "sorry mate, not this time, maybe next time", but I’ve had that said to me on a few occasions throughout my career, so what the heck. Now it’s my turn to say it to somebody else. It happens to everyone – even the so called stars – I won’t call them stars – leading actors. I did a film with Ryan O’Neal and he was sixth choice for the part so you go down the list and people can’t do it or they turn it down, and eventually they wound up with him. It hasn’t to me of course – I’m usually first or maybe second choice!

What new projects have you got in the pipeline?

A couple of movies - one in America which is a horror film called "Voices from the Forest", and there’s also a lovely, lovely movie called "Economara Days", which has got to get off the ground sooner than later, let’s put it like that. It’s a movie about the making of "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne, which was made in about 1952 – it was hugely successful about the troubles in Ireland – but the troubles in Ireland long before the Troubles in Ireland that we know. A lovely film – a love story really.

This new one is a love story between one of the technicians on the movie and an Irish colleague, and there’s so much to be got out of it and with the new technology I get to play a scene with John Wayne. You know what they can do now… my wife and I watched "Singing in the Rain" and I don’t know if you’ve seen what they’ve done in the advert featuring "Singing in the Rain" with Gene Kelly – it all goes sort of funny - they put strange movements in. It works very well but I think it's sacrilege in that case as the original was so perfect, but they can do anything with all the modern equipment they have now. As I say I could get to play scenes with John Wayne which is exciting, I think the word is, although I would be playing it to a blue screen.

Aside form that, there’s another series upcoming, and another one called Star Hyke. I don’t know what that's going to be like. They’ve done principal photography on it already. This is initially a six part series but hopefully it will develop into a long running series – Claudia Christian's in it.

What role do you play in that?

Would you believe, an Admiral? The producer got on to me and said would you like to do it? And I said "yes" – I was unavailable for the last four months of last year so we had to do my bits later on and slot them in. He said "it’s the part of an Admiral", and I said "is that because I played an Admiral in Star Wars?" He said "no, it’s just the part of an Admiral". It's quite interesting because he hasn't got a great deal in the first episode but the character develops into an important running character from episode two onwards. He’s the chief baddy and instigates things all over the place. Interesting again – baddy, you see.

I was interested to hear about you working on a horror movie – what do you think of the horror genre?

Well, my philosophy is give me a script, put me in a costume and nine times out of ten the costume can be futuristic, it can be Wild West, it can be the twenties or it can be modern day and the dialogue will probably fit almost any situation. The secret is to play the characters from the heart and it will fit in. As far as what I think about horror, I think it certainly has a place and that is when the expertise of the director and special effects come into it. You get some horrors like Ed Wood in America – "Plan 9 From Outer Space" - and in a funny sort of way they are now Cult movies in their own right and most enjoyable to watch with the spinning paper plates going around the place. I suppose the one I’m making in the States, which I do a bit of every time I go out there is of that type in that in America it's slightly different from here. There's no such thing as an amateur movie in America. There are people making movies all over the place – it's only when you get up the slippery slope that the Screen Actor’s Guild and green cards and so on and so forth come into it. I do have a green card but this one is below green card level. The films that are made below the green card level in America turn out to be really very good and that’s what we’re trying to do with this one.

As I say in my book, whoever says that the camera never lies is talking the biggest load of hogwash ever, because the camera lies all the time. I remember doing a series made in this country with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis called The Persuaders! and I had to be following the baddy - I wasn’t playing the baddy this time - through a wood. I arrived at the location and we were using a copse, literally a dozen small trees in the middle of a field, but if you change the camera angle you can turn that into a dense forest, no problem at all.

What do you think of the new Doctor Who series?

I've only seen two and a bit – I saw the first one and was really quite pleased as I have worked with more Doctors than any other actor. I felt that it took a lot from the past but added some dimensions from the present and it worked very well. I am sorry that things have developed in that he’s only going to do one series although perhaps I'm being over critical as a lot of people would disagree with me. I do feel that he’s playing him a little bit flippant in the later episodes I've seen, but having said that he’s a very good actor and I’m sorry he’s leaving, but who knows the politics behind it. There's a guy David Tennant – who is apparently taking over and again was apparently wanted by the producer right from the start. The BBC said this guy doesn’t have a big enough name, we must have somebody with a name and that’s why they got Chris. Now David has played Casanova, he has a big enough name and he is going to take over. I just hope that he will keep a strong hold on the piece and not let it go marching on as did the movie they made with Paul McGann. I thought that was a great disappointment frankly – I mean imagine Doctor Who kissing his assistant? It's wrong. This guy has got quite close to saying well, if you want to come with me so you think there's some attraction there but I do hope it doesn’t go further than that.

With all of your writing, are you interested in writing any fiction?

A long, long time ago I my wife and I started reading whodunnits. We used to pick them up at the penny stall – probably all we could afford in those days and we always said we could do better than this. So to cut a long story short she does most of the writing, but I do a little bit of adding, imaging and everything. There are now three Inspector Day books waiting for a lively publisher to say "my God this is what I want" but it's very, very much a hobby. As indeed are my "Yes" books, although they have taken up a lot of my time but they’re my relaxation, just to sit in front of my computer and tap away. As the Times reviewer said "it is amazing that Michael can go back to the well so many times and come back with something completely different", which I take as a compliment. Which indeed I believe it was meant to be! I enjoy doing them, people enjoy reading them. As for the fiction ones, I hope that one of these days we will get a publisher – maybe my publisher – he knows about them – and I'll sling them over to him and say "what about these mate?" and we’ll see what happens.

It sounds like quite a challenging thing to do – putting together fiction and getting to the stage where it's an actual book

I think the main thing I would say about writing is it’s not something that can be forced – you’ve got to enjoy it. There are times when you’ve got to write to a deadline for example. There’s a magazine that amazes me from this group of appreciators - I hate the word fans as the word fan stands for 'fanatic' and people who go to conventions are not fanatics. There may be one or two exceptions but there always are so I have coined the word appreciator. These appreciators came up to me and said "Michael, we would like to form the Michael Sheard Appreciation Society", and I quite truthfully said to them: "That’s fine, chums, but I do like to be hands-on and I deal with my own fan mail and so on, so I don’t really think there would be any purpose in forming an appreciation society because I go to conventions etc, etc."

They said "what about a magazine" – a fanzine I think they’re called – and lo and behold they came up with it. It’s called "You, Boy" and it’s still going after all these years. I had an e-mail from the editor just a few days ago and he said "the new one’s coming out shortly, I’ve got a half page that needs to be filled – can you write something?" I had to write something in about half an hour flat, which has its thrill if you like but I’d rather not write like that. I’d rather tap away as the mood takes me.

Michael Sheard. Thanks from us all for the memories.

 

by
Friday, 22 February 2008

An interview with the Batman super villain The Riddler, the late, great, Frank Gorshin ...

 

"While we were filming Batman I often got asked if I'd got it together with Catwoman," Frank Gorshin remarks, taking a drag on a cigarette and fast recovering his vocal range after throat surgery.

"It was tough enough getting into my own tights, let alone hers!!"

A laugh more throaty than usual accompanies the punchline - the giggle is infectious and I find I have to join in. Mr Gorshin likes having fun, and that includes wit his interviews. Thinking we were settled down and ready to begin, I ask the usual mundane opener to settle him in. How did he get the part of The Riddler?

"I really like Brad Pitt", he says with a straight face, and then smiles widely, before the giggles start again between us. Sitting up straight, Frank slips on his serious cowl for a moment and fills in the story. It's a sunny day, and this is going to be a long session, so I was thankful of the shade.

"I had worked for a guy called Bill Gerringer on Naked City. He told me he had this project and asked me if I'd consider the part. I'd absolutely loved the Batman comics as a kid – and especially The Riddler, who was a genius. He just got away with pranks all the time. There was nothing he couldn't do. To suddenly be asked whether I wanted to bring him to life was just amazing. I didn't have to audition or anything."

With many appearances as the king of question marks (save for one outing where John Astin of Addams Family fame stepped into the tights), did he get the chance to develop the character at all?

 

"The key had to be his laugh. Life was such fun for him and I tried all sorts of laughs, but it had to be an honest laugh. I was really anxious to do this part – it was just bizarre. The outfits, the tights, everything. Adam West had to be careful not to be ridiculous, but I knew what I had to do and that was to have a lot of fun. I really looked forward to every new episode. I would do one show then I wouldn't do a show for another eight weeks – but I always looked forward to appearing again."

With Batman a success even now, over 30 years on, was there any feeling on the set that they were becoming part of a TV legend?

"Well, even to this day I certainly get recognised – ten year old kids still know me because of the re-runs. The first overnight ratings back in 1966 were phenomenal, and we kind of knew then that it was going to be something special. None of us knew or could anticipate just how long it was going to last. I certainly enjoyed the success and the exposure – but it has been a cross to bear. People identified me as that character for a long while. I had a tough time being considered again as a straight actor."

There were a great many props in the series. Had Frank encountered any problems with them?

"I got stuck in the automobile once. I was in the Batmobile and just couldn't get out. There were no handles, inside or outside, and they had to call a crew member in to get me out. I was stuck there for a long time. There was one sequence where I had to slide down a chute and come out standing up in a crowd of people. Believe me, that took quite a few takes!"

I wondered, as Frank is a comics fan, had he ever fancied a crack at another role in the series?

"Now, don't get me wrong, Burgess Meredith was so brilliant, but I would have loved to have played The Penguin. I would have maybe quacked more than him, and I would have waddled more. I was not the leading man type, so playing Batman would have been too straight. It was far more fun being the villain."

Frank was born on 5 April 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cult Film fans know him from a role in "Invasion of the Saucer Men" in 1957, and he has had a reputation as a comic and impressionist in the American equivalent of variety for a great many years. Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, even Jack Nicholson are part of his mimic repertoire. With this thought in mind, I tackle the thorny topic of the Tim Burton Batman movies. Adam West is polite in his criticism of them, so how about Frank's opinion?

"They're terrific. I liked the first one with Jack Nicholson. They approached it from a very dry aspect. Ours was a spoof on the comic and these movies were dedicated to creating that dark look, Jack was absolutely brilliant as The Joker. I did think that somewhere along the way they would have had some of the original people doing cameos, which would have been fun. I don't know why they didn't."

So what is Mr Gorshin's favourite episode?

"It has to be the very first one. I set my character in that one and it got so much hype. It really was a big excitement in my life. We got ratings bigger than the Tonight show, and that was the biggest thing around. It was incredible"

Has Frank any memorabilia stored away from the series, as Adam West does?

"I never had any to keep. The costumes were just leotards and by the end of an episode it was just all shreds. I do have some old scripts and every once in a while I'll sell one at a convention."

As you can see from the TV credits at the bottom of this feature, Frank's been keeping himself busy on TV (and film, too - witness "12 Monkeys"). What have been his recent projects?

"Well, I've made a picture called "Everything's George". It's about George Burns, who I play, and they made me look like him. It was uncanny. I'm developing a one-man show with me as George, which we'll take on the road. I've also just done a picture with Eric Roberts."

And what has been the highlight of his career?

"I was nominated for an Emmy for playing The Riddler in that first episode "Hi Diddle Riddle". I was so thrilled just to have been nominated. I've been lucky and had a great life and everybody says to me to write a book, an autobiography, but who's going to read it? I haven't done enough to merit writing a book on me. But there's still time…" he muses, and smiles enigmatically. The riddles never cease.

 

FRANK GORSHIN'S TV SERIES WORK

  • "Black Scorpion" (1999-2000): Clockwise
  • "The Phantom Eye" (1999) (mini-series): Codger
  • "The Bold and the Beautiful" (1999): George
  • "General Hospital" (1999): Reverend Love
  • "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (1995): Sharpie Lawyer in "Whine, Whine, Whine" ( #2.21)
  • "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" (1993): Brother Septimus in "Tale of the Carved Stone" (# 3.7)
  • "Ren and Stimpy" (1991): Reverend Jack Cheese in "Jack Cheese"
  • "Murder, She Wrote" (1988): Arnold Goldman" in "Mourning Among the Wisterias" (# 4.15)
  • "Monsters" (1988): appeared in "Parents From Space"
  • "The Fall Guy" (1984): Frakes in "Losers Weepers" (# 4.1)
  • "The Edge of Night" (1981-2): Smiley Wilson
  • "Goliath Awaits (1981) (mini series): Dan Wesker
  • "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (1979): Kellogg in "Plot to Kill a City" Parts 1 & 2
  • "Greatest Heroes of the Bible" (1978) (mini-series): Ocran
  • "Legends of the Super-Heroes" (1977): The Riddler
  • "Wonder Woman" (1977): Dr Hoffman in "The Deadly Toys" ( # 2.12)
  • "Charlie's Angels" (1977): Harry Dana in "Angels at Sea" (# 1.21)
  • "S.W.A.T." (1975): appeared in "Ordeal"
  • "Hawaii Five-O" (1974): Stash in "Welcome To Our Branch Office" (# 7.15)
  • "Don Adams' Screen Test" (1974): appeared as himself
  • "The ABC Comedy Hour" (1972): Regular appearances
  • "The Virginian" (1970): "Dutch" in "Follow the Leader" (# 9.11)
  • "The High Chaparral" (1969): Patrick 'Stinky' Flanagan in "Stinky Flanagan" (# 2.21)
  • "Star Trek" (1969): Commissioner Bele in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (# 3.15)
  • ".Batman (1966-8): The Riddler
  • "Garrison's Gorillas" (1967): Destin" in "Thieves' Holiday" (# 1.10)
  • "The Munsters," (1966): Fair Deal Dan in "Herman, the Tire Kicker" (# 2.28)
  • "The Andy Williams Show" (1966): personal appearance
  • "Naked City" (1963): appeared in "Beyond This Place There Be Dragons" (# 4.19)
  • "Combat!" (1963): Wharton in "The Medal"
  • "Empire" (1962): appeared in "The Fire Dancer" (# 1.7)
  • "The Untouchables" (1962): Herbie Catcher in "The Pea" (# 4.5)
  • "Combat!" (1962): "Private Gavin in "The Hell Machine"
  • "Mr. Lucky" (1960): Jerry Musco in "The Last Laugh" (# 1.17)
  • "Frontier Doctor" (1959): appeared in "The Shadow of Belle Starr" (# 1.15)

 

Find out more about Frank Gorshin at the official website www.frankgorshin.com

 

 

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