Act 1: Great expectations of name-dropping
Yes, certain others’ and my own of myself (because of theirs, to begin with).
And, well, because of Pip.
Expect to find much of that in this first act. Although, not just names of famous people. There are more people in this world who are more important to humanity than those who become famous for one thing or another. Celebrity used to be different.
Fame, for the soul, is an empty purse, if fame is a goal in itself. In fact, fame is an unfortunate side-effect of being noticed for what you do at a time and in a place when those around you are less noticed (especially if you commit a major crime). Fame can, however, sometimes open doors (unless you’re locked behind one for committing a major crime).
Anyway, in the main, the mentions of estimable folk in this first act are a limited number of individuals with whom I’ve had the privilege of associating as an actor, at various times since I was a wee lad.
So, let’s get name-dropping. Alphabetical order. As you will see, one usually leads to another...
Kitty was a terrific actress to work with. I confess, I was a little disappointed not to have met her husband before I left Budapest briefly, where the series of Cadfael was filmed.
Derek Jacobi was a consummate professional, and I fear I made him work harder than he should have needed to. Nerves in the face of greatness. Thank you, Sir Derek, for your grace in the face of a naive young man.
Rick Stroud directed me, including the shape of my severe tonsure.
Many other fabulous people in company.
Lent was filmed in four weeks at one of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ buildings, Marsh Court, in Stockbridge, Hampshire (at the time, operating as a private boarding school).
Jane was Peter Pan and I was Michael Darling at the Shaftesbury Theatre,
where “I flewed!”
Nigel Patrick played my father and Captain Hook.
(I also played Peter Pan, on BBC Radio 4, some years later.)
Jane became another mother of mine a couple of decades after our original Neverland adventures, when we were part of a new Crossroads family. That particular enterprise resulted a sketchy situation for me in real life, although there were a number of highlights during my time working with Jane again, such as meeting her sketch-master husband, Gerald Scarfe.
Annette is a remarkable actress with an incredible career. Annette played Jenny and I played Tom in Last Day of Summer, a film adapted for screen from a short story by Ian McEwan in his first published collection, First Love, Last Rites.
Tim played Edmund Junot in this big-scale mini-series — I was his younger self.
Steven Berkoff played a convincing Nazi who interrogated me in a bunker, which was a real place hidden in the grounds of a French Chateau.
Doreen was my first agent, and the best I ever had. She scared the life out of my tiny little mind at times. She is on my list of desert island dinner guests.
Carrie was beautiful and her perfume was intoxicating. She was Elizabeth and I was William Frankenstein.
Robert Powell played Victor Frankenstein in this TV film of Mary Shelley’s classic.
David Warner crushed me to death in the end.
Rutger played Albert Speer, in a big-scale production about Hitler’s architect, Inside the Third Reich. I was Albert Speer, too — Rutger’s younger self.
Marvin J. Chomsky directed me, and cast me again in another historical epic a few years later.
Terry Plummer was the stuntman who doubled for Stratford Johns. You might not have heard of Terry, although you will have seen him countless times on your screen over the decades.
Around the time of my 21st birthday, I worked with Stratford again on The Life and Times of Henry Pratt. He wanted to tip me upside down again, as he had done with Pip. He probably should have done; it might have helped.
On TV some years later, Anna was another kind of mother — a Prioress — in Sea Dragon, in which I played Jestyn.
Pat Roach coached me with some some stunt work.
Holly Aird, as Ffion, helped my character’s feud with holy advice.
I watched Liam him die in front of me (I didn’t find him, and I didn’t kill him). And I rode a Firemare with him, too (before his character died, of course, although not necessarily in the that order). This was Krull, after all.
Freddie Jones was doing some crazy stuff in a big spider-web on my first day at Pinewood Studios.
Derek Meddings showed me the miniature giant spider-web that Freddie’s character was navigating, and generously tolerated my inquisitiveness by showing me how he was creating all sorts of other special effects he produced for the film.
Robbie Coltrane told me a joke about his name when we were filming in Italy. I didn’t get it. Sorry, Robbie.
Vic Armstrong taught me how to tumble fall from height onto a crash-mat.
Greg Powell dropped me into face of a tiger. And still called me Titch when we met again years later on the set of Harry Potter at Leavesden Studios (I wasn’t in HP, btw; my magical stunt friend Matt Stirling was working for Greg when I visited one day).
Gerard Naprous cracked his whip as part of the stunt team of bandits assisting our quest to save the captive princess from the Beast. Later, Gerard drove me through a thunderstorm as I rode a Palomino through a forest at night, in The Children of Green Knowe.
Peter Yates directed Krull. He scared the marbles out of me by firing a gun off-camera to generate a reaction. Not a great director’s technique, in my opinion.
Ron Silverman, the producer, and his wife, Moira, were such nice people. They made Krull a family adventure when it came to the Italian location filming near L’Aquila.
Filming Krull is when I met the genius Jean Williams, a tutor, who subsequently became my chaperone, too. We had many adventures, thanks to her intrepid and inspiring nature.
Sir Anthony narrated Hansel and Gretel, made for the BBC Open University, in which I played a tong-curled Hansel.
Sheila Hancock was the witch who tried to eat me. Dame Sheila, in reality, was the antithesis of her character.
Omar was an incredibly charming man, who regaled
fellow cast-members with the most engaging and entertaining anecdotes; usually while we all sat
standing-by on a stationary bus, parked somewhere in
the remote countryside of the USSR, where massive sets
of old Tsarist palaces had been reconstructed for
Thanks to Lilli Palmer for arriving into the bleakness
with Swiss chocolate, a huge bar of which she
presented to me when we first met. That was a
welcome luxury in a country with scarce food.
Meanwhile, the locals were queuing outside the empty village bakery in metre-deep snow, hoping for some
bread to arrive.
Marvin J.Chomsky was my director again.
I was young Peter, with Jan Niklas and
Maximilian Schell as the older versions; I’d been
listening to their voices on cassette tapes for weeks beforehand to emulate their accents.
Alvin Rakoff directed. He was the first director I ever worked with in television, in an ITV Playhouse episode years before.
Peter Egan also starred in this production — he later played my father in
John Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy a few years on.
Sir Antony was Richard III, and I was Prince Edward of Wales. Sir Antony’s voice was tremendous, echoing down the back-stage stairwell as he warmed up his voice each night pre-show.
Bill Alexander directed.
Dame Dorothy was one of my early mothers, in Undiscovered Country, written by
As a young production assistant for Turtle Key Arts (a charitable arts company I’m
Finty and I were close friends, since we first met filming The Torch. She’s a credit to her family, as is her lovely son. Finty’s mother and father (Judi Dench and Michael Williams) also played parts in the children’s TV series we were all part of, which was filmed in Greece (where we first met), Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Tenerife. We had some great times together, then and later.
Dame Judi invited me as a guest of hers to the gala premiere of Casino Royale (an extraordinary event of glitterati), for which I’ll be eternally grateful to her. (I still recall being worried about HM The Queen during the film, though, because it was spectacularly loud at times.) It was a surprising privilege to meet Patrick Swayze and his wife, Lisa, at the after-premiere party. I was too nervous to say hello to too many others with supreme kudos who were there that night. Probably just as well I didn’t make a fool of myself in doing so.
Well, that’s probably enough for now.
You can ask me questions if you feel curious enough.