Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The genius of VERITY LAMBERT

On casting IAIN CUTHBERTSON as Charlie Endell in Budgie...
Keith [Waterhouse] and Willis [Hall] had written this part for the first episode and possibly the second and then [to] disappear and they had wanted a particular actor – who was a very good actor, I’m not going to mention his name because he would have been very good – except that I had seen him do that so many times and I said to them “Listen, he’d be good but I think we can be more imaginative”.

And Iain Cuthbertson at that time on television was playing rather middle-class [people] like bank managers or lawyers, but I had seen him at the Royal Court in a production of Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance where he was absolutely frightening and terrifying and I said “Look please see this actor because I believe that he can surprise people”.

And I sent the scripts to Iain and [he] was wonderful, because he absolutely saw it as an opportunity to do something very different. He came in and he had this thing that Charlie would speak with this Scottish accent overlaid with these kind of Americanisms.  That came from him, and Willis and Keith loved what he did with it so much that they then wrote him in as a running character.

On casting WILLIAM HARTNELL as the first Doctor Who...
I thought about Bill [Hartnell] because he did this thing called The Army Game where he played this ghastly Sergeant Major, and then I saw This Sporting Life, where he played this failed rugby league talent scout… and he was so touching in it. And I thought well, here’s an actor who can combine two things, because I always thought that Doctor Who should be dangerous, at the same time as touching and lovable as well.

[Bill] fell in love with the character and became completely entranced by Doctor Who. Obviously he was my casting, and the first actor in the part, but for me he was the best. He embodied the most complexity – he was sometimes dangerous or unpleasant, sometimes kind, sometimes foolish, but most importantly he was never a member of the establishment. He was always an outsider.

On casting GEORGE COLE as Arthur Daley...

We had to look for an Arthur Daley.  There were various people put up, very good actors, one of them being Denholm Elliott who I think was a wonderful actor but I personally didn't think he was right for this particular role.  There were other suggestions, but the one I was most enthusiastic about was George Cole.

For a while I was very much on my own there.  There was a general feeling that he was too middle class; he had been playing some middle class roles.  But I kept thinking about the spiv in St Trinian's and just somehow I knew that he could do it.  And in the end I said "Look, I really think we should go with him and if it doesn't work then I'll put my hands up and it'll be my fault.  I'll take the responsibility".

We were all thrilled when he said he saw himself in this role.  I'm always pleased when an actor looks at something and says "Yes, yes I can see this".  It confirms your own feelings.  William Hartnell was the same.  I just felt as soon as George's name was mentioned "That's the guy who can play this role" and I think I was proved right.

Sources: Doctor Who Magazine n.234 (Marvel Magazines 1996); SFX n.150 (Futura Publishing 2006); Budgie: The Complete Second Series DVD (Network 2006).

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