CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS
ANGELA BROWNE - NUMBER 86 (A CHANGE OF MIND)
Adapted from an interview conducted by Dave Jones and transcribed by Dave Healey, with their kind permission.
Angela Browne, Francis Mathews, and Dave Jones. Photo: Peter Dunn
Jones: Would you please welcome, together with her husband Francis Matthews,
Angela Browne. (applause)
DJ: Did you go with Francis to this `Hammer' convention?
AB: Yes. They were all barmy! (laughter) Huge people all walking around, drinking lager with Doctor Death written over it! And skulls and fangs! I got in a lift with one and was panic-stricken. I got out the floor before I should have done!
DJ: And this was in Harrogate! It's not known for its Satanism is it? We'll talk about Patrick McGoohan and "The Prisoner". You first met Patrick on "Danger Man" didn't you?
DJ: It was one of your first jobs as well, wasn't it?
AB: Well, I was in a play in the West End and I got sent this television script - "DangerMan". "What's this?" I said. Nice part; it was called "The Girl In The Pink Pyjamas" and I was the girl in the pink pyjamas. I remember I had to stagger across a wasteland somewhere up in Elstree in pink pyjamas on a freezing cold day. But when I met Patrick, he wasn't so well known then, he'd done a couple of films, I wasn't a fan of his at all, but actually I fell in love with him; I just adored him and he was so kind to me. I was a kid, I was 21, and he took over the lighting I remember. There was a scene where I had to be lying there rescued from some terrible situation. I was lying there thinking "What a lovely man," and between takes he was saying "Get more light there, get more shadow there." He was actually lighting it - at a time when he wasn't actually in charge of anything; he was just the actor. And I loved him from that moment on. So when I was asked to do "The Prisoner" I said "Oh, yes please!"
DJ: Did the director on Danger Man get a look-in with McGoohan in charge?
AB: No, not much, no.
DJ: It was one of your first TV jobs that wasn't it?
DJ: How did you get into the acting business, Angela?
AB: Well, I was a sort of child who used to go to the pictures and sit in the dark and wish that I was whoever it was up there. And I used to get on the bus home and I knew it was school the next day and I was to kill myself. I wanted to live in, I suppose, a sort of fantasy world. I just liked acting, it was fun.
DJ: Did you used to act at school?
AB: Yes, I had to be held down if there was a school play. So when I was only 15 years old I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which was far too young. I was there with darling Richard Briers, who was my best friend. But he was quite grown-up, he'd done the National Service. He was 20. He used to be my friend and was kind to me. Then I went into rep and very soon I got a job in the West End and then I got a job in "The Girl In The Pink Pyjamas". I did a lot of plays in London and I was doing very well. And then I got a job in the Hebrides for the BBC, a show called "The Dark Island", where I met a young man, oh boy, called Francis Matthews (laughs) and within a year we was wed, as they say. And within a year I had a baby and within another year I had another baby. And it was just after I had the other baby I did "The Prisoner".
DJ: We'll go on to The Prisoner in a minute, but how did you get the Danger Man part? Was that through a casting agency? Can you remember? It's a long time ago now!
(Interviewer gets a well deserved slap from the guest!) (laughter and applause)
DJ: Oh, I love it when she's dominant!
AB: No, I'd done this play in the West End, which was a very showy part, and I had what they call good notices and my face was all over the papers in nineteen hundred and dot, dot, dot! I guess the producers just thought "We'll have her."
DJ: In those days did you have to do a reading?
AB: No, it was quite smart. I was just asked to do it.
What did you do between "Danger Man" and "The Prisoner"?
AB: I did another London show, I got married and I had two babies. That took up some time!
DJ: Did you stop and drop out of the business for a while?
AB: I only did things like television because I really adored, and adore, my children. I have three boys and they are my best thing, apart from you (directed at Francis Matthews in the audience). (aaahs) I genuinely didn't want to leave the kids but, at the same time, I loved acting. In those days, seriously, it is not like it is now, a woman working was not considered really alright. It was considered a bit selfish and I had a Yorkshire mother-in-law who thought I was beyond the pale to leave my children with an au pair girl. And on the whole I didn't really enjoy it because I thought my place was at home.
DJ: When The Prisoner role came around, how did you get that part?
AB: I honestly can't remember. I remember getting the script. It was another offer. There is a difference between an interview, where you have to go to be seen, and an offer and this was an offer. Because Pat was the producer I knew he liked my work as they say. But I remember sitting across the fireplace from Fran and opening this script and he said "What is it?" And I said "It's called "The Prisoner"." He said "What are you playing?" And I said I was playing Number 86! (laughter) And he said "What's it about?" And after about half an hour I said "I don't know!" (laughter) And after an hour he said "What's it about?" and I said "I don't know!" So I actually turned up at the studio, which was MGM, we never got here......we never got to Portmeirion. But the whole sound stage was a reproduction of Portmeirion. It was fascinating, beautifully done. And I thought "I'll ask him." What you normally do if a thing has been going for a while, you ask the make-up girls or your wardrobe.....so the first morning in make-up I said "What's all this about?" and they said "I don't know, dear!" (laughter) And I actually said to Pat McGoohan, there were lots of greetings, and I was still quite keen.....not as keen as he was....! (laughter)
DJ: You had to put that bit in there!
AB: And I said "What's it all about?" He said "I don't really know, but let's get on with it!" (laughter)
DJ: As an actress, when you prepared for a part, are you looking for something you can hang your performance on? When you are offered a part like this and you read the script and you haven't a clue what it's about and you go to the executive producer and ask what it is about and he says "I don't know," how do you then approach the part?
AB: With Number 86 I followed Noel Coward's old thing "Learn the lines dear and don't bump into the furniture." (laughter) Because dear Number 86 wasn't really a person she was a bit of an automaton. So you just learned it. And you had to learn it with Patrick in charge I tell you, you had to know your lines.
DJ: So you are not an advocate of getting into the part and feeling the part?
AB: Yes I am, if it is the sort of part that you can, but the fact that nobody knew what it was all about....I don't care what people say now but people didn't know what it was all about. But it was fascinating. It was a fascinating atmosphere on the set.
DJ: I was going to ask you about the atmosphere on the set. You got there for your first morning's work and worked under a young director called Roy Rossotti. Do you remember him?
AB: I remember him and remember thinking he was rather sweet. I do remember that he was taking great care and, because he was taking great care, he was taking a great deal of time. And Patrick was very much "let's get on with it," terrifying really...
DJ: Can I just interrupt you? You did say that Patrick's mannerisms changed as he got more tense, I wonder if you could describe those? He used to... twitch! And this was actually getting worse as the morning went on...
AB: It was getting terrible! I vaguely remember....I don't think it was a scene I was in....he was setting up a shot with this director, who was a very good director, but he was taking quite a lot of time. Patrick was getting more and more twitchy and then lunch was called and he had a two hour lunch break, which was very unusual in those days, and when I got back on the set Patrick was directing! (laughter)
DJ: Roy Rossotti lasted half a day. Was what he was doing not to Patrick's taste or was it just a case of time?
AB: I think it was because Patrick, as well as being the star, was also the producer and I think they were behind.
DJ: Did you get the impression he was under pressure...?
AB: Under great pressure, yes. But with the actors, with me... I don't know about the other actors experiences with Patrick, but with me he was always terribly patient, really kind, he gave you all the time in the world. And I really did love him, I thought he was smashing. Some people found him a bit fierce, and he was fierce because I think he was a perfectionist. He knew what he wanted and if you went all the way along with him he was on your side. And that was the thing I liked about him. He was only angry with people he felt weren't doing the job properly.
DJ: There was an incident on set wasn't there. Patrick was lying on the table and you were trying to prepare for it... you were wound up for this weren't you?
AB: I was doing a lobotomy, or whatever it was supposed to be, and I was in a bit of a state because suddenly with Patrick taking over we were galloping and we were getting ahead of ourselves. And you get a schedule every day, as you probably know, if you are filming something and it always has the scenes you are going to do. Well, it didn't have my lobotomy scene on this particular day so I was quite pleased.....I thought I'd go home that night and prepare for it.....
DJ: Because it is a very technical speech...
AB: Terribly difficult dialogue, really difficult stuff. But because we were getting ahead it suddenly was announced that we do a special late night shoot and we were going to do the operation scene. I was appalled. I went to my dressing room with my script and had to cram it - I couldn't do it now, of course, but I was young then and I did it. But it was only just there. You know how some days you learn something so well it's right deep in you and it wouldn't matter if the set fell down you would still know it. With this it was just there so I needed to concentrate. We got onto the set and Patrick was lying there waiting to be lobotomised by me. They put me in a white coat and I thought "Dear God don't let me forget my lines." And as he was lined up all the extras and all the crew were talking loudly and I was thinking "I wish they'd shut up. I can't think. What am I going to say?" And suddenly this vision rose and he said "Shut up!" (laughter) He said "This is an actress who is doing her best to play this part and if you don't shut up you're all sacked." (laughter) And I was even more fightened! But he was on your side. If he knew that you were doing your best he was on your side. I liked that.
DJ: What sort of effect did that have? Did you manage to get through it fairly quickly?
AB: There was stone silence on the set, not a word. You could have heard a pin drop. I was so frightened. In the silence he was saying "This actress has learned her lines..." To God I had! (laughter) But we actually did it in one take. I remember that because we were watching the clock.
DJ: That was a feather in your cap because you actually did that so well that you were back on schedule after the earlier problems. They were expecting that speech to take quite a while. When you see it later on in the Coliseum Cinema you'll see it's full of technical stuff about frontal projection...
AB: ...and you'll see me twitching!
DJ: It has been mentioned that that speech bears a remarkable similarity to "Tomorrow's World".
AB: Yes it is.
DJ: Did you base it on anything like that?
AB: No. It was just a lot of props and little bits of light and me been all cool and smooth!
DJ: What's the key to playing that, because it could so easily all fall apart and become farcical?
AB: The thing is to play it with deep sincerity and great seriousness and all the time thinking "What a load of old tosh this is!" I never quite understood the plot actually. I'm supposed to have done it and then he wasn't done so maybe someone could explain it to me later.
DJ: This isn't the first time you've been to Portmeirion is it? You weren't there for the shooting of the episode as your sequences were all filmed at MGM in Borehamwood, but you have been here before.
AB: Well years after I had done this thing I went up to Wales to visit my brother and on the way back [with] my third son, who was born after "The Prisoner", just popped in to see it and it was quite extraordinary actually how, having never seen it, having been on that set miles away in Elstree, it was like coming back and I think it was quite brilliant the way the designers did it, except for that lousy garden.
DJ: I was going to mention that. A sequence in "A Change Of Mind", where McGoohan is exercising, I remember you being less than impressed with that set - it's the one that you were hypnotised in also with the watch.
AB: What they used to do in those days, I don't think they do it anymore, if there was an outdoor scene or a garden scene the night before the set men would bring in branches and bits of old tree and shove them on the ground to look like the outdoors, then they'd put on birdsong. What happened was, it was a night like this (hot and humid), and all the trees would do that (wilt). I remember going onto that set, it was the last scene I shot in the piece, and thinking "what a dreadful dead garden this looks" and they were shoving all these plastic flowers around. And it looks terrible.
DJ: There are some lovely sets but the one that always amazes me is the perspective set, the one that looks down towards the Town Hall with the Hercules statue, and as they walk down it you can hear the studio boards going clunk, clunk. Did you watch your own performance?
DJ: Do you watch all your own performances?
AB: I don't do it any more, thank God, so I don't have to watch myself growing old. I used to watch myself. Seriously there are actors who love watching themselves, and darling Roger Moore was one, because I did a lot of "Saints", and he would say "Come on Ange, let's go and watch the rushes," he loved the rushes. And you'd sit thinking "Oh God here I come, isn't this embarrassing." (laughter) Now that everyone's got a video, you see yourself doing things that you don't know you do. I thought "What am I doing with my mouth. What a peculiar way to talk." (laughter) And what an awful walk. I still have that walk. I walk like the Queen. (laughter)
DJ: You've met the Queen haven't you? Tell them about the Queen.
AB: I was in a play at Her Majesty's Theatre called "Cause Celebre" and one night it was announced that the Queen Mother was coming, so we were all on our best behaviour. We were told that if we were very good we could go and drink champagne with her after the show. Suddenly everyone was even more tense and people were putting flowers in the Royal box and we all thought "Who else is coming?" It turned out is was Her Majesty The Queen herself. We were rehearsing our little curtsies and all our knees were shaking, heaven knows why. You'd got to perform, and I was playing an awful person and I thought "She'll send me to the Tower!" Just afterwards, when we were having the introductions - the Queen Mother is as lovely as they say, she's adorable, she really is like everybody's granny, but the Queen - she doesn't like the theatre much and I don't think she knows how to deal with actors. We had to line up and had to curtsy. She's much shorter than I am, and I took the Royal glove and I did my bit and as I came up I met this stony face, half way up, because she is quite small, and she just glared at me. I thought "She obviously didn't like my performance, she obviously doesn't like me and I've had it." Afterwards, I was talking to her dear mother and she said "Well, darling, I've enjoyed it most tremendously. And I said to Elizabeth `Why don't you come with me, it's just around the comer?"' (laughter) And that isn't a story against the Queen because I think she's friendly but it's just that I don't think she knows how to deal with people who are in the theatre - they're a funny lot!
Talking of champagne, there was a very nice McGoohan story concerning that tipple
AB: Oh yes, this is one reason I like him so much. One morning we had been working hard. I was hot and bothered and tired and we were rushing and he said "Is there anything I can do for you?" (laughter) So, without thinking, I said "I wouldn't mind a glass of champagne." He said "I see." And I thought "He'll think I'm a drunken actress or something!" So, I forgot all about it, because I wasn't really serious. And when we broke for lunch I went up to my dressing room and there on my dressing table was a great bucket - iced champers. And one glass! (aaahs) So I took it home for Francis. But seriously, wasn't that a sweet thing to do.
DJ: It sounds like you had a great time on "The Prisoner".
AB: It was a lovely job. The funny thing was, I may be wrong in remembering this, but I think when we finished it they were still being shown or hadn't been shown, and I was literally as clueless about what it was about as when [I started] We both sat down and watched the very last episode and thought "Now we're going to find out how it all ends....And when it was all over we felt, kind of, oh! And I don't know whether you all understand it, the last episode, but I didn't really. Maybe I would if I saw it again.
DJ: I think the problem is that the people who understand it can't explain it! Did you watch the entire show then?
AB: Yes, I loved it. I was a fan of it. I really was.
DJ: Do you think it was before its time?
AB: Yes I do. And a lot of it now I actually think is exciting because we are being turned into numbers, we are being automated. They're trying to, but men are not numbers.
DJ: You've done an awful lot for ITC, the fabled ITC rep company as so many people refer to it.
AB: Yes. I used to do terrible jokes on "The Prisoner". There was a lovely actress on it, quite a big lady who wore a trilby - June Ellis. Well she had to do a lot of marching around with banners, shouting something. I wasn't in her scenes but I used to send her notes that "the director would like to see you now". Finally I sent her a note saying that "the director says that you've gone too far, you have the sack." And I actually had it passed on to her and she was in mid shot. (laughter) She was such a funny lady. It was quite a tense set up actually. I look back on it as a nice job but everybody was quite regimented. It was a bit like being at school. It was lovely if Pat was on your side but you had to know what you were doing, you had to know your lines and you had to get there on time and stay as long as you needed. It was quite fierce; a fierce job.
DJ: How did it compare to other jobs for ITC? You worked on "The Saint", "Man In A Suitcase"....
AB: Roger Moore was always really relaxed. He was just adorable. He just used to draw cartoons between the scenes and used to joke and giggle. He wasn't responsible, he wasn't the producer. He was also a completely different character, very laid-back.
DJ: And Richard Bradford in "Man In A Suitcase", of course. That was in production at Shepperton at the same time as "The Prisoner". How did you find Richard Bradford?
AB: With great difficulty! (laughter)
DJ: You looked under something and he was there!
AB: He was a bit shy actually.
DJ: Mark Eden said it was very difficult acting with Richard Bradford because he'd mumble with a cigarette in his mouth.
AB: He was quite withdrawn, but he was nice.
DJ: So, after "The Prisoner" you abandoned acting?
AB: Oh, I did a lot of acting after "The Prisoner". I went on acting until 8 years ago.
DJ: What would we have seen you in?
AB: Well, I did three more plays in the West End and I did television series like "Brat Farrar" and "Chelworth" and "Upstairs, Downstairs." I did tons of stuff. I don't do it anymore.
DJ: You just decided to get out of the business?
AB: The way I put it when somebody asks me is I say "I don't feel the need for applause anymore." And I don't. Also, Francis still does it, and we have three sons and two of them are actors so I get all of the fun of it without any of the fear!
DJ: Any questions from the audience?
What was John Sharp like to work with and what ideas and thoughts did he have
on "The Prisoner"?
AB: Oh, he was adorable. I don't know, just like me, he did the job. I didn't get to know him. I didn't have a lot to do with him. In those days there were fewer actors and more jobs and it was like a repertory company. We all met each other in different things. You went from "The Avengers" to "The Saint" to "Man In A Suitcase". John was lovely but I didn't know him very well.
DJ: He played Number 2 in a very sinister sort of way.
• He did, but he was anything but sinister. Really sweet, really nice -a gentle man.
Audience: It's my first visit to Portmeirion and there are no churches. That really bothered me. It's such a dark programme could you tell us about your faith in connection with the programme.
• It's a bit of a difficult question. Well, for example there is no church in Portmeirion, but this morning for a whole hour I walked around the tropical gardens praying, and that's not silly; I actually love Jesus Christ, I'm a committed Christian and it has actually changed my life, I just love him. I know the press tends to make fun of what they call the `born again' Christian like poor Cliff Richard who gets it in the neck all the time. Well, I'm one of those and all I can say is that it is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. And you don't have to have a church to talk to Jesus, you really don't. (applause)
When you were in the part when you were being hypnotised was it hard to stop
laughing? Did he ever knock your nose or anything like that?
AB: No, I was actually terrified that I was going to get hypnotised, because when Patrick swings something he swings something! (laughter)
Audience: What do you think of the latest drama, things like Robbie Coltrane as "Cracker", "Band Of Gold", "London's Burning" and would you ever take part in things like "Kavanagh Q.C." with John Thaw or "Moll Flanders"?
AB: Well, first of all no one's asked me. Secondly, if they did, I'd be too old to play "Moll Flanders"! Thirdly, I actually wouldn't take my clothes off because I think that that is something that is very private in so far as we are supposed to watch things on the screen and not move a muscle whereas even the most broad-minded people if they actually opened a hotel door and saw two people making love what would your first reaction be: "I'm terribly sorry" and you'd close the door wouldn't you? But we are actually expected to leave the door open and watch and I honestly think that that is kind of wrong. And I do hate all of the violence; I may sound like Mary Whitehouse, but I do. But I do think that there are certain things in modem drama that are a great improvement on the old stuff. Some of the dialogue is so much more real and some of the acting I think is better, in some cases but not in others. I think the young actors aren't trained the way the older actors were to speak well. I know that sounds old fashioned but I would like to hear them better. I think there is too much television and, because there is too much, people keep trying to find more things to do and I think the standard has dropped on the whole.
Audience: You say you've retired from acting, but if you were approached by Polygram for some sort of cameo role in the movie version of "The Prisoner" would you accept it?
AB: Of course I would, because I still think it is lovely and I still think the show business world is lovely but I just don't have the frustration of not doing it and I don't have a huge desire to do it but I still love it. I think it is a smashing business.
Have you any of the outfits you wore in "The Prisoner"?
AB: I couldn't get into them, darling! (laughter)
Audience: The serious question. Do you think your husband, who is gorgeous and my mother adores as Paul Temple, would have made a good Number 2? And was he ever asked?
DJ: Shall we invite Francis up on stage?
At this point there was a huge round of applause from the audience and Francis Matthews joined his wife on stage. I make no apology for including some of Francis's anecdotes regarding his life as an actor. Although they do not directly relate to "The Prisoner" some are very amusing and they do perhaps give us more of an insight into often absurd world of show business and the stresses it can place on a relationship.
Jones: What do you think Francis, you as Number 2?
Francis Matthews: Who was Number 2? Was it Pat Cargill?
DJ: Once, yes.
FM: Oh, I see they had a different Number 2 all of the time. I watched it regularly but I understood it even less than Angela did. I was never asked to be in it, but heavens, I'd have rushed into it.
DJ: Of course you were in all of the Hammer films...
FM: Only three. It seems like a lot!
DJ: "Dracula", "Prince Of Darkness" and "Frankenstein" with Peter Cushing.
FM: Yes, Revenge Of Frankenstein. Wonderful, wonderful man, wonderful actor. Lovely person, giggles all the time with Peter. I don't want to go into a lot of anecdotes about my life...
AB: Go on!
FM: There was one scene we did when I had to take the brain, no, he took a brain out of a monkey and put it into Michael Gwynne's head (laughter) and Michael Gwynne became the monster and then they saved the brain overnight because I was then going to rush ahead in the movie and do the final scene of the film which was me putting a brain into Peter's head because Peter had been killed and I was putting a brain into a new body I had built [for] Peter, if you can make sense of all that!
Dave Jones: It makes "The Prisoner" sound simple!
FM: Oh, "The Prisoner" is magic compared with this! What happened was, overnight they had left it in the studio and so when we opened the thing where the brain was it was alive with maggots! (ooohs from the audience) The smell was appalling.
DJ: What was this brain, Francis?
FM: It was a sheep's brain, which is more or less the same as ours; which shows how thick we are! (laughter) We couldn't use it so we had to shoot something else while they went and found another sheep's brain!
DJ: Have you ever worked together?
FM: Oh yes, Angie did a "Paul Temple" with me in Malta and we did a play together....
AB:: "Present Laughter"...
We did a long tour together all over the British Isles. We did Brat Farrar,
one of the last television series I did, and Angie played the lead in it.
DJ: "Paul Temple" was, of course, the first colour TV show...
FM: It was the very first colour television show. It was all black and white television until the BBC did their first colour TV series, one was "Paul Temple" and the other was "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Those were the first two colour series...
DJ: I know which one I would have preferred to watch.
DJ: No, no, no. I've got to ask you Francis, I'll be lynched if I don't... "Captain Scarlet"! (cheers and applause)
FM: (chuckles) Yes, yes. I know. (resignedly)
DJ: For both people out there who don't know, Francis actually provided the voice for "Captain Scarlet".
FM: I remember I had been on Pete Murray's "Open House" and I'd done an interview and he said.....it goes back many years, because when I was very young in my first London appearance one of the critics was very kind to me and said "Here is a young light comedian with all the nimble charm of Cary Grant." So I studied Cary Grant's voice after that and a few nights later I went on stage to the leading lady and said (in Cary Grant mode) "Darling, I love you, I want to many you." And when I came off stage she was furious and said "It's a pity your talent is so derivative!" (laughter) But it got around that I could do a reasonable impersonation of Cary Grant and so Peter asked me to do it and Gerry Anderson heard me on this programme and telephoned me and said "We've got a new series with a new puppet hero and I loved that voice that you did, that voice like Cary Grant." And I said "I can't, I'd get sued if I do Cary Grant." And he said "Well, make it a bit like him!" So I did a sort of (slight Cary Grant variant) "S.I.G Captain Blue, this is Captain Scarlet speaking." (laughter and applause)
You're taller than you look on the telly!
AB: And I'm more mobile as well! There is an interesting sequel to that. Twenty-seven years later, relating to what Angela said about the passing nature of fame and, how foolish it is to think that our business to the recording and this young man, who was about 23, talked like that (cockney, jack-the-lad accent) and had a leather jacket on, said "It's great you could do this. I'm glad you're still available. I thought you were dead. (laughter) I loved that voice that you did, that voice is marvellous, that Captain Scarlet voice." And I said "Well, it's my silly impersonation of Cary Grant."And he said (confused and hesitant)"Oh, yeah... but I thought he did Captain Green." (laughter) And I said "No, that was a calypso singer called Cy Grant who did the voice of Captain Green. I was doing an impersonation of Cary Grant." So he said (confused and hesitant again) "Yeah. Who's Cary Grant?" (laughter) That is a true story. And the writer was a young girl and I said to her "He wants to know who Cary Grant is." And she said "Well, I've never heard of him." (laughter) So I've never worried about anyone saying to me "Weren't you..."
Audience: "The Intelligence Men" is one of my favourite films. I was just wondering how you managed to keep a straight face when you were doing the scene with Eric Morecambe calling you `Mister Do Do'?
FM: Well, that wasn't in the script, that was entirely made up by Eric. We were rehearsing the `get out of that, you can't move' [part] and any actor will vaguely improvise around the dialogue if it is a very loose scene like that, but the lads had done that scene many times so they knew it and I was put in as the person questioning them and saying "What are you doing?" I had a briefcase on my desk and in the rehearsal he said "Can I borrow your briefcase Mister er...er..?" And I said "Do, do." and he said "Mister Do Do." (laughter) And of course the whole crew fell about, and so he stuck to it. And throughout the film whenever I came on he'd say "Can Mister Do Do come?", "Come on Mister Do Do." So he created a very funny running gag. But Eric was like that. He was off [screen] what he was on. He was an extraordinary man. And he was divine to my wife when she was having Dominic. She was very pregnant with Dominic when we went up to see the premiere of "The Intelligence Men". They were up in Manchester doing panto. We were all invited up to see it...
AB: And we took Eric to a night club and he said to me - because I was feeling very big and plain and large and pregnant - "Can I dance with you, Angie?" So I said "You don't want to really." He said "Yes I do." And he was dancing with me and I was thinking how kind of this man to dance this huge elephant around the floor and he looked at me and with all the sincerity and the sweetness in the world he said "I think that pregnant women are the most beautiful things in the world." (aaahs) I've never forgotten it and when Eric died I think I cried longer than I've ever cried for anybody apart from somebody in my family. He was the dearest, wasn't he?
FM: Oh yes.
AB: And the best. He really was funny and kind... and liked pregnant women! (laughter)
Dunn : As one of the many evangelicals dotted around the audience who are delighted
to hear that you too are an evangelical I'd like to ask if you have met many
other evangelical Christians in the profession and been able to help each other?
AB: I became a committed Christian because of Wendy Craig. I'd been brought up as a Catholic and then there were things in the Catholic faith that I didn't believe in and Catholics on the whole, and all respect to Catholics, we are brought up to believe that that is the only faith and if you stop being a Catholic you stop being a Christian. So when I stopped being a Catholic I thought I'd stopped being a Christian and I was deeply unhappy because of it; I'd thrown out the baby with the bath water. I'd actually thrown out God and I didn't know how to find him. For two years I was deeply unhappy and I felt so guilty feeling unhappy because I had Fran who was a most wonderful husband. I had these lovely boys and a lovely home and I had a good job... whatever. And I felt homesick; genuinely an ache inside me and didn't know what to do. And in 1988 we went to a theatrical garden party and we were all sitting at different tables and I remember saying to Francis "Wendy Craig and her husband are at that table." and I honestly didn't like Wendy. I'd worked with her many times, and Fran had, and I found her very ambitious and rather hard. And she knows this because she is now one of my dearest friends. But I remember thinking "Oh Lord, how are we going to get through this day?" And I sat with her and I was immediately struck by the difference in her. She was so kind, she was peaceful and when I asked her questions she listened. There was a time when she used to wait for you to finish so that she could speak. She wouldn't mind me saying this. She had changed to such a degree. I was going through terrible stage fright at the time and I said to her "I'm having to take beta blockers to get on stage and I don't know what to do. They're those things that slow your heart down. She said "I used to have that but I don't have it any more." So I said "What do you do?" And I thought she'd say she'd been hypnotised and she said "I take God on with me." And I thought "What a funny woman!" (laughter) I said "Are you one of those `born again'?" She said "Yes, I am and I thought "Oh Lord!" (laughter) But I was so struck by the change in her that I made a mental note to ask her more because then she had to leave. She said "Call me." And I meant to, and I didn't. This was the Summer of '88. Christmas came and went and it was March 1989 when I was feeling so desperate, and I had no reason to be desperate except that I had this terrible ache inside of me. It was the night before what happened to me happened and Francis said to me in desperation "What can I do to help you?" And I said to him "You can't do anything. You can't do anything." And I didn't know what I meant. And the next day it was a most beautiful day and I was in the garden and I was just desperate and I ran into the house and I shouted out "God, if you're there please help me." and he didn't, I mean nothing happened. I went in and started flicking through pages of Hello magazine - I was desperate! - That was just to pass the time, and there was this picture of Wendy and I remember thinking "That's it, I'll ring her up." But I thought "I can't she'll think I'm raving mad." But I did, and to cut a long story short, she said "It is so simple. You ask Jesus Christ to come into your life. If you are sorry for everything you've done up till now, ask him and he'll come." And I thought "No, he won't." But I did and he did." And Wendy is one of the many people I know in show business who love the Lord. And it's such fun. It's not boring. It's gorgeous. I could go on like this forever but I won't. (laughter) It's tremendously wonderful and he is so nice is Jesus. Somebody once said "God is nice and he likes us. He's not up there with a great big stick waiting to beat us up. He's up there to help us." (applause)
How does it affect you both being in the same profession?
AB: It isn't easy and I don't think it is a coincidence that a lot of acting marriages break up.
FM: It can lead to tensions. It can lead to circumstances like "Why is the agent ringing you all of the time and not me?" (laughter) There was one period where we both had the same agent...
AB: Oh, it was a disaster!
That was hysterical. The phone would ring and I'd say "Hello. You want
Angela... right!" And then she'd do the same. And also I have to say that
when Angela had the two babies she did, by her own choice, turn down [roles]
- she had a very high profile career, she was very well known in the theatre
- and because she had two babies she became very attached to caring for them.
Because I was doing "Temple", and it was a very preoccupying drama,
very busy, she didn't want to leave the children. There were many offers she
got at the time which she turned down simply because she said "We can't
have two parents out of the house all of the time."
AB: I regret every day I wasn't with my children.
FM: When you work on something together there is the bonus of great rapport. You have an instant understanding of each other. I remember Angela telling me off very strongly in "Present Laughter" when I gave a very bad [performance]. I don't usually, ever, but there was a very tiny audience in a very large theatre and I was very casual in my performance. It was in the Alex in Birmingham and there were about ten people in. He was never off [stage], this character in "Present Laughter", a Noel Coward play, and I gave a rather casual performance, the sort of performance which says "I really can't be bothered." I have never been told off like that in my life by anyone. She said "Don't you ever do that... every one of those people has paid. They're the ones who'd bothered to come!" So I've never done it since. And I've said to younger actors "Don't ever despise a small matinee audience."
Audience: What is your view on the character you played in "The Prisoner", Number 86?
AB: Oh, what a question! I haven't thought about it. The thing is, you all know about "The Prisoner" and you're all interested. To me, genuinely, that was just a job I did long ago. If I was asked to do it now, I think I'd do it again. I think it's fine. Patrick certainly had a great deal of integrity. I don't think she was much of a character. I think they were slightly robotic, weren't they, those people, brain-washed.
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