CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS
FRANK MAHER - STUNT ARRANGER & DOUBLE
Adapted from an interview conducted by Dave Jones and transcribed by Dave Healey, with their kind permission.
Dave Jones: Will you put your hands together and welcome Prisoner stunt co-ordinator and Patrick McGoohan's 'double'- Frank Maher. (applause) Before Frank sits down does anyone recognise his jacket? It's McGoohan's jacket from Living In Harmony. Give us a twirl Frank. (applause)
I left the horse outside! (laughter)
DJ: Welcome Frank. I know you had one hell of a journey up here.
FM: Yes. Tell me about it. I suddenly realised why I had not been here in 31 years - has anyone done that train journey from London? (laughter) Steve [Ricks] gave me the itinerary and told me how to get here and by the time I stepped off that train after about seven and a half hours I was fit to kill him! Anyway I'm here and it's thirty-one years since I had this on - it looks good doesn't it?
AUDIENCE: And it still fits too. (wolf whistles from the audience)
FM: There's that fella again! (laughter)
DJ: Have you been in touch with McGoohan lately? When was the last time you saw Patrick?
FM: Six years ago; about that.
DJ: What was the occasion then?
FM: It was in L.A. - I do a lot of work in the States. I phoned his agent - agents are funny people I tell you. Anyway I got through said "Hi" and we had a jar. Lovely old Pat has become a bit of a recluse really. I love him to death still, but it's very difficult to get along with him now.
DJ: How did you first meet Patrick because I know you formed a very close relationship?
DJ: During Danger Man would that have been?
FM: No, Bernie Williams - remember Bernard Williams?
DJ: The Prisoner production manager?
FM: Yes. He was a friend
of mine and he said "I want you to come and meet somebody." He took
me along and it was Patrick. That was just before Danger Man [the hour long
DJ: You worked on Danger Man of course?
FM: I was employed as his stunt double and the stunt co-ordinator.
DJ: Did you immediately hit it off with Patrick?
DJ: I've heard that McGoohan wasn't really an `actor's actor' - he preferred to associate with technicians. Is that true?
FM: Yes, that is true. A stunt man - you're a sort of breed apart but Patrick is just about the closest to being a stunt man that any actor that I know, apart from Burt Lancaster, [could be]. Patrick was so good except he can't throw a left hand punch! (laughter)
DJ: Will you expand on that Frank? Have you been on the connecting end?!
FM: No. There is nothing wrong with that. Why should anyone be able to throw punches anyway. I just happen to be able to do it and it doesn't make any difference to me whether it is left or right (providing there is a chin on the other end). (laughter) That's very important, otherwise it goes too far! Pat is magic and the very first day - there is a question you have to ask people: "How do you feel about throwing a right hand punch and a left hand punch? Are you one handed or two handed?" - so that you know what you are doing. It's no good choreographing a fight and McGoohan says "But I can't do that, I've only got one leg!" You know what I mean. (laughter) There was a slight hesitation and I knew he wasn't quite as good with his left as his
right. He threw a left and I said "Forget it Pat, let's go the other way." I'm not denigrating him, it's just a fact. He wasn't half as good with the left as the right.
DJ: But he was overall a very good technical actor, wasn't he?
FM: Oh, wonderful. He used to throw himself about. Hit us on the chin occasionally, which he did with me in The Schizoid Man.
DJ: It is important
to realise that not all actors are very good technically. You did work with
Patrick McNee, who you admire, but his lack of technique influenced the series
[The Avengers] didn't it.
FM: Absolutely, yes. Patrick McNee has got fourteen left legs. (laughter) And seven right hands. He's a great guy, but it's handbags at ten paces. (laughter) So what happened then was the brolly came in and the 'titfer' came in because you can clunk people on the head with that and, I tell you, it hurt! So that's how it came about because he's not an action man.
DJ: It's very interesting how that lack of technique can influence the whole series. It certainly added to The Avengers.
FM: Absolutely, yes.
DJ: I seem to recall that the screen fight you consider to be one of your best was in The Avengers in the early days.
FM: Yes, with Honor Blackman who I love to death as well. I think everybody does. She's beautiful and a very good friend of mine because we worked together for many years. On this particular show, one of the live Avengers shows with Ian Hendry - a big fight sequence with Honor in a railway station, in the waiting room. It was the final thing on the show. The final punch on the show was from Honor to me to go backwards over a table. Unfortunately - and this was live television - it connected right there [the nose] and blood went everywhere. I literally did go backwards and finished up lying across a table with my head upside down and blood pouring out. There was the camera, a fantastic shot, but I didn't appreciate it very much! (laughter) She was off camera then because it had panned down onto me. I saw the rushes the next day - they weren't rushes then [it was recorded on video tape in long live sequences as tape could not be edited in those days] but I saw the show and there was another camera on her and they said "Cut!" and she flew over and I got the biggest cuddle - how about that, it was worth the blood! (laughter) She was really, really concerned, but it was a hell of a good fight.
DJ: It's a hell of a way to make a living Frank. How did you get into the crazy business?
FM: This is a very funny story. I was in a parachute regiment and I got wounded, as did my friend Don. So this particular day we came out of the hospital and were allowed out. The pair of us were just by Piccadilly Circus and we were looking at a trouser shop - I think it was called Slacks - a big window and we were looking in. I looked at the reflection, and Don did at the same time, and there was a little guy. He minced across the pavement and he said [in an effeminate manner] "Hello." [We thought] "Oh we've got one here!" (laughter) He said "Have you two lovely people ever thought of going into the film business?" I thought "Oh yes, pull the other one!" Anyway he gave us a card. So about a week later I was sitting in a bar with Don and he said "Listen, we're just doing nothing, hanging around, why don't we go and see [this guy]. We can always beat him up!" (laughter) I said "Alright, let's go and see him." So we went into this place in Soho and he was for real. To cut it short we ended up doing Caesar And Cleopatra, the original one. Anybody remember it - Claude Rains, Gabriel Pascal directing, Stewart Grainger. We were Roman centurions. I was Roman centurion number 49 (laughter) with a skirt on and a sword and a helmet. And Don was the same and we looked at each other [and thought] "What are we doing here?" (laughter) Parachute regiment one year and skirt the next! But they made a big mistake. They said "If you get cut, we will give you a pound for every cut." Ha ha, we got cut to pieces - cut each other! We were earning£11.00 a day then in 1945 and we'd just been jumping out of aeroplanes for nothing!
DJ: What were you doing between 1945 and Danger Man?
FM: I was a crowd artist. I was very lucky because of my height and build and looks, also at school I was a boxer and had gold medals for boxing. And having been in the parachute regiment I was pretty handy at doing things. They used to then start giving me little things to do. It was a progression.
DJ: A few lines you mean?
FM: Yeah, lines and `fall off that wall'. I remember the first time they asked me to do something dangerous. I said "When do I get killed? At the end of the movie or at the beginning?" because I would earn a lot of money if I went right the way through it!
DJ: It's obviously a dangerous job. Was there any sort of training given or was it `pick it up as you go along'?
DJ: Was it that unregulated in those days?
FM: Absolutely. There were six of us - the originals - and we met every Sunday in the Equity office and we formulated the thing that is going on now. Stunt men became stunt men. The Americans were way ahead of us. We had to get things like insurance, because nobody was insured in those days, so if you got a broken leg or something you were out, that was it, you couldn't earn. We became more professional. The injuries we picked up - you learned not to do that the next time!
The Americans had it totally different; I'll tell you how I discovered that one day. There was a movie here and what I had to do was get thrown out of a car. I said "Where are we doing it?" We went down the East End somewhere and there it was, an ordinary road and the car is doing 30 miles per hour. I said "Just a minute." I did it and I got bruised and bumped and about a month later I was talking to an American stunt man who came over here and he had done a similar job at the same time, almost the same week. They had built a rubber road for him, rubber kerbs and he was the `Michelin Man' [covered in rubber]. I thought "Something has got to be done here."
DJ: I remember one very funny story about you working on The Adventures Of Robin Hood. Do you recall that?
FM: Yeah, it's hilarious actually. I worked on Robin Hood with Richard Green...
Frank Ratcliffe: For ITC!
FM: Yeah, all the stuff I did was for ITC! There were six of us and we were sort of odd job stunt men. We did everything. We doubled, we played parts, sword fights... One particular day they said to me "Can you go out there on the lot..." - a tiny lot at Nettlefold Studios - and I said "What do you want me to do?" They said: "Well, here is the gate of the castle and you are standing there and you've got a pike, a helmet..." (which are very painful!) and my face was half covered. And they said: "We can't shoot round the other way because there are houses so we will pick up the other guy another time." So I said: "OK, what do you want me to say?" He said "Well what happens is this guy rides in on a horse and says `Which is the way to Fred Nurk's (or whatever it was)?"' and I was to say "It's just down the road there."
Cut to 5 weeks later on the second unit and I'm out in the trees. The second unit director came to me and said "I've got a thing I want you to do here. Now, we've already done the first part, what you do is ride up to this gate and say..." I ended up talking to myself, playing both parts! (laughter) That is a true story! Don't believe all you hear about the movie business, it is not professional at times. Mind you I didn't say a word because I got paid twice! (laughter)
DJ: 1959 and Danger Man. Patrick McGoohan's half hour series. A very innovative show at the time - glossy, American style.
FM: I did a few of the half hour shows as somebody who came in and fell down the stairs or whatever but at that time I didn't know Pat. The guy who we called Polly Perkins, Peter Perkins, Polly for short, a big fellow. He was doing it. I didn't know Pat from a hole in the wall then.
DJ: When you were acting with him were you impressed with his skill?
FM: Well I actually think that he is one of the best actors to have come out of this country, I really do. This guy has a photographic memory and he's got piercing, piercing eyes - blue, pale blue. His eyes are like Paul Newman's. Patrick's the same and he knew it at a very early age and he uses it and I don't blame him. He looks at you and looks right through you which is slightly off putting when you first meet him. Then you start working opposite him and this guy is super professional - one of the best.
DJ: You said he had a photographic memory?
FM: I'll tell you what used to happen. He'd get a script and this is the speed that he did it. He opened it [10 seconds pause] and he's got those two pages. When it came to The Schizoid Man I had to do the other part and he expected me to be able to do the same thing. It's impossible, but he's that much of a perfectionist. You have to live with it because he's good.
DJ: In the days of the early Danger Man was he a team player? We hear in The Prisoner how it was one man's vision a lot of the time.
FM: He's never been a team player, he's always been the chief, less so in Danger Man.
DJ: Because in the early days of Danger Man he wouldn't have had as much influence with Lew Grade because later Lew Grade came to think of Patrick McGoohan as his leading man didn't he really?
FM: That's right but what you have to remember is that Lew Grade wasn't on the stage every day. Patrick was the man, the main man. Even then people were in awe of Patrick because of his presence - the X factor. When he walks in a room you know he's there even ifyou are not looking. I know I'm going on a bit about it but I do really like the guy and I respect what he does.
DJ: Was it during the half hour Danger Man's that you developed a friendship?
FM: No, during the hour shows.
DJ: The half hour shows were great but it was those hour long shows that were the definitive Danger Man for me.
FM: In a way - this is weird, a funny thing to say - but we suddenly needed each other. I was actually a fantastic double for Pat - pure luck, luck of birth, but we were the same height and build. I could interchange his shoes, his hat, everything. He needed that for the type of things he was doing. He needed someone who could go and fall off a wall or sit under a horse while it crapped on him or whatever! (laughter)
Frank Ratcliffe: How did you specifically become his double?
FM: Bernie Williams. He took me along to meet Patrick and Patrick said "Fantastic double. What's he like on the other stuff?" So I said to him "You can only find out can't you Patrick." And he said "OK, deal." At the end of the first day he said "You've got another job."
DJ: You've been quite fortunate really, although you make your own luck in this game, because you've doubled for Roger Moore as well haven't you?
FM: Oh yeah, Roger the lodger! Lovely man. A great joker and an ambassador for our industry. A real fun man. Incidentally he used to call me Mrs. Maher because I was so meticulous; I wouldn't let the camera turn until everything was absolutely right and if it went wrong I'd shout "Cut!". That was why he called me Mrs. Maher. I said "Do you want me to change?" and he said "No, no, no," but from there on it stuck. I said to him one day after I'd got to know him "Roger, you know you can't act to save your life?" (laughter) And he said "You're right." I thought "Thank God for that!" And he said "But, if they paid you a million pounds a year - this was in those days - wouldn't you do it?" I said "Give me the job!" (laughter) That's Roger. He's really a lovely guy. There's a guy called Les Crawford who is in a photograph; he was Roger's stunt double and we looked very much alike, same height, build. One day on a day off from this show [The Prisoner] Les said can you come down and play a heavy so I said "OK". It was in a factory thing with ladders up to crates. What
Les was doing was doubling for Roger, running along a crate and there was a ladder and he grabbed it and [slid down it] onto the next stack of crates while I was underneath playing the other part, trying to get hold of him and being hit by the ladder. Les made a mistake, he landed [badly] and was out cold and was taken, to hospital. So Roger said "Terrible, that's the bad news. The worst news is you're taking over from him!" (laughter) I said "Thank you very much!" But I did and I got away with it.
DJ: Has anybody
got any questions about what we've talked about so far?
Audience: Which films did you work with Burt Lancaster on?
FM: I did two movies for him. One was Crimson Pirate. It's a funny story actually because he was very macho, a very good guy. I was there doubling for him - do you remember the sequence where he slides down the sail, well that was me. The following day I picked up the paper and there was an article by Lancaster laying a £10,000 bet that he did all his own stunts! (laughter) If I'd have owned up I'd have never worked in the industry again so I let go the ten grand! That's a true story. The other one was with Laurence Olivier - The Devil s Disciple - I did the riding doubling for that. I'll tell you a little story apropros of that if you're interested.
They were rehearsing. It was the first time Lancaster and Kirk Douglas had been on the floor together with General Burgoyne [Olivier]. They stood there and what happened first of all was a joke. This is two leading actors in the world. He's my height [Lancaster] and Douglas is there stood alongside him and said "Excuse me," and went back into his dressing room and got `lifts' on. This is unbelievable. And then Burt looked, said "Excuse me," and went back and took his boots off. They got that sorted out and `himself who will be obeyed', was sitting there playing General Burgoyne. And as you know you never kept Larry waiting. So they started their dialogue and Burt fluffed and said "Sorry." Then Kirk fluffed. Then Burt fluffed. And `himself , who was behind this big desk, stood up and he delivered all the week's dialogue for all three of them, the complete week. He then stood up straight, got his cape, and walked off the stage - they didn't fluff again! (laughter). These are little things that you don't hear. You look at them and think "Weren't they wonderful?" They are just human beings. Some of them are very dodgy! (laughter)
DJ: Buy Frank a drink and he'll tell you who the dodgy ones are!
Audience: Is there
a big production you have worked on where you have considered something too
dangerous and the director has got someone else in to do it?
FM: Oh yes. Quatermass II.
DJ: The film or the series?
FM: The film with Brian Donlevy. We went down to a refinery on the east coast. When you walked into the place you thought that you were on ground level but you weren't. It went down in three sections with concrete walkways in between, 50 feet down. Solid concrete, machinery and we had on gas masks, knitted gloves, army boots with studs on and rifles. I said "What do you want us to do?" Do you know the ladders that go up the side of walls, usually you get the top [of the ladder protruding above the top of the wall] so that you can go down. Not this one - ground level. And he said "You come running in and you shin down there." "Shin down there 50 feet onto concrete, what are you talking about? I can't feel in my hands, I'm certainly going to slip with these boots and apart from that I can't see because [the gas mask] is all misted up!" "But," he said "you're a stunt man aren't you?" I said "No, I'm an ex-stunt man!" and I walked out. (laughter)
DJ: Isn't that
funny. So, in some ways, some of the most simple sounding stunts in fact can
be the most dangerous.
FM: It's hard to define a stunt. A stunt man does awful lot of things. Throwing a mere punch; the reason stunt men are insured so heavily is because they can make a mistake or the actor who you are throwing a punch at can make a mistake and move slightly an inch the wrong way and you can connect - it's dangerous. You can break a nose, a jaw, you can kill somebody. If you are doing martial arts stuff your foot can hit somebody in the side of the head and they can be dead. Every stunt that you do is potentially a killer, so you have to be wide awake, you have to rehearse slowly and meticulously and don't do it until you are ready. Don't let them get you at it. Now here's is a story!
Although stunt men are an integral part of both TV and film production, on occasion they are taken for granted and the profession is not given the respect it deserves, even within the industry itself. During the interview, and also in other conversations , Frank recounted many, often humorous, stories of incidents he has encountered in his long and fruitful career. Many of these are not repeatable but here is one about a well known director that we'll sneak in anyway, deleting the name to spare his blushes.
FM: This man is dangerous.
He is a liberty taker. He's loaded with dough and he thinks he can just walk
over everybody; I've got news for you, he can't. He's well known in the industry
and this story I'm about to tell you, I think everybody in the industry knows.
I was working on this film, I can't remember what it was, but the first assistant
came to me at just coming up to one o'clock - lunch hour - and said "Frank,
we're not going to get to you until about three o'clock, so why don't you come
back at quarter to three." So I went out and had something to eat. Quarter
to three I walked onto the stage and there's [the director]. He said "What
time do you call this?" I said "Quarter to three." He said "Don't
be funny. Two o'clock you are supposed to be back here." "No, no,
not me. Quarter to three." And he started. Because he hates and loves stunt
men. He's dangerous because he gets you doing things to kill yourself He's a
nasty, nasty bastard. (laughter) I had to say something strong about him! For
the final bit I'll stand up. I said to him "You say that once again to
me and I'm gonna knock you out." And he said "Alright I'll say it
again," [Frank then demonstrates how a punch should be executed and how
a noted director slumps to the floor on the receiving end!] (hysterical laughter)
Out cold on the floor! And I walked off the stage and got dressed. The production
manager came over and said "Come back on the floor, all the crew want you
back." I said "I don't care. I'm not going to work for that idiot."
And that was that. Now the kicker to this story is my friend Les, who I was
talking about earlier, five months later is on the next picture that [he] is
They're working down on Brighton Pier. Les is asked to go down and do a fall off the side into the drink - 30 feet. So he arrived, and Les is a bit of a joker too, and he said "What do you want?" "Well, fall off there." OK, so you have to check - you have to go under water to see there are no snags or anything. So he did all of that and quoted his price, because that is what you do. And [the director] said "Oh, alright dear boy, tomorrow we'll do it." Les said "Alright, fine. " He came back the following day and it got put off for about five hours. The tide was out - the deep water where he was supposed to [land]. Les said "Do me a favour, I'm not going over there." And he started "You stunt men are all the same, I had your mate five months ago." And he said "Yeah, I know I live next door to him!" (laughter) And while they were talking they got to the end of the pier and he started and Les said "Do you remember what Frank said to you?" And he said "Well yeah, that was nothing." And Les said "Well I'm telling you something now, if you say that to me once more you know what's going to happen." And he did and Les picked him up and threw him off the end of the pier! (applause and laughter)
One final story... He was working with Bob Mitchum, who incidentally was a very good friend of mine and as hard as a chunk of concrete - used to be a fighter, but a lovely, easy going guy. A good actor; never took liberties. Now he was working for [this director and] he started on the continuity girl and she was sobbing. I'll stand up again. Bob put his arm round [the director's] shoulder and walked round the comer [with him]. All you heard was [sound of a thump]. (roar of laughter) I'll do the Mitchum walk! (applause) What's more [the director] didn't come round the corner! (laughter)
DJ: Listen, we'll have to get on to The Prisoner Frank! Did working on The Prisoner present any unusual problems for a stunt man, being on location in Portmeirion perhaps rather than in the controlled environment of the studio?
FM: No, location is location is location wherever you go. Outdoors the same problems are inherent in everything you do. It rains when it is supposed to be sunny and vice-versa. There are no real extra problems, only the helicopters. That's not true, they were wonderful. I used to ride in on the helicopter, on the big floats. Incidentally there's somebody sitting in this hall tonight who flew the helicopter [in The Prisoner], provided all of the camera mounts, Tom [Wadden] stand up (applause). It was a very important part.
DJ: Where did it take off?
FM: In a field outside the village.
Tom Wadden: Where the castle is being renovated.
FM: I'd get up on the float. Charlie wasn't it, the pilot, a lovely guy.
DJ: You must be mad Frank!
FM: He was too. The pair of us worked quite well together.
DJ: It was you hanging off the helicopter in The Girl Who Was Death sequence wasn't it? The part where the stunt man jumps on as it takes off. You're not afraid of heights then?
FM: I used to jump out of aeroplanes! (laughter and applause)
DJ: OK, take the mickey I don't care!
FM: People worry about flying. I used to stand and look out of an open door. Can you imagine that? I must have been mad.
DJ: On The Prisoner you were stunt co-ordinator. Does that present problems, trying to direct other stunt men? Do they take direction easily or are they all individuals?
FM: Well they are all individuals but they take direction very well.
DJ: Did you hand pick the stunt team?
FM: Yes I did. They were my team, the guys I could trust. You have to trust your stunt men. People say "Why can't I work on your show?" You say "Because I don't trust you." I used to have half a dozen guys, you've seem most of them, Peter Brayham, Alf Joint the big guy. Apropros of that I'll tell you a sad story. Do you remember on Arrival we did the chase on the sands. We had two stunt men [doubling for] the driver and Pat (which I did) - running around on the sand and it finishes up knocking [the driver] out, jumping in the Moke, and driving away. The driver was called Keith Peacock and 4 weeks later he got killed. A sad little note. Everything isn't easy being a stunt man; sometimes it goes wrong. It's gone wrong for me, but I haven't got killed yet. At least nobody has told me I have.
DJ: You must have been pretty busy on this series Frank?
DJ: Let's talk about The Schizoid Man. I know that is one of your favourites because it was a challenge wasn't it?
FM: Well it was a triple challenge actually because Pat said to me right at the beginning "Right, I want you to learn all of the dialogue." I said "What?" - remember we are talking about McGoohan who happens to be one of the best actors around - and little old me. He said "No, the speed of delivery makes a difference to the cuts." He said "What's more, I want you to learn both parts." Well I did in the end, with a lot of sweat. It was fun because not only were we doing the stunts - I had the stunt team - but every day [there was] changing around having a white jacket on and having the brown jacket on. He'd say "Cut!" and then we'd turn round the other way. It was a lot of fun except for one day. There was a big fight sequence in his kitchen and the final punch was from him to the guy in white, which I was playing because I was getting a punch - sucker! He connected and I flew backwards over the workbench and hit the deck. It was supposed to happen but I went much faster than I wanted to and landed on my head and I was supposed to run out - it was a composite set built on stage, exterior and interior. I ran out and I turned round, waiting for him - it hurt-and he came out and skidded to a stop and said [in a whisper] "Sony!" (laughter) It hurt I can tell you.
DJ: On a technical level that was a very good episode with all of the splicing that had to be done.
FM: Oh yes, it was a lot of fun.
DJ: It must have been a nightmare too because presumably that episode was made on a two week turnaround as others were done. It all had to be crammed in fairly tightly. Did you find that the team on the whole worked together well when the pressure was on?
FM: I'd like to make a point there because a couple of people have said things lately about the team not being good enough that were around him [McGoohan]. I would object to that strongly because one of the reasons that this series became what it was, and was so good, was because everybody worked hand in glove. There were not arguments. People did their job and they were good! All of them. Not one guy or one girl I can think of that didn't do their job and they worked their arses off for Pat because he did the same for them. He was
meticulous; wonderful to work with. Everybody worked as a team and nothing was too much [for them]. There were never any complaints, certainly not on the floor. They might go and have a drink and have a moan and say what an idiot that one is but the following day they come back and they work.
DJ: Everybody we know was proud to work on The Prisoner. There is nobody we've met who has ever said "I try to keep it hidden." Everybody has got it high up on their CV.
FM: Absolutely. I'm proud to have done it.
DJ: Did you realise what it would become?
DJ: When you were working on it were you proud of what you were doing? Or was it just another job?
FM: It was a job that I wanted to do because I was given a choice when we finished Danger Man. Patrick came to me and said "There are two series being made. One is called Man In A Suitcase and the other one is with me." I said "There's no contest, I'm with you." And he said "OK."
DJ: Living In Harmony, Frank, would be the other one, which we are going to show later. And to be honest, if you have never seen Living In Harmony on the big screen then you have never seen it because it really is a very good episode I think. Works well on the big screen - it looks just like, sorry, a real western. (laughter) But a western made in Borehamwood. If you said that you were going to make a western in Borehamwood they'd laugh at you.
FM: Not quite Death Valley! (laughter)
DJ: It works very well, you were pleased with it weren't you?
FM: I was. The lovely thing was that both David - who I have to say did a wonderful job - David Tomblin and Patrick said "It's yours. It's your baby." So they left it to me to do the clothes - the horses I provided. I had a ball doing it. I'll tell you a story about an American actor. He came on in his own gear. He's standing there and I looked at him, because I had to vet them, and I looked and I said "Excuse me, can you take off the waistcoat." He said [in a gruff voice] "What do you mean?" I said "I'm sorry, would you please take off the waistcoat." He said "What for?" And I said "Because I've asked you to." Tomblin was standing there, very quiet. And [the actor] said "Well, I've just come back from the States..." I said "Before you go any further, you're in Borehamwood, you're not in the bloody States." He said "Yeah, I know that." I said "Great we're getting somewhere. Take off the waistcoat." He said "Why?" I said "Because it doesn't fit [what] I've got here." He said "Well I would argue with that." At that moment David stepped in and said "Listen asshole,"
to this guy "if you don't do what he says you're off the show." And he took off the waistcoat! You get people like that. It didn't fit because he was almost a Mississippi gambler.
I just want to clear up one little thing in case anyone has got the wrong idea. Living In Harmony - we were working on the show and every night I used to go out, when we had finished shooting, and play squash for a solid hour with Pat, ostensibly to keep him fit but it kept me fit too. After that we'd sit in the pub just opposite his house and we'd have a few jars and the next day we'd do the same. This particular time we were talking-he loved westerns and I'm potty about them - we were talking about westerns for a week for some unknown reason. This particular night we were sitting there and I said to him "You know, you're in a bit of trouble in this series." I was just looking at it as a punter. And he said "Why?" I said "By now they all know that there is no way you are going to get out of this village. You are going to be in the same clothes, no matter what you do something is going to jump on you and you ain't gonna get out." He said "Oh," and he got up and went to [get] a drink. He came back, put the two glasses down and said "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I said "I think so." He said "A western." I said "Why not?" That's where the idea came from. I just wanted to clear up any misconceptions about things. Believe me I was there with Pat, just us two. And Pat would tell you the same thing. But it was a lot of fun [Living In Harmony]. Now there is one little story I'll tell against myself. My horse on there Toby, you've seen the photographs, my lovely horse...
DJ: Was the horse yours, Frank?
FM: That's my man! So one day we were up there and all of the horses were there... Here's a trick question. Does anyone in the house know the name of Patrick's horse, it's real name, his horse in Harmony? Got you all! Viking. I know because I provided it. Anyway this particular morning I said to the groom "Do me a favour and saddle up Toby, will you?" He said "Yeah, sure." So he did that. He got everything done and I said "I'll be with you in a minute." I wanted to give Toby a little run to get him into the feel of it. This was on the lot at MGM. Just over in the next field was a crew shooting something else, I can't remember what it was. There were about fifty or sixty of them and I knew all of them of course. I'm coming down, doing a `Virginian' (laughter). As I got opposite them the saddle started to go! (laughter) And I tell you there is nothing you can do when the stitch comes loose, the whole thing goes... I went out the side door with a thump. They were all very quiet, so I knew they were all watching. (laughter) I looked up and there was Toby going "What are you doing down there!" (laughter) Then I stood up and the whole crew [clapped]. "Oh, shut up!" I had to re-stitch it and then climb up. That's against me. I was made to look very small. And it's nice actually because it brings you down to Earth - literally brought me down to Earth!
Audience: Can you
tell us about Rover and how it followed you?
FM: Yeah, Patrick came to me, about the second day and said "This is `Rover"' He was introducing me to a balloon! (laughter) "Hi Rover!" I'll tell you a story - this is weird, really weird. This is before we went out and did the stuff on the sands. What he wanted was - as you walk past the town hall it curves - Rover to come down there not touching anybody or either side and for everybody to stand [motionless] because this was the policeman wasn't it. I thought "How is he going to get that done?" Magic! Props let it go at the top and it came down as though it was being steered and it bounced, not touching people on either side and it followed the curve. How I don't know. He [was so astounded] he forgot to say "Cut!" (laughter) To get back to your question, he said "This balloon is going to be tied to your back." [We] put a little rig on, thin wire, and I tell you for two weeks I was charging around being chased by a bloody balloon! I used to go back and couldn't get to sleep at night looking for the balloon! (laughter)
DJ: Do you think it was effective Frank?
FM: It affected me!
Audience: Any idea on the origin of Rover?
FM: It was just presented that day.
DJ: In the village presumably, Portmeirion?
FM: Before. The week before.
DJ: Actually in Borehamwood?
FM: Which leads me into another little thing. You know on the opening credits, that's me where I run out and go "I'm not a number, I'm a free man!" The reason was this. He was sitting on a wall in the square there - remember I'd done all of Danger Man with him - and he said "I'm gonna do that run on the [sand]. I said "Now Pat, don't do it unless you are really super fit; sand is a terrible thing to run on. It pulls muscles, it slides, don't do it." He said "I'm fed up with you doing everything in Danger Man." And I said you look good don't you?" (laughter) He said "That's not the point." I said "Well, it is. I'm telling you, don't do it." Five minutes later he came back and he looked at me and said "Alright, you do it." So that's me on the opening credits.
Rover went mysteriously on its own down the path, where did it end up?
FM: I don't know, I was too frightened!" (laughter) It just wondered off on its own and we let it go. Bye bye!
DJ: You got through a lot of Rovers during the production of the series didn't you?
FM: Rover 5 million I think at the end! We had little Rovers, big Rovers, medium sized Rovers. I tell you the most difficult thing. Have you ever tried pushing a balloon under water? (laughter) You have to take it under and obviously inflate it underneath. But then try holding a balloon underwater. I left them to that one!
Audience: Did Patrick ever discuss with you the story of the last episode?
FM: OK, I'll tell you the story of the last episode. This is unabridged. It is the truth and I don't care what anybody else says because I was there. My house was right opposite MGM Studios, a five minute walk, straight across the road. It came to episode 16 and I remember the dialogue so well because it was a real kick in the teeth for all of us. Pat came to me on Wednesday and said "We've only got one more show." I said "What are you talking about?" because we were booked for twenty-six. He said "That's it!" He went and told the rest of the crew and there had to be a final episode which hadn't been written. Nothing had been done because it wasn't expected. So we finished on the Friday night. Patrick disappeared into his dressing room and he wrote until Tuesday morning. I know because I used to take in a bottle of scotch a day to him and sandwiches. I got the first of five scripts and we started shooting. That is how the last episode got written. Make what you will of it but that is the absolute truth. I know 'cause I was the only one there. We lived out of each other's pockets. Like I said before, it was good for both of us. I could literally change into his gear, same size everything. I think I was one of the few people who actually knew Patrick a little bit. I was with him all the time.
aspects of Patrick McGoohan did he incorporate into Number 6?
FM: I think probably all of it. Patrick was a slightly mixed up person. Very straight about everything he did and remember this was his baby. I don't give a damn what people say, it was Patrick that made it work. People around, we all did what he said. The whole thing for me screams Patrick McGoohan - having worked with him closely. Unfortunately nobody's worked that closely with him. I'm very honoured to have done so because I learned an awful lot from him.
DJ: There's someone behind the bar wants to ask a question!
FM: It's closing time. Do you want a drink? (laughter)
DJ: There's a question coming in by phone. (laughter)
Barman: The question is from Dave Lally.
Audience in unison: Oh no! (hysterical laughter)
from the wrap party. Sorry he can't be here. Here's a question for Frank. (pause)
Would he like to be involved in the new film?
FM: Very much. And I'll tell you exactly what I'd like to do on it. I'd like to direct second unit. No chance of doing so, but that's what I'd like to do!
DJ: This will be interesting to a lot of people. Obviously you are not in the stunt business any more. You're now a writer, aren't you Frank?
FM: That's right.
DJ: What you were telling me before was very interesting regarding what you have been involved in.
FM: This is interesting because [Michael Caine impression] not a lot of people know this! When a film gets to the point where it is going to be made - let's take Warner Brothers for instance, pretty powerful people - we have a script, but they are never satisfied, particularly the Americans, and what they do is farm out sections of it. Now, I'm an action man, I write action. Last thing I did, I can't tell you the name of the show, because it hasn't come out yet, but there were two of us given a section to write - the other guy was Quentin Tarantino!
DJ: So he's in pretty good company, isn't he! (laughter and applause) You surprised me when you said you written a sequence for Bruce Willis.
FM: Yeah, I did two actually. Anybody seen Die Hard?
FM: Yeah, you all know Die Hard. Do you remember when all of the glass got shot out? Well I wrote that sequence. (applause) With that lovely Alan Rickman - the nastiest bad man there is.
DJ: A fantastic actor though.
FM: Oh yes.
DJ: And for all those completists out there, you've actually written four novels. They are not recent books though are they?
FM: No, fifteen years ago.
DJ: Last time I spoke to you, you were trying to develop a script about a South African mercenary. Is that still going to happen?
FM: That is the first one. I wrote the screenplays as books. That's still in the pipeline. It's a hell of a long pipe though! (laughter)
DJ: You live in Fulham but you still have an office on Sunset Strip?
FM: I'll give you the address. 7551 Sunset Boulevard. How about that, it sounds magic! It's about that size [mimes a shoe box!] I also did Die Hard II. Have you seen Die Hard II, in the airport. You know the stuff in the baggage claim area - me! I wrote that. You don't get credits for it but you get paid an awful lot of money! It's great because it keeps your mind going.
AUDIENCE: Can you
tell us about working on Man on a Suitcase?
FM: Yeah, I will.
DJ: Can we explain what it was, a personal project of Roy Cannon.
Steven Ricks: Roy Cannon was a prop man at MGM who later worked on The Prisoner. In 1964 with Frank and John Cazabon, who was the man in the cave in Free For All, they shot a short half hour film.
DJ: A very entertaining film about someone trying to get rid of a dead body.
FM: I have to tell you I played the lead in this movie. Wonderful - I was dead! (laughter) After the first five minutes I was dead. The film business is wonderful. My one starring role! It was [filmed] in a condemned house in Notting Hill, four floors, rickety staircase and I'm a dead body - I'm still a dead body!
Audience: In the
last episode were you Number 1?
FM: No, only in my own mind!
DJ: That was actually a chap called Roy Beck...
FM: Who is now dead.
DJ: He died recently, a great shame. He played the man behind the mask - Number 1.
Audience: A lot of the fights in The Prisoner seem more violent than many of the contemporary TV programmes of that era. Was there any discussion about making the fights in the series that little bit more dramatic?
FM: No, Patrick left it to me totally, 100%. I've always had very fixed ideas about what you should do and what you shouldn't do. If you have a fight with somebody, make it real. There are so many you see and it's stylised. Stylised punch-ups are no good. People get nasty when they hit other people. It was just me, my ideas at the time and all of my team went along with it because they were all of the same ilk and they were all very fit, hard lads. So you chuck each other around and have a lot of fun. One good thing about being a stunt man is you never go home and beat up your wife! The adrenaline gets used up and by the time you get home you say "Good night!" (laughter)
DJ: A cup of cocoa and your slippers! We could talk to you for hours, but I'm sure we'll invite you back again at a future date...
FM: Not on the train! (laughter)
DJ: By helicopter! And Frank, can we say that it has been an absolute pleasure having you here this evening with us. (applause)
FM: Thank you.
Click here to return to the Unmutual Interviews Section
Click here to return to the Unmutual home page