March 28

EXCLUSIVE: The Only Fools and Horses Sport Relief sketch script (if Trigger had been in it…)

only_fools_and_horses_triggerThe Only Fools and Horses sketch for Sport Relief was originally planned to include an appearance by Roger Lloyd Pack as Trigger. Unfortunately, by the time filming took place over the weekend of January 11-12th, Roger was too ill (and very sadly passed away a few days later.)

Obviously a script had been written to include Trigger and a slightly different version was drafted when Roger was unable to appear. Jim Sullivan has very kindly given me permission to reproduce here the original portion of the script which would have included Trigger.

“One of the first problems we faced [with writing the sketch] was the question of what characters to include,” Jim explains: “Only Fools had so many memorable and loveable characters, but we eventually decided not to try and cram them all in just for the sake of it.

“It’s a ten minute sketch so we wanted to keep it simple. Trigger appeared in the original script and Roger Lloyd Pack was very supportive of the project. We knew that he’d been unwell but had no idea how serious it was. Such was his eagerness to be involved we only found out he was too poorly to perform a couple of days before filming – a true testament to his character.”

It was essential for Jim and his brother Dan that the sketch was as close as possible to something their father might have written. “It was important that the characters felt familiar and true, so if there was any way at all of getting Dad’s voice into the script, we were going to do it,” he says.

“We wanted to make it as close as possible to being a John Sullivan script. Dad was always scribbling down thoughts, lines and gags, and once we knew where we were going with the sketch and had written a rough first draft, we went through his notes to see if we could work any of it into the script.

“It wasn’t easy because whatever we used had to blend and feel natural and unforced, and for that reason we couldn’t use too much. About 90% of the script we had to come up with ourselves. The gag about Rodney playing hide and seek and getting locked in the chest was from Dad’s notes, and we thought it would be a nice way to begin the cafe scene – having a bit of banter between Del and Rodney before David Beckham is introduced.

“Trigger’s gag (in the scene that wasn’t to be) about Monkey Harris getting hit by a car was also from Dad’s notes – we just changed Lenny Corby to Monkey Harris and added Trigger’s cousin Marilyn (who was mentioned in the ‘Wanted’ episode).

“How to end the sketch also became a bit of a problem. We originally had a different ending but when we met with David Beckham he wasn’t too keen on it. And he was right; it just wasn’t a big enough ending. I had been toying with the idea of having David Beckham do the famous fall, but was reluctant to go with it. It just seemed too obvious.

“Plus it’s such a funny scene I was worried we wouldn’t be able to pull it off. When Dad wrote the original scene he knew that for it to really work the fall had to be completely deadpan (screaming with arms flailing would not have been as effective).

“David Jason did it perfectly, but it’s not an easy thing to do. I mentioned recreating the scene to David (Beckham) and he was very up for it, and I think he did a bloody good job of it too. And one thing that came as a big relief was hearing that a lot of viewers didn’t see it coming.”

Here’s the portion of the script which includes Trigger:

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Script written by John Sullivan, Jim Sullivan and Dan Sullivan (c) Shazam Productions Limited 2014 All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior written consent is permitted.

This article is copyright Steve Clark 2014. All rights reserved. No unauthorised reproduction. Legal notes here.

March 26

Pictured: Roger Lloyd Pack in his final acting role

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There’s a chance to see Roger Lloyd Pack’s final acting role tonight in Law and Order: UK

Roger plays retired chief inspector Alex Greene in the episode, I Predict a Riot.

Ben Bailey Smith, who plays, DS Joe Hawkins in the series, paid tribute to Roger: “It’s not every day you can say you sparred with an actual legend,” he told me. “In fact just the word legend is bandied about too easily nowadays. Very occasionally, you experience a human being who could never be described in any other way.

“Roger Lloyd Pack has to take some of the credit for breathing unforgettable life into the iconic comedy creation that was ‘Trigger’. Three generations of my family still quote his lines to each other (all round favourite the line regarding the impending birth of Del’s baby: ‘If it’s a boy, they’re gonna name it Rodney. After Dave’).

“He actually brought that much warmth into my house. My biggest regret is that working alongside him for three weeks I never once plucked up the courage to tell him. So here ya go mate – thanks for the memories, you’ll live forever in my house.”

Here’s the full episode synopsis:  Whilst helping out the drugs squad on a bust, Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) and Joe  (Ben Bailey Smith) stumble upon a body that has been hidden inside the boot of a car in the River Thames. It turns out that the man was Taylor Kane, a black undercover policeman who went missing in the 80s, at the time of the Brixton riots. Through clever detection, unsettling evidence is unearthed as Ronnie, Wes and Joe raise issues that the police would rather forget. Wes (Paterson Joseph) finds himself personally putting his head above the parapet when he gets an unexpected visit from the Commissioner (Don Warrington).

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Jake (Dominic Rowan)  takes up the cause with Ronnie, Joe and Wes as defence barrister Philip Nevins (Pip Torrens), argues the case for his defendant DS Darren Grady (Ralph Brown). Accusations of are thrown around as our heroes get in deeper and deeper when the case hits the headlines and Kane’s sister, Nikki Carroll (Jenny Jules), comes knocking at their door.  It is time to pick a side as friendships and loyalties are tested and careers are put on the line for justice. Guest starring the late Roger Lloyd Pack and Graham Cole.

Top picture shows: Roger Lloyd Pack as Alex Greene, Ben Bailey Smith as DS Joe Hawkins and Bradley Walsh as DS Ronnie Brooks.

 

 

March 21

EXCLUSIVE: My report from the set of the Only Fools and Horses sketch for Sport Relief

DJ DB

It’s 8am on a Saturday morning at a busy market in South London in January. People are milling around and there’s a queue at the fruit and veg stall. Then a noisy little bloke starts trying to make himself heard above the general hubbub.

It’s a scene familiar in towns and cities across the country. Except this isn’t just any mouthy market trader. This is Del Boy Trotter, the crème de la menthe of market traders, and he’s accompanied, rather unwillingly, by his long-suffering taller brother Rodney.

We’re at Wimbledon Studios for a very special event – the filming of an Only Fools and Horses sketch for Sport Relief. It will be the first time we’ve seen Del and Rodney for more than a decade.

And if that’s not enough, the sketch is to feature a guest appearance by football legend David Beckham. Short of getting Her Majesty the Queen to appear, it doesn’t get any better than this – and it has all the making of television gold.

“Well here we are again, it’s been a while,” says a cheery David Jason as he arrives on set and later concedes that he never expected to ever play Del Boy again, following the death of the show’s creator and writer John Sullivan three years ago.

It was David Beckham himself who got the ball rolling. Sport Relief asked him last year whether there was anything he’d be particularly keen to do to help raise money for the charity. Top of his list was to appear in a scene of his favourite comedy Only Fools.

“David Beckham got in touch through Sport Relief saying he is a big fan of Only Fools and wondering if there was a possibility of doing something together for the charity’s 2014 campaign,” says Jim Sullivan, one of John’s two sons.

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“Since Dad passed away back in April 2011 the question of whether we’d be interested in writing new material for Only Fools has been raised a few times, and we have always said no, our intention being to protect the work, not to attempt adding to it.

“However, with Sport Relief being such a worthy cause, and with the opportunity to help raise a lot of money, things were different this time. And we knew that Dad would approve.”

When news of the sketch got out, it was reported that the scene was to be based on scripts which John Sullivan had written but which had never been used, but there are no such scripts.

“A lot of things have been said, like it’s based on a script that Dad wrote about Del’s 65th birthday, that it’s a trailer for a new episode, that we are writing a new series etc. None of it is true,” says Jim. “It’s just a straightforward, one-off sketch for charity.”

Jim and his brother Dan wanted to make sure they used their father’s notes. “Once we’d had the idea for the sketch and had written out a rough first draft, we went through Dad’s notes – bits of dialogue he’d written for the characters but hadn’t found a place for – to see if we could work any of it into the script,” says Jim.

“It’s important to us that the characters feel familiar and true. We grew up around the show and are huge fans ourselves, so we feel we know the characters well. But Only Fools, its characters and every one of its episodes came from Dad’s mind, so if there was any way at all of getting his thoughts and voice into the script then, of course, we were going to do it.

“The difficulty was in choosing dialogue that would fit and in such a way that it felt natural and unforced, and for that reason we couldn’t use that much. About 90% of the script we had to come up with ourselves.”

I was lucky enough to have known John Sullivan for more than 20 years and write a number of books about his show including Only Fools and Horses: The Official Inside Story, and in my opinion Jim and Dan have done their father proud.

They even had to cope with making last minute changes to the script as Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger had been due to appear but had to withdraw due to illness, and he sadly died just three days after filming took place.

A great deal of work and thought has gone into the sketch, which was shown during Sport Relief on BBC One earlier tonight, and it is as close to the work of John Sullivan as it is possible to get.

Even so, Jim Sullivan says: “We’d be lying if we said it hasn’t been a bit nerve racking too. The characters are iconic and so well loved, so it’s a big responsibility. We just hope we have done the characters and Sport Relief justice.”

There’s already a real buzz on set as the filming begins with David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst slipping straight back into the characters of Del and Rodney. It’s now a staggering 33 years since they first played them, but their enthusiasm is undimmed.

David once described playing Del Boy again as putting on an old pair of shoes and he slips effortlessly into the role. Nick Lyndhurst depicts world weary Rodney, so often on the receiving end of Del’s antics and schemes, as if he’s never been away from him.

The sketch is being shot on a London street set at Wimbledon Studios, where The Bill was filmed. The typical London street set – including a permanent fake pub – was built for Channel Five’s ill-fated soap Family Affairs and fits the bill perfectly.

Production Designer David Hitchcock, who recently recreated Arkwright’s shop for Still Open All Hours, which also starred David Jason, has recreated a typical market down to the very last detail.

Perhaps appropriately, as so many memorable scenes in Only Fools and Horses took place in the Trotter’s local The Nag’s Head, everyone is gathered in pub set when, without fanfare, David Beckham appears.

You might imagine that someone who has spent most of his life performing in front of thousands of people (with millions more watching on television at home), albeit on the football pitch, wouldn’t be that nervous. But he admitted he was up late going through his lines the day before filming and even woke up with the script on his chest. Part of that nervousness is probably down to him wanting to get it right.

He is genuinely a massive fan of Only Fools and Horses and grew up watching the show. So what does it mean to be in his favourite sitcom and appearing alongside two of his comedy heroes?

“It’s hard to explain because obviously I’ve been a big fan of the show for many, many years,” he tells me during a break in filming. “Being from the East End of London, Only Fools and Horses was what I was brought up on, so it’s very special for me to be in it.

“It’s very surreal but I’m really honoured. This is without doubt one of the most special things I’ve ever done. Only Fools and Horses is a programme that I love, starring two people who I love and respect so to actually be in it is incredible.”

Not that he found the experience that easy. “The hardest part was delivering lines sat next to David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst – two people who I’m in awe of,” he says.

“The other tricky bit was having to turn round to Nicholas and say something a bit rude to him as Rodney. I kind of wanted to apologise straight after it!”

As Del Boy would say: you know it makes sense.

 

Donate to Sport Relief at www.sportrelief.com 

 

 

This article is (c) Steve Clark 2014. All rights reserved. No unauthorised reproduction. Legal notes here.