I was delighted to see John Hurt honoured at last night’s BAFTA Awards. A charming man and a superb actor, I met him back in 2000 when I was commissioned to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Probably because of the parts I’d seen him play before, I was slightly more nervous about meeting John than anyone else in the film, but he couldn’t have been friendlier.
Sporting a wonderful moustache he’d grown for his role as Dr Iannis, he was down-to-earth and good company – and certainly no luvvie. As one of the film’s stars, a chauffeur-driven car was at his disposal but he would turn up on set every day on an old scooter (which would have probably given the film’s insurers palpitations… if they’d ever known.)
Halfway through filming I was invited to a party at John and his then girlfriend Sarah’s house (a large mansion rented by the film company for his stay) which he was holding in honour of the terrific bunch of young Italian actors playing Corelli’s soldiers, who had just finished filming and were about to head home. I got lost on the way (this was before sat-navs!) and nearly rolled my hire car on a very steep hill trying to turn round after taking a wrong turning) and was more than pleased when I finally found the house. John was a genial host and the party went on until about 3am…
The film itself – which featured Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz in the lead roles – was panned by the critics – and certainly there are some reasonable criticisms that can be levelled at it – but I’m always going to have a soft-spot for it, as it reminds me of the month I spent on the beautiful island of Cephalonia, with a wonderfully co-operative cast and crew…
Incidentally…. Cephalonia was devastated by an earthquake in 1953 so, as the film was set during the Second World War, old houses had to be constructed from scratch. Dr Iannis’ home, overlooking a bay, looks incredible in the film but was actually just a carefully built replica, which as my pictures show – was held up by little more than scaffolding…
I was very saddened to learn of the tragic death of actor Colin Tarrant, who was best known as no-nonsense Inspector Andrew Monroe in the ITV police series The Bill. Colin, who was in the series for 12 years from 1990, was a serious-minded man and this was also true of his character. Monroe was tough but fair, had a calm and understated authority and the character was all the more believable for being that.
In real life Colin was a straightforward unluvvie-ish actor, who had grown up in Derbyshire and had trenchant views, particularly when it came to the Conservative Party and its treatment of miners. I interviewed him when he joined The Bill, shortly after he had appeared with Imogen Stubbs in a BBC One adaptation of the DH Lawrence The Rainbow.
As my 1990 article (reproduced below – update: It isn’t big enough to read at the moment – I’ll fix that ASAP) reported, his contract with The Bill meant he was able to earn a living without filling in between acting jobs supply teaching, where he’d often face classes of pupils who were harsh about actors they didn’t see on television and thus deemed to have failed.
Colin had an idea for a series centring on the day-to-day work of a local newspaper journalist. Colin wasn’t to be the star though. He saw the project as a starring vehicle for one of his co-stars on The Bill, actor Kevin Lloyd, who played DC “Tosh” Lines. Colin asked me, who he knew had been a provincial newspaper reporter, and one of his school friends who was now an executive on the local paper in Derby, to give him some background on being a local newspaper reporter and be ‘technical advisors’ if the programme ever got made. Sadly it never came to anything.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure it would have worked anyway (although the BBC had a moderate success with a series called Harry about a journalist around the same time, with Michael Elphick in the lead role). Like estate agents and politicians, journalists have never had a very good press even (and that was before the phone-hacking scandal which has seen some dodgy practices by a small number of individuals and organisations further besmirch the integrity of the majority of straight and decent journalists) whether a TV audience would have much empathy with the trials and tribulations of a local paper man is far from certain, even with someone as likeable as the late great Kevin Lloyd playing him.
Colin, like Kevin Lloyd, died far too young. My condolences to his friends and family.