Archive for the ‘Bernard Cribbins’ Category

Bernard Cribbins (2010)

January 25, 2010

Here’s Bernard Cribbins at the NFT a few weeks ago, talking about his career and his experiences with both the Cushing and Tennant Doctors.

Q: You were 14 when you started treading the boards?

A: Yes. It was the best possible training that I could have had, I think, because I was watching good actors working the whole time. In weekly rep, you start a new play on the Monday, as a performance, and then Tuesday morning you’re learning the following week’s play in order to know that, and it’s relentless, absolutely. With Shakespeare thrown in, and everything else. And I was able, as child, to watch really good actors doing their job.

Q: You hold the record, 111 episodes, for hosting Jackanory. Beating Willie Ruston, Kenneth Williams, you beat them all hands down.

A: I was out of work more than they were! It’s called availability. I’m sure a lot of you remember Jackanory. The thing I always loved about Jackanory, apart from the fact that I was lucky with the authors I was given, was that you sit there and you contact one child through the lens, and just grab ’em. And if it’s a good story, the child’s going to listen. You don’t need whizz bangs and quick cuts. Just think how simple it was. Camera one would be on you, camera two would be on the caption, camera three would be ready on another caption. And you’d say ‘he walked into the wood’ and you’d get a picture of a child walking into a wood. Nothing moving, just an illustration, as you’d have in a book. That was, I think, the magical thing about Jackanory. It was also at a very good time of the day, Dad would be coming home from work and the kids would be occupied and out of the way. I just wish they’d bring it back without all the bells and whistles, because it still works, I’m sure. Mum, when she’s reading a bedtime story to a child, she doesn’t leap up onto the wardrobe and all that. She sits and she reads, and the child listens.

One thing I’ll mention, and I may cry while I’m doing this, I think it’s a wonderful thing… I got in a cab one day in London, to go up to Paddington. We were doing a bit for the BBC about Roald Dahl. So I got in the cab and the driver was an East Ender, black guy, and he said ‘Where to?’ and I said ‘Sussex Gardens’, I’ve forgotten the name of the hotel, and off we went, and he looks in the mirror and says ‘You alright, Bern?’, and I say ‘Yeah, just doing a bit of filming for the BBC’, and he says ‘Oh, what’s all that about, then?’, I say ‘It’s about Roald Dahl, you know, he wrote stuff for Jackanory’, and he says ‘Oh yeah, terrific, Jackanory. That made me want to read’. End of story. Wonderful. And that’s what it did for kids, it engaged them, it entertained them, it educated them, it fascinated them and that, I think, was its great gift. I rest my case!

Q: Didn’t The Wombles cause an increase in visitor numbers at Wimbledon Common?

A: The rangers said they had problems with children arriving with bags of rubbish (laughs), and they’d spread the rubbish around under bushes and trees and so on, and they’d stand back with their little camera waiting for the Wombles to come out and clean it all up. The rangers had to say ‘No, it’s Wednesday, they don’t come out on Wednesday’ and try to get them to pick it all up.

Q: And Elizbeth Berresford, who wrote the stories, left a lot of room for ad-libbing, didn’t she?

A: Yes. Elizbaeth used to write a very minimal script. The lines for the characters, obviously, and then the films were shot and it was very laborious. Stop-frame animation, it took five or six days to do a five minute animation. And I’d add little coughs and sneezes. I used to do at least five minutes of snoring for every episode, for Orinoco.

Q: The character of Mr. Hutchinson in Fawlty Towers sticks in the mind.

A: I had almost shoulder length hair and a big Viva Zapata moustache, and I went to my hairdresser on the day of recording and got that sort of Hitler haircut, and had my moustache shaved into that bit in the middle. And I walked into the studio, and John Cleese said ‘Good God!’, because he thought this long-haired idiot was coming in, instead of which it was me. When he was trying to suppress me at the table, karate chop me… he’s a big lad, John, a big strong young man, and he was going Whack! on the back of my neck. He was being very strong with me, so we had to mime it.

Q: You suffered for your art?

A: Not really, because I told him to stop it.

Q: Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD is the second Peter Cushing story. Roy Castle did the first, and you came along as PC Tom Campbell in the second one. It was directed by Gordon Fleming, wasn’t it, a big, scruff Scots guy?

A: Yes, Gordon I hadn’t met before, and we were on set doing a scene with the Daleks for the very first time. They were on the ramp in the spaceship, and Peter and I had just been introduced to the Daleks. And the Dalek operator in the machine, Bob Jewell, was Australian, he had all the lines ready to read out. And he read out ‘You will come with us or you’ll be exerminated’ in an Australian accent, and Peter and I couldn’t stop laughing. Gordon said ‘Come on, pull yourselves together’, but every time this Dalek said something, we were off!

Q: So, the phone rings for the Christmas episode with Kylie Minogue and David Tennant. Did you know, at that point, that you’d be returning in series four?

A: Not at all. The reason I was brought back into it was that I’d done the Christmas episode, as a silly old news vendor in my parachute regiment jacket and my silly hat. And then a few months later, the actor who was playing Catherine’s dad sadly died, and they wanted another man in that household, but Phil Collinson said ‘Well, we don’t want to put in another actor as Dad, hang on, Cribbins, we’ll have him back’ so I was re-introduced as Grandad.

Q: When you found out that you killed David Tennant…

A: Yes! (laughs) That was a surprise, wasn’t it? To find that it was Wilfred. But you must remember that Wilfred had already gone inside that booth to save somebody else, without realising really. And I did the four knocks. Good bit of story, though, wasn’t it? But he was going to change anyway, it’s just Wilf who happened to be there.

Bernard Cribbins (2008)

November 24, 2009

Here are transcripts from two BBC interviews with Bernard Cribbins back in 2008, around the time of the transmission of ‘The Stolen Earth’ and ‘Journey’s End’. One’s from ‘The One Show’, the other’s from ‘Breakfast News’, but I’ve merged them for the sake of convenience.

Q: What’s Wilf like to play?

He’s a very nice character. He’s an avuncular, in a way, granddad, who is in cahoots with his grand-daughter, Donna, against Mum really, because Mum is pernickety and niggles them both. I say at one point ‘Was she nagging you?’, because she comes up to the allotment with a cup of tea. It’s a lovely relationship with Catherine, and with Jacks who plays Mum.

Q: It must have been great fun for you to get the call, having been in the film in 1966.

A: Yes, forty-two years ago! It’s unbelievable. That was with Mr. Cushing, who was a totally different Doctor, he was a waffly old professor, very stereotyped professor, and then you’ve got David, who’s on springs all the time, he’s wonderful. I think I’d have to say that David’s my favourite Doctor of all of them. I think Tom Baker – sorry, Tom – runs him a close second, but I think David’s the guv’nor, for me.

Q: Why is that?

A: It’s his intensity. He’s also, he’s a damned good actor, it’s a very intense, good acting performance. He’s a spooky guy. He comes on, he flashes a smile, and you think ‘Where’s he going to go with this?’.

Q: Is it true you were once in line to be Dr. Who, after Jon Pertwee?

A: I was interviewed. They were looking for a new Doctor, and I went along and the producer there said ‘What can you do?’, I said ‘Well, I’m a very good swimmer, I can’t ride a horse, I was a paratrooper, and I can fight’. And he said ‘Oh no, no fighting’. And I think I lost the job because I said I’d fight, and of course the first thing you see Tom Baker, who got the job, the first thing he did was going Smack! and knocking someone over. I’d have loved to have been Dr. Who.

Q: You’ve done a lot of television. ‘The Wombles’, ‘The Railway Children’…

A: The Wombles would be good in ‘Doctor Who’. A Womble planet.

Q: Have you mentioned that to Russell T. Davies?

A: I’ll ring Russell when I get off the air and say ‘What about the Wombles, then?’.

Q: But you must have had such fun doing such a variety of things.

A: Yeah. Ducking and diving. Don’t stand still, keep moving around.

Q: One of the things that’s so different between ‘Doctor Who’ now and working on it back then is the special effects. Do you stand around going ‘We wouldn’t have done it like that’?

A: I do remember that when we did the film, which was forty-two years ago, I got terrible giggles because one of the Dalek operators – you’re not supposed to know this, there’s a man inside – he had to learn all the lines in order to communicate with the actors, and he was an Australian guy called Bob Jewell, and he’d say ‘You will be exterminated’ (in an Australian accent) and I started wetting myself with laughter. The director, Gordon Fleming – God bless you – got very upset and swore at me.