Archive for the ‘Elisabeth Sladen’ Category

Elisabeth Sladen (1980’s)

November 20, 2009

Here’s Elisabeth Sladen talking about almostĀ  drowning in Wookey Hole, almost being crushed by a collapsing TARDIS, and how she originally planned to play Sarah Jane for just one year.

“Sarah had to be able to stick up for herself. She was pretty forceful, especially at first, then we allowed her to soften and adapt more to the circumstances she was living in. Sarah was not only feminist, she was feminine – a rather happy, forthright girl with a lot of intelligence, and plenty of courage.

“I felt I worked well with Jon – we made a good duo, professionally. He works it all out the whole time but I can’t do that – it’s all instant with me. I try to act for that instinctive quality I like my characters to have. So although we approached it differently, we had a great time and a lot of laughs.

“With the new team we had Philip Hinchcliffe, who was young and enthusiastic, and Tom Baker who was a charming man. Eccentric, yes, but so warm, such a sincere person and a first-rate actor. We worked as a team and it was great. It sounds conceited calling them classic days – but that’s what they were for me. It had the sort of spark you get when everything gels. This applied even to the production team.

“One of the stuntmen – Terry Walsh – was as marvellous guy who stood in for us if the action got too dangerous. With me, as often as not, I had to do my own stunts because of my height – it would have been too obvious otherwise – but he was always there on the sidelines, and it’s to him I practically owe my life. We were shooting down in Wookey Hole for ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’, and they wanted me to do this ridiculous joyride on a sort of speedboat. I was petrified at the thought of being caught in the undercurrent of one of the pools, though everyone assured me that it would be alright. Terry wasn’t satisfied, though, and he stood by the side in a wetsuit in case anything went wrong. Sure enough, I came off and probably wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t intervened.

“We never got glamorous locations. It was always from one quarry to another. It was just my luck that when I returned for ‘The Five Doctors’, Jon and I ended up once again in a disused quarry, freezing to death. It caused a few laughs for both of us. As we were turning blue, I said ‘Just like old times!’. We just had to grin and bear it.

“I’ll never forget the time the TARDIS collapsed on us! We did have a lot of special effects that had to be done in an amazingly short time, but we did it, and that’s a thing to be proud of. We were under lots of pressure, particularly during Tom’s first year, but we never ran out of time. Minor mistakes were made, and no doubt some of our directors had more grey hair by the end. It used to be worst on the six-parters – in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, I think it was the last session in the studio and we had about five crucial scenes to do and only fifteen minutes before the plugs were pulled. With an extension and no second takes, we managed it. A remount at that time would have been a nightmare.

“The robot in ‘Robot’ was a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, but it was almost impossible to work with. The actor inside it kept falling over with the most tremendous crashes, and he came near to fainting because of the restrictions the costume imposed on breathing. We had exactly the same problems with the Ice Warriors.

“I was very pleased with ‘Planet of Evil’. It had a lot more to it that some of our more mundane scripts. For once we were in a tropical jungle with all this crazy wildlife around us – totally fantastic, but a marvellous break from what we usually did. Although I loved my time with Jon, the team I remember most fondly had to be Tom, Ian and I. We really did care. There was flexibility – room for improvement – and we all became very close. I loved nearly all my time on ‘Doctor Who’ and I’ve never regretted doing it.

“Originally I’d planned one year. That became two, then three. I got a great deal of satisfaction from making Sarah Jane what she was. Even so, there were boundaries that couldn’t be crossed and I felt I’d really done my best, had my day, and should hand over to somebody else. I felt regret, of course, but I was happy that it was I who took the initative, and not somebody giving me a quiet push – in fact, they asked me how I should go out and I said make it quiet, not over-dramatic. I didn’t want to die or anything like that. So at the end of ‘The Hand of Fear’, I slipped out of the Doctor’s life and back to the theatre.”

Elisabeth Sladen (1990)

October 17, 2009

With the third series of ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ having just started on the BBC, here’s Elisabeth Sladen back in 1990 talking about how she upset Jon Pertwee by getting her hair cut, how she helped Tom Baker and Ian Marter with the script for the aborted 70’s movie ‘Doctor Who Meets Scratchman’, and how she felt she couldn’t play Sarah Jane again after ‘The Five Doctors’.

“I really wanted to act. It was just what I wanted to do when I left school. I didn’t go to stage school – I went to an ordinary grammar school, then drama school for two years, then to the local repertory theatre. We based ourselves in Manchester, although Brian (Miller, her husband) went into the West End with a production. We always knew we’d have to move to London, but it was so different. I didn’t have the contacts. I didn’t have an agent. In the end, I got one who had seen me in Manchester, and to my surprise, I got quite a bit of work.

“Someone else was offered Sarah Jane before me, but they decided to reconsider. I don’t know if she recorded any – it was all a bit of a rush, which was to my advantage. I only found out afterwards. They tagged ‘The Time Warrior’ onto the end of the season when Jo Grant was leaving. I did that, then we finished and started again after Christmas. I remember going out and doing a lot of publicity shots. I got my hair cut very short and came back for the first production of the new season, the dinosaur one. Jon Pertwee hated my hair, just hated it, which was a wonderful welcome!

“I felt very strange that they weren’t giving me more notes, that I wasn’t being pressed into a mould more. I saw ‘The Time Warrior’ a long time after making it, and I was quite amazed at what a strong role they let me take. She was never so strong again. I remember Tom Baker later brought up a point: ‘If the people the Doctor chooses to be with him are stupid, then it makes him out to be stupid’.

“The chemistry with Tom was the chemistry each actor bought to it. I saw Tom once in Regent Street and I couldn’t cope with reality. ‘Come and have a drink’, he said. ‘No, Doctor, I can’t!’. It worked very well and it was always a pleasure to work with Tom – it was just like shorthand. In the end, you just knew what we needed at a certain point. I helped with some of ‘Doctor Who Meets Scratchman’ (the proposed 70’s film). The British Film Finance Corporation were very interested about that. I put in some ideas, but I didn’t do any writing. They told me I’d been written in – but they might have written me out, too!

“I really didn’t like the script for ‘K9 and Company’, but I loved the idea and I thought John Nathan-Turner was very brave to actually go for it. He wasn’t given enough time to set it up, and I was concerned that there were things in it that weren’t really Sarah. I would have loved to have made it really work, but I just think there were so many disadvantages when we started off.

“The Five Doctors was like a command performance. Everyone came back to it. The story had moments in it that really worked well, but I feel in the end it didn’t kind of reach anything. I doubt very much that I could do another one – I don’t really think I’m that person now, and I don’t think you can play Sarah Jane so many years on. I’m different, and unless the script accommodated that, I don’t think I could make it work.”

Elisabeth Sladen (2002)

September 13, 2009

Here’s a transcript of Elisabeth Sladen talking about the changeover between Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. She says she felt left out, at first, because TB and Ian Marter seemed to be getting on so well, but the interview ends with a great story about TB and some fairy lights, so enjoy:

“First of all, I knew Jon was leaving before he actually left. Even when I joined. All these names were mentioned, Alan Dale, Ron Moody, and then Barry Letts, the director, came rushing in one day and said ‘Wonderful, we’ve got Tom Baker!’. In my ignorance, I didn’t know who Tom Baker was. And the first time I saw Tom was when we were filming ‘Planet of the Spiders’ and we were filming Jon’s demise and it was the take-over, so it wasn’t a time to really say so much. Jon was in his own little box of ‘I am leaving’, Liz as Sarah had to be upset because she thought Jon was dying, and it was just ‘Hello’. That night I had to go to the studio to film with them, with Tom, and I think if things work well you get that extra frisson on screen.

“Ian Marter was there with Tom when I got there and they seemed already to have a really lovely relationship and I actually felt very excluded, and I felt I had to sit back and wait on it. From the word go it was a very very new Doctor, which was lovely because you’re only as good as the people you work with. And the Doctor makes the running. It’s like in a George Formby thing, you can’t have ten George Formby’s, it wouldn’t work, so all I could do was wait to see what Tom gave me. And whereas Jon’s Doctor had been very protective, arm around the chick, Tom’s Doctor was ‘You can do it’, and it was wonderful. Tom comes from Liverpool, and I do, and Tom’s so generous and disarming. It was great.

“By the time we came to do ‘Planet of Evil’, we knew we were really flying. You just knew it was really really good, and that’s a very rare feeling, and when something is really good you dare to be brave, you dare to make mistakes, and by that you get better results because you’re braver. You trust the people around you. We didn’t have to finish sentences. We’d rehearse, and Tom would say by the time we got to the studio we had to know exactly what we were doing, exactly where the marks were, exactly how many seconds to pause, because the special effects were so important. You could do twenty, thirty takes and be brilliant, but if the stun gun didn’t work you’d got nothing. We knew they’d take the one where the stun gun worked, so we were on the ball, and Tom used to say to the director’s box ‘Sir, Liz and I have just thought of -‘ and the director would say ‘Lovely idea, Tom, but we haven’t got time’. Tom would say we’ll do it but we have to get it right.

“An example is ‘Pyramids of Mars’. There’s a Marx Brothers film where they walk in, turn and walk out, and we did that in ‘Pyramids of Mars’ when we saw something in one of the tunnels, Tom was supposed to say ‘Quick, Sarah, hide’, and he said ‘I’m not saying that again’ so it was in, turn, out. It was very good, it was accepted, but if he’ got it wrong we wouldn’t have been very popular because the clock was ticking. You only had until ten o’clock in those days. We used to record from seven thirty at night until ten o’clock at night, so it was rather like being live.

“And I remember we were going filming one day, I never used to know where we were going, I just got on the bus, and it was six o’clock at night, we were going down the motorway, we came to a whole load of houses and Tom sat back and said ‘You know, Liz, if we stopped and I knocked on the door or one of these houses and said Do you mind if I come in and watch myself?, there’s no-one who’d say No’.

“It’s so simple, ‘Doctor Who’, but if you mess around with it you’ve got nothing. I wish we’d had more money. Tom was always having ideas. He’d say ‘Shall we try it this way’, they’d say ‘No, Tom’, he’d say ‘Alright, but I’ll have another idea in a minute and that one might work’, you know, you could be wrong a hundred times but if you’re right just once, it’s worth having your input. We’d camera rehearse and the make-up girls would run after Tom and say ‘Tom, can I just comb your -‘ and Tom would say ‘Darling, I’m too busy, I’m saving the universe’. Wonderful. Fantastically professional irreverance.

“When we were doing ‘The Hand of Fear’, I think they were a little anxious that we mustn’t film the last scene as the last scene, in case it got a little too, whatever, maudlin. We used to often record out of order, but this particular time we recorded the end halfway through, but I remember one of the last scenes we did, it was where Eldred was injured and we were climbing up this slippery slope, and it was in the studio so it wasn’t desperately slippy but we had to sort of pretend to slide back. Tom thought it was quite funny, and we kept doing it and going up and sliding up and we just couldn’t stop laughing. It really was very sad leaving, but I needed to go because I didn’t ever want to be asked to leave, and I wasn’t Philip’s choice, he inherited me. Tom gave me a party at his house, and he put fairy lights in the trees in the garden, and as a joke I said ‘Tom, it’s lovely, do you always have it like that?’, he said ‘No I bloody don’t, I did it for you!'”

Elisabeth Sladen (1976)

August 7, 2009

Shortly after it was announced that she would be leaving ‘Doctor Who’ in 1976, Elisabeth Sladen appeared briefly on ‘Nationwide’ and was interviewed about her experiences on the show and how she hoped her character would be written out. It’s not exactly in-depth stuff, but interesting to read in light of her continued involvement with the character over the past thirty years. You can see the original interview here.

Q: You mentioned earlier about the fantasy world, do you ever actually dream about the kind of horrific situations you’ve been put in?

A: No, never, but I do have letters from little girls saying “I dreamt I was Sarah Jane and I was being chased by a monster, and my mummy woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep again.”

Q: But it’s never actually frightening for you?

A: Well you can’t actually, if you know what’s inside the Daleks, and if they go around they have to push along with their legs, and they wear their trousers down so one particular gentleman wore a kilt, and when you know what’s in there you can’t really take it seriously.

Q: There must be a tremendous lot goes on behind the scenes that we never get to see.

A: Oh, it’s chaotic. It’s frantic.

Q: And when a new monster is dreamed up, do you want to have a say in what they should be like?

A: No, that’s left totally to the designer and what’s required on the episodes.

Q: Do you have any idea now what you’ll be going on to do?

A: Well I’ve got a couple of things that I like to think about, but I shall believe them when I’m putting the make-up on.

Q: And what about how you’re going to finish on ‘Doctor Who’, do you know about that? What will your end be?

A: I don’t actually. I hope it will be imaginative. I hope they don’t just marry me off, unless they marry me off to a monster which would be a call for something different. No, I don’t know.