Archive for the ‘Sylvester McCoy’ Category

Sylvester McCoy (2010)

October 9, 2010

Here are some quotes from Sylvester McCoy, talking about life in Dunoon, becoming the Chieftain of the Cowal Highland Games, and his thoughts on Matt Smith and David Tennant:

“I was born in Dunoon, I left here when I was 18. Every year, the Cowal Highland Games was an exciting time in Dunoon. “When I was a little boy I used to climb over the wall and sneak in here without having to pay, to watch all the events. Now I’ve come back, and my penance is I’ve got to be Chieftain.

“As a little boy, Dunoon is a small little insular place. When the games arrived it brought in the whole world, and that was really exciting. God, wow!

“Matt Smith is wonderfully strange. He’s got a great, strange look to him, a great face, and his timing is terrific, his concentration and everything. And he’s very young! I wasn’t mad about the idea of him doing it, but now he’s done it I think he’s done a really good job.

“I watch it. I’ve been working all over the world so I don’t see it always, but I do dip in now and again. Partly out of duty, but I enjoy the duty, especially because of Matt Smith, I like what I’ve seen of him. And David was terrific, you know. I also liked Christopher Eccleston because he was the first real working-class Doctor, I was disappointed in a way that the next one wasn’t equally.

“I would have loved it if someone like Billy Connolly came out, and said [doing Billy impression]: ‘Oh my God, look at that planet, I love it! Bleep bleep bleep, I love it.’ I would have liked more of that, but apart from that it’s good”.

You can read the whole interview here.

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Sylvester McCoy (2010)

February 16, 2010

Here’s Sylvester McCoy quoted in ‘The Times’, discussing the idea that late 80’s ‘Doctor Who’ had an anti-Thatcher streak. You can read the full ‘Times’ article here, including some real gems of insanity in the Comments at the bottom of the page, such as the guy who rants against the ‘orchestrated chorus of evil’ that was late-80’s BBC television, and the guy who defends Thatcherism on the basis that Mrs. T had nothing to do with some piers in San Francisco being torn down!

“The idea of bringing politics into ‘Doctor Who’ was deliberate, but we had to do it very quietly and we certainly didn’t shout about it.

“We were a group of politically-motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do. At the time, ‘Doctor Who’ used satire to put political messages out there in the way they used to do in places like Czechoslovakia. Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster that the Doctor hoad encountered. Those who wanted to see the messages saw them, those who didn’t – including one producer – didn’t.”

Sylvester McCoy (1988)

September 28, 2009

Here’s Sylvester McCoy, back in 1988 when he’d just finished his second season as the Doctor. He talks about working with John Nathan-Turner, about trouble with the fans and about wanting to make a few changes to his costume:

Q: Would you like to write or direct for ‘Doctor Who’?

A: I’d quite like to direct. I’ve directed some plays in theatre, ‘The Fosdyke Saga’ at Contact Theatre in Manchester, and ‘School For Clowns’ for Half Moon. With ‘Doctor Who’, I’ve been able to suggest shots and I’ve written a scene for one of the upcoming shows, ‘Silver Nemesis’. That’s all to do with chess and chess movements with the Cybermen.

Q: Have you done much film work?

A: Not as much as I’d like to have done. I’ve done seven one-hour films for ATV, and I’ve a one-and-a-half hour film for Granada. I also did ‘Dracula’, which was a big cinema film, and something called ‘Three Kinds of Heat’. I’ve done the odd thing, not as much as I’d like to.

Q: You haven’t been cast as the film Doctor, then?

A: No, they haven’t cast anyone yet, so I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I think it’s a great shame, my bank manager things it’s a great shame, and as for my agent…

Q: Why did you change your name to Sylvester McCoy?

A: Well, the name I used at first was Kent Smith, part of a very long name I’ve got. There was another actor in America called Kent Smith, and I always had ambitions beyond my… rights. I thought perhaps I might do something in America, not realising I’d end up doing ‘Doctor Who’. Also, I thought Kent Smith was more of a matinee idol name and I didn’t think I was that kind of actor. I was doing a show called ‘An Evening with Sylvester McCoy, the Human Bomb’, and in it we wanted the audience to believe that McCoy existed, that there was this little man who could do all these amazing stunts. So we printed a programme stating ‘Sylvester McCoy played by Sylvester McCoy’, and it struck, really. I thought it was quite a good name, so I kept it.

Q: Did you watch your first series of ‘Doctor Who’ when it was shown?

A: Well I did bits of it, yes. I was unhappy about going out against ‘Coronation Street’ last year. I found out, talking to some children I was working with, that a lot of parents wouldn’t let their children watch it, because it was up against ‘Coronation Street’.

Q: What’s it like working with John Nathan-Turner?

A: Great. I’ve enjoyed working with him immensely. I know a small, bizarre section of the ‘Doctor Who’ fan club – God knows why they’re fans, really – want to pillory him, or kill him or something. But all the directors, the writers, all the people who’ve worked on the show have said to me quite clearly and off the record how much they’ve enjoyed working with him.

We had a very difficult time with ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ because of the asbestos scare at the BBC – we had to go into this tent at Elstree. The cameras broke down, we had to stop every time a car went by or a bird whistled. Amazing. Alan Wareing, who was under terrible pressure, said ‘John has been wonderful, helpful in every way – he doesn’t get in the way’.

Every now and again, when things get slightly confusing, John might suddenly come up with an idea and get things straight. He’s not one of these guys who comes in all the time and stamps the programme, says you can’t do that, you’ve got to do it my way. Everyone likes him that works with him.

Q: Certainly from our readership, the detractors are in a minority.

A: I know, but they’re such a vocal minority, that’s the problem.

Q: Would you wear your costume out in the streets?

A: Funnily enough, I was doing Shop Aid to raise money for the Terrance Higgins Trust in Covent Garden a couple of Saturdays ago. A couple of million people turned up and they made over a hundred thousand pounds. I was walking back from one of the shops I was supposedly serving in, to the base, in costume, and on the way there I was stopped by an interviewer for ‘The Clothes Show’. He said ‘Now you’ve become a celebrity, Sylvester, does this allow you the luxury and the money to be able to dress as you do?’. He thought my costume was my everyday wear! So yes, I do wear it in the streets. I was quite pleased with the costume because I wanted one that was slightly odd. I’d miss the umbrella if it went, because I invented that, but I think the scarf could be darker, and the hatband too. Perhaps the jacket could be brown. I’d like to change it, but not dramatically.

Q: Did the criticisms of season 24 annoy you?

A: Well it did, in a way. What annoyed me most was the small vocal group of so-called ‘Doctor Who’ fans. They annoyed me immensely. With the press, I expected what they said. The criticism was mixed, very mixed. It started off with ‘Doctor Who? Who is this person?’, and then as the season went on it became more and more sympathetic. Then these fans came out and started this ridiculous attack on John Nathan-Turner and therefore on whoever plays the Doctor as well, so it affects me and that kind of thing turned the press away again.

Q: Did you have any qualms about replacing Colin Baker?

A: I didn’t really have any qualms, because he’d gone and being an actor, we know that we take over other people’s jobs and things change. I didn’t sack Colin Baker. I agree it was unfortunate and unfair, but it had nothing to do with me, there was a job going. And in a sense I’m keeping the ‘Doctor Who’ thing going.

Q: Have you got a favourite villain?

A: I was delighted to work with the Daleks. I didn’t feel I was the Doctor until I had. But I wouldn’t say they were my favourites, really. Don Henderson’s villain, Gavrok, was great fun. Richard Briers was great, and Kate O’Mara. I enjoyed ‘Delta and the Bannermen’, because it was such good fun to make.

Q: Crashing motorbikes and things…

A: Well I wasn’t supposed to crash them. I must watch that season again, because there was that initial thing of ‘My goodness, this is all the first time’ and all that. I couldn’t step back from it and look at it. ‘Dragonfire’ was much more of a traditional ‘Doctor Who’ as well. Funnily enough, I didn’t think it was going to work that well, because it was all set in the studio. I don’t like working in studios any day, I’d rather be outside. That’s why I liked working on ‘Delta’.

Q: Did you find out why you climbed off that cliff at the end of episode one of ‘Dragonfire’?

A: It was a mystery. There was a reason why we did it at the time, I think, but everyone’s forgotten. A simple line would have solved it – perhaps ‘Maybe Glitz has gone this way’, or something.

Q: Ian Briggs said the original idea was to have another corridor running back under the one you’d just come out of. You were supposed to be trying to swing down into it, and got stuck.

A: I think they fell in love with the actual stunt and forgot what it was about.

Q: Does that happen a lot?

A: Falling in love with the stunt? No, I don’t think so.

Q: You’re very secretive in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’.

A: Am I? I’m up to something, there’s a feeling that the Doctor has a deeper mystery, which Andrew Cartmel wants to give him. He felt that, over the years, the Doctor’s become too well known. We know he went to university somewhere, and they’ve invented all sorts of things about him. This time, we want to create the idea that there’s something even more than just the Doctor Not sinister, but slightly more dangerous. We’ve got Who? again – is he a good man or a bad man? I’m not saying we’ve got that far, just brought back the questions. Whether it works or not, we’ll have to wait and see.

Sylvester McCoy (1996)

August 26, 2009

Some quotes from Sylvester McCoy during the filming of the 1996 TV movie. He talks about handing over, about the script changes that occurred, about conventions and about how the BBC treated ‘Doctor Who’ in the late 1980’s.

“When the new ‘Doctor Who’ came up, last year, 1995, and they asked if I’d do the hand-over, I thought ‘Yes, I would’, because I’d always agreed from the very beginning that that’s what I’d do. And coming over here, I love travelling, coming to America… originally I thought it was going to be made here, it’s now Canada. I was looking forward to it all. But I didn’t expect much, I thought it’d just be a quick handover, under the titles, and it was, but then, things take time, the script arrived, I said I’d do it, and they got very excited about the fact that I was going to do it. And they rethought the opening a bit, and the upped what I was doing, and I saw that and got very pleased, ‘Oh, it’s a nice little chunk to re-establish myself before I say bye’. Just before I left, they send another rewrite, and it was now back to where it was before. I felt slightly disappointed, because if they’d left it as it was originally, just a tiny little bit, I wouldn’t have been too upset. I’m not upset now, but it’s the games they play.

“I wonder how Paul McGann is going to be able to deal with the world of ‘Doctor Who’, I mean he’s quite a private person, really, and the thing when I first took over, I was amazed by it all, because I didn’t realise… I got the job on the Monday, and on the Thursday I was flown from London to Atlanta and I was just amazed by the commitment of the fans in American to the programme. I was asked all sorts of questions, one fan got up and said ‘Excuse me, Mr. McCoy, Doctor, when you were in your third persona, what were you thinking when you thinking when you opened the TARDIS door onto the planet Thal or whatever?’. I thought he was kidding, but then looking in his eyes I realised he wasn’t, he believed in this, he believed that the Doctor existed. So I had to answer that question and think ‘Who was I in the third persona?’, and of course it was dear old Jon Pertwee, so I did a Jon Pertwee impression and the rest of the audience laughed but this man didn’t. As an actor you do all sorts of things and you respect the profession but this man took it so seriously.

“Another thing Paul has to contend with is… ‘Doctor Who’ is a very unusual television role, where you’re immediately compared to someone else. Someone once said to me that it’s like Hamlet in the theatre, you’re the Hamlet of your generation, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen as such, and also you’re compared with all the other Hamlets. And it’s the same with ‘Doctor Who’. And as it’s my final days, it makes you reflect on the opening days, and in a way I felt unjustly treated by some committed fans of the programme, who have since become friends, and it’s great that they’re over it all, but they were very quick to jump onto a bandwagon of condemning me even before they’d even seen one shot of what I was doing, even though I admit that when they did see me in the role, I probably confirmed some of their fears. But the thing with ‘Doctor Who’ is you have to be given time to develop it, or at least I had, and I think by the end of it I had developed something that was in the right vein, or the strong vein, of the universe ‘Doctor Who’ existed in. But that opening year was a bit of a pain, even though I’m quite thick-skinned.

“I was thinking about the justice of the way the BBC treated ‘Doctor Who’, more from ignorance than anything else. They would chop and change it, move it around. They used to do twenty-six episodes, that had a build-up effect, it had an effect of regularity, a regular place, and people would watch it and know it’s there. But when you move it about, they lost it. An audience is essentially very lazy, they don’t want to chase it around, only the dedicated fans do. And when they looked at my viewing figures, I was having to defend myself. One of the best seasons I did was only four million people watching it, but there was a reason. And that was (a) because they moved it around, (b) because they changed the amount of programmes, (c) because they put it up against ‘Coronation Street’, and in the last season ‘Coronation Street’ were bringing in a Friday programme and advertised themselves heavily, and they started their season of Friday programmes when we started our season, and the BBC responded by not putting any advertising out at all, really, in fact friends of mine, close friends, didn’t realise that ‘Doctor Who’ was on the telly. No-one knew it was on, and that’s the bit about it that really does rankle, that sense that it failed, that perhaps I was part of that. But I think I’m arrogant enough to know that I wasn’t, that third season was great, and I think if we’d gone to a fourth season it might have been really great. But we didn’t, and life is full of regrets and I’m delighted now to be back saying goodbye in this grand way in Vancouver, which is doubling for San Francisco!”

Sylvester McCoy (1996)

August 25, 2009

In this 1996 interview (you can hear the original here), Sylvester McCoy discusses the Paul McGann TV movie, British theatre and the reasons why the show was cancelled back in 1989, as well as his thoughts on ‘Search Out Science’ and ‘Dimensions in Time’.

Q: What’s your opinion of British theatre? Do you think British theatre deserves a lot more credit than it gets at the moment?

A: Well, yes, I mean it’s the perennial cry, British theatre is, in Britain, very successful in its own terms, and much loved. It depends on which government’s in power, it’s a bit like PBS over here. If you’ve got Republicans in power, goodbye PBS; if you’ve got Democrats, they might be able to scrape a little money together to keep it going. It’s the same with theatre in Britain, although because we have this long and wonderful tradition with theatre, they haven’t killed it off and they never will, really.

Q: What’s more difficult to do, classical Greek tragedy or panto?

A: Well they’re not difficult, I mean if acting is difficult then they’re all difficult, but if it’s not… They all require different skills. So pantomime you give as much, you have to give energy, high energy, because you’ve got to directly entertain the audience, you can’t relax. You need many skills to do it, it’s not an easy thing to do. When you’re doing tragedy or more concentrated theatre, the skills there are deep concentration and communication, being able to tell the story. But both… I don’t differentiate between the great classics, which I’ve been lucky to do, and the pantomimes, which I suppose a lot of people in the US think of pantomime as Marcel Marceau, but in England…

Q: More like ‘Oh no he isn’t’, ‘Oh yes he is’?

A: Yes. A whole different skill’s involved.

Q: Do you think William Shakespeare’s resurrected British film, with Kenneth Branagh?

A: Well I suppose if William Shakespeare were alive he’d be working out here as a hack in Hollywood. It’s wonderful that Kenneth Branagh, well it’s Kenneth Branagh who’s helped to revive the British film industry, a bit. Again, with a change of government and a bit of sensible tax adjustments, as they’ve done in Ireland, we’d have a very good film industry. The problem is because we’re an English-speaking country we have to compete with other English-speaking countries that make films, and one of those is Hollywood. So it needs help. I think most likely in Hollywood help is given in tax breaks to people, but they don’t do that in Britain at all. We’re not playing on a level field.

Q: Speaking of doing great things on low budgets, what are your thoughts on continuing to work with people like Bill Baggs and Nick Briggs?

A: Well yes, I was very pleased, Sophie was the one who advised me to go and work with them, because she’s done them before. The first one I did, more because it meant working with Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker and Peter Davison, I just wanted to have at least worked with a few of the other Doctors. That was the main reason I did that. Then the second time, the chance to play such an interesting villain, because he starts off not as a villain and then develops. So just in purely selfish terms, the parts were really nice that I was given.

Q: Speaking of traditions and other Doctors, tell me about Paul McGann?

A: Well Paul McGann has been a friend, I’ve known him for quite a few years, he’s a marvellous actor. What he’ll bring to it is a sense of danger, he has a wonderful sense of danger. As a film actor, he’s a bit like Laurence Olivier, in the sense that when you went to see Olivier you were never quite sure what he was going to do it. I mean, he might just explode in front of you into something amazing, and Paul McGann’s got that, like any minute now something amazing might happen, something terrible might happen. And he’s very good at comedy, he can jump back and forth. So I think he’ll be a very good actor to play Dr. Who because of those facets, he’s got lots of things he can play around with.

Q: How does it feel to pass the baton? Your Doctor’s been around longer than Tom Baker’s.

A: Well I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in this transformation, because it finished for me about six years ago and I carried on doing whatever I’ve been doing for the rest of the time, having a merry time, and I’ve had a merry time. I gave up being the Doctor. I mean I enjoyed the conventions and the other side of the ‘Doctor Who’ world, or should I say universe, so when the phone call came I was delighted to learn that it was being revived. Because I’ve got to know a lot of fans and I know it’s what they want. And for purely selfish reasons, it’ll revive interest in the earlier Doctors. So I think it’s a very good thing. So I with delight and great pride pass on the baton to a great actor who I think will be marvellous. I think I’m blessed that the other actors gave up with sadness – apart from Peter Davison – but I get to pass the baton in this way, and in such an exotic location.

Q: With things like ‘Search Out Science’ and ‘Dimensions in Time’, did you feel it was a case of the BBC leading the fans on, saying ‘We’ll bring the Doctor out when it’s convenient for us’, until about six months ago?

A: Not really, no. I mean the BBC’s a vast organisation, and within there were people who were trying to keep it alive, and I think what they were doing was trying to keep it going. It wasn’t any kind of Machiavellian plan by the people at the top. I’m a great believer in the cock-up theory, the reason why ‘Doctor Who’ finished was it was a complete cock-up by management, so those things that you mentioned weren’t in any devious way, someone just thought ‘It’d be good to have the Doctor doing this’, and I think the one we did for ‘Children in Need’ they thought might revive interest in the show within the BBC, but it didn’t.

Sylvester McCoy & John Nathan-Turner (1987)

August 7, 2009

This is a transcript from a live PBS television interview with Sylvester McCoy and John Nathan-Turner.

Q: We are here tonight to tell people why it is that ‘Doctor Who’ is the great institution that it is, but most particularly on this special night to tell people how it is that you came to be Doctor number seven.

SM: Yes.

Q: How in particular did you come to be Doctor number seven?

SM: Oh yes, I’m sorry, I thought you were going to tell them. How did I become Doctor number seven? Well I heard on the news that Doctor number six was leaving and I asked my agent to get in touch with the BBC and just in case the lady who interviewed me this afternoon from NBC is here, that means the British Broadcasting Corporation. Because a lady interviewed me this afternoon from a television station here and she’d never heard of the BBC, so… I was floored. Anyway, I heard that they were looking for a new Dr. Who, my agent got in touch, I then went to several interviews and I did a screen test and they still asked me to do it.

Q: Now John Nathan-Turner, if we can swing over to you, what is it as a producer that you’re looking for in casting a new Dr. Who, and what was it about Sylvester’s qualities as an actor that caused you to make that decision?

JNT: Well I think each of the Doctors who’ve played the role to date, including Jon who’s sitting on your left, contributed a massive amount of their own personality to the part. I mean, we don’t know an awful lot about the central character of our show, and they have all fleshed out the role in their own inimitable way. So one’s looking for a kind of personality figure combined with a superb actor obviously, and I wanted to heighten the humour in the new seasons so I was looking for a kind of zany eccentric, and I think I found him.

Q: We were interested in particular in your interest in the part, you mentioned you put your agent onto the case when you found out that the role was open.

SM: I didn’t realise you were talking to me, I thought you were asking… Can you ask me that again?

Q: What was it about the part of Dr. Who that caused you to tell your agent this is a part you want to play?

SM: Well I’d been a great fan of ‘Doctor Who’ for years and like any great fan, you know, I’m sure they’d like to play a part and I wanted to. And also when I became an actor a lot of people said to me “You’d make a really good Dr. Who” so adding all that up I decided that’s why I’d like to be Dr. Who.

Q: Now you bring very particular stage experience and television experience to the part. Can you tell people what it is you’ve been doing in the past and you’ve enjoyed doing and you’ll hopefully continue doing in your role as the Doctor?

SM: Well yes I’ve done all sorts but like most British actors, I know in America the actors tend to become too specialised, but in Britain we tend to work a lot in television, and in the theatre and on film. I’ve done quite a lot of Shakespeare, especially the clown roles in Shakespeare, and I’ve done musicals, I’ve been in an opera, I’ve done quite a lot of television as well and a few films, and I think that’s good experience, as well as working in the box office of a theatre, I think that’s very good experience for being an actor.

Q: Now there’s a cute story about how you were discovered when you were working in the box office at the theatre, can you relate that?

SM: Yes, I was working in the Roundhouse theatre in London, collecting tickets, and there was an actor called Brian Murphy, who was in ‘George and Mildred’, ‘Man About the House’, I don’t know if you get that here, he was going through a sticky period in his career, and he was collecting the tickets I was selling and one day a director came in who was starting up a fringe group and he said he wanted someone really mad and Brian said “Well ask the guy in the box office, he’s completely out of his head”, and he came up and asked me, he said “Do you want to join this show?” and I said “Yes, but I’m not an actor”, he said “Well do you want to become an actor”, I said “Well okay” and I went off and joined it. It was quite an illustrious cast, because one of the other founder members was Bob Hoskins, who’s now up for an Oscar, and we worked together on that for about a year before he went off to do greater things. And now I’m here doing great things.