Posts Tagged ‘Shaun Sutton’

Shaun Sutton (1992)

September 8, 2009

Shaun Sutton was the man in charge of BBC serials when William Hartnell was forced to relinquish his role as the Doctor. The show’s popularity was so great that the decision was taken to re-cast the leading role, and in this interview from the early 1990’s Sutton describes the process, including Sydney Newman’s involvement during a dress rehearsal in a basement at Television Centre:

“The producer and I were absolutely determined to have Patrick Troughton, because we knew Patrick Troughton and I had actually been a drama student with Patrick Troughton many years ago, before the war. And even back then, Patrick had those deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun, and I remember saying to him once, before the war, ‘Pat, you have the secret of eternal age’, and I thought that was a very good quality for ‘Doctor Who’.

“Anyway, we both knew he was a good actor, I’d done many television plays with him, and I wanted him, I thought he had a magical quality about him, a wizard quality, and so did Innes Lloyd. Any good actor, like Patrick Troughton, can go and get work anywhere. And the fear with a part like ‘Doctor Who’ is that you’ll not only get typed as that part, you simply won’t get work anywhere because people will say ‘Oh, no, everyone will think of him as Dr. Who’, so we did had to persuade him, and I had to persuade him on more than one occasion to come back for another year.

“Of course, we had to sell him to Sydney Newman, so we prepared a sort of parade, as it were, and we were down in the dressing room in the basement of Television Centre. And he was dressed in his first costume, which for some reason was the captain of an American Mississippi showboat. I don’t know why that was his costume. And we called Sydney down, Sydney took one look and said ‘Shaun, let’s take a walk’, and I said to Innes ‘Out of the costume’.

“And Sydney and I walked around the entire basement of Television Centre, and believe you me that is a long way when you’re getting your fortune told by Sydney Newman. By the time we got back, Innes had Patrick in the costume he would eventually wear for ‘Doctor Who’, that funny little suit and odd tie and the hat and the penny whistle. And I think it was here that Sydney actually proved himself to be a great boss, because he looked and he said ‘I still don’t see it, but if you and Innes say it’s okay, okay, go ahead’ and he stamped out and on the way he said ‘You’d better be good’, and of course he was, Patrick Troughton was one of the best Dr. Who’s, and I thought he was a marvellous choice.

“He was, in a way, a little magician, a leprechaun. There was an impish quality that wasn’t there in Bill Hartnell. Bill Hartnell, in the very first ones, had much more of that impish quality than he had in the latter ones, he became much more of a Sergeant Major, which I didn’t think was very suitable, but Pat had it all the way through, and of course he got on marvellously well with the people who worked with him. He was first rate, he was a friend for many years, I liked his eccentricity. So I was extremely sorry when he left ‘Doctor Who’ and when he died, he was a friend I missed”.

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Patrick Troughton (1986)

September 4, 2009

Here’s a transcript from Patrick Troughton’s appearance at one of the Panopticon conventions. It’s quite a wide-ranging interview, covering his initial acceptance of the role through to his decision to quit after three years.

“The telephone rang. I was in Ireland doing a film called ‘The Viking Queen’, in which I did not play the main part, and I forget who, I think it was Shaun Sutton, Shaun Sutton was at the other end of the phone with this astonishing and preposterous suggestion. It was a fairly quick way of making it die a death, I thought. As each day passed, he kept on asking and offering me more pennies for it. I had a young family, I thought ‘I could get them educated on this’, and after about a week I thought ‘Right, now I can educate the kids, I’ll do the part’. So that’s really why I took it.

“We went to Berman’s, I think it was Berman’s, and we looked through all the old rubbish, really. (laughs) We just got things out of hampers and had a look. It was sort of a ragged imitation of Billy Hartnell, I suppose, only way out. And there was a first script, which was sort of written for Billy but which was written, it struck me, for a very verbose, sort of autocratic Sherlock Holmes who never stopped talking. And I thought ‘That won’t do for me over three years of every Saturday’, so I said first of all ‘No, I don’t see the part like this, I see it really as a listener’. I think this Doctor listens to everyone, tots it all up and then makes his own decision about this.

“Then in comes Sydney Newman, and he starts talking about this cosmic hobo, who obviously doesn’t talk like an intellectual type, autocratic Sherlock Holmes at all. And I leapt at it, what a good idea, and I said ‘A man like that would be more of a listener, wouldn’t he?’, and they said ‘Yes’. So that’s how that came about, really. I was very keen on doing it like that, because to begin with I found myself playing it over the top, mostly because that’s how Sydney Newman was urging me to play it. But Shaun Sutton, who I think was a little wiser than Sydney Newman in many ways, in fact considerably wiser, he said ‘No, no, just do it in your head, old chap’, so I toned it down a bit after that and it was warmer and a bit more successful.

“And of course Michael Craze was responsible for me wearing that absurd Beatles cut, he and Anneke Wills. Just before we went on, we got down to make-up and I’d had a lovely wig fitted that made me look just like Tom Baker, actually, or Colin, and I put it on, and they (Anneke Wills and Michael Craze) both looked at me and said ‘You look like Harpo Marx and we’re not going on with you in that wig’, I said ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, they said ‘No, sorry, no’. So they took if off and started doing things, combing it and lifting it and all that, and I ended up like the Beatles, which is totally out of date. Not that that matters to a Timelord.

“When you’re a character actor you’re having to make decisions all the time, and that’s a question of gaining confidence in the part you play, and that takes the time, really. Whereas with ‘Doctor Who’, the three years of it, you weren’t learning lines, really, you were learning thoughts.

“I was delighted when (Frazer Hines) joined. I knew him way back, because Frazer… (thinks) He’s a good listener, when you’re together just with him, he’s a good listener. And he’s not a bad actor, either! (laughs) We never played practical jokes, never. I’ve never known it to happen. (laughs) There’s no time for all that. All we did in rehearsals was to play Aggravation for three years. That’s a card game. We had penny stakes on it, and we played solidly when we weren’t actually on the set. It kept your mind sane, really. You had to keep to a routine, ’cause when you’re working at that pitch you have to keep to a routine, rather like a very young child or a very old man like I’m getting. And if that routine is broken, you just want to break into tears. There was a director once who bounded in and said ‘We’re going to start rehearsals at ten instead of ten-fifteen’, and that completely ruined our life for about half an hour. (laughs) It’s an astonishing thing, you’d keep going as long as everything was just like the day before, but once it got different… it was very worrying.

“Starting again was rather like jumping on a running bus. I remember that Monday, Tuesday… Monday we read it, Tuesday rehearsed it, Wednesday rehearsed it, half day Thursday then you were on Friday. We filmed every fortnight, and in the end, Frazer and Wendy and I had a sit-down strike and said ‘We’re not going to film at the weekends, because we’re getting tired irritable’. We had a big conference, Shaun Sutton took us out for a lovely meal, tried to talk us out of it, and we said ‘No!’, and in the end the planners, those chaps up in the sixth floor with their little maps and flags all arrange in lovely patterns but who don’t know much about the actual working of a play, they changed their mind.

“You could stay with it, and they wanted me to, for as long as the BBC did it or they got tired of you. That might be at best, one thought, five years. That would have been eight years, and by then one would have been so connected with the character that getting other work would have been very difficult indeed. So that was the main consideration there. Or one could leave. Give up a fortune. And that’s what we decided to do”.

Frazer Hines (2008)

September 3, 2009

Here’s an extract of Frazer Hines talking about his time working with Patrick Troughton. You can hear the original here. It’s interesting to hear him suggest that Troughton’s cough was his way of stalling for time so he could think of his next line, which is similar to suggestions that William Hartnell used to say ‘Hmm?’ a lot for the same reason.

Q: You joined in Patrick’s second story and carried through to the very end. Was that because you two worked well together?

A: I don’t know, it was up to the people upstairs, they could have written me out after six months, a year, or whatever, but they must have realised the chemistry was working. I think I’m the longest running male assistant. I’d never have left, I was having so much fun, but I had an agent at the time who was saying ‘You must leave, you’ve done three years of television, you need to do films’, and Patrick’s wife at the time was saying (to him) ‘You’re a much better actor than children’s teatime television, you should be doing bigger things’, and I still say to this day, if he hadn’t had that woman nattering in his ear, they’d have had to shoot us and drag us kicking and screaming out of the TARDIS, we’d still be there now.

Q: Patrick’s time is rather under-represented by complete stories, the vast majority of his are either entirely missing or only partly complete.

A: Yeah, it’s amazing, but last year Wendy (Padbury) and I were doing one of the DVD’s, and we said ‘I wonder what this would cost to produce today?’, and one of the lads produced this huge old solicitor’s folder, tied up with pink ribbon, blew the dust away and read out ‘Well Frazer you were on £64 an episode, Ronald Leigh Hunt was the guest star, he was on £120, the whole show cost £20,000’… And I thought, well why didn’t they keep the show? They kept the paperwork so they could say ‘Well last time you worked for us, Frazer, you only got £64!’.

Q: And you were in ‘Silver Sword’… A lot of your body of work is missing, isn’t it?

A: Yes, (I was in ‘Silver Sword’) when I was about nine or ten, I think. That was with Shaun Sutton, who was head of children’s television later during ‘Doctor Who’s time.

Q: C.E. Webber wrote it –

A: Ian Serraillier wrote it.

Q: Yes, but the dramatissation was by C.E. Webber, who was one of the writers who was going to be involved in ‘Doctor Who’ when it started but wasn’t in the end.

A: Oh really?

Q: How did you get that job?

A: I’d worked with Shaun Sutton before in a thing called ‘Huntingtower’, a John Buchan novel. I didn’t have a terribly great part, I was playing Napoleon, a little fat boy. And he remembered me, I didn’t audition for it, he just rang up my agent. I did another thing for him called ‘The Long Way Home’, and I worked with him and David Goddard quite a few times, and David Goddard went on to be one of the first producers of ‘Emmerdale’, which is how I got that part.

Q: How did you get the part in ‘Doctor Who’?

A: They said ‘How would you like to be in six episods of ‘Doctor Who’?’, Shaun Sutton knew I could do a Scottish accent. No audition, no reading. Innes Lloyd was a lovely man, sadly missed, he was a gentleman, a real gentleman of television. He was an ex-Navy man. I always remember him picking me up at location one day (during ‘The Highlanders’), saying ‘Come back with me, don’t go in the mini-bus’. He had a little VW beetle, we were driving back, he said ‘Well, Frazer, you’re settling in okay, how do you fancy joining the old TARDIS crew for a while, maybe another year?’

Q: It worked so well, didn’t it?

A: That’s right. I was only supposed to be in for six episodes. In fact we  filmed at Farnham Common, where we filmed a lot of stuff for the BBC, I waved goodbye to the TARDIS crew, and that was it, me and my laird and Hannah Gordon. And then around episode three they decided to keep me on, so we had to go back and film me going into the TARDIS, and waving goodbye to my laird and Hannah Gordon.

Q: Hard work?

A: It was hard work, because we shot it almost as live at Lime Grove, and when that red light went on at night you could shoot maybe three scenes in one go. Whereas now they’d shoot all the interior scenes of the TARDIS in one go, all the baddies in one go, we would shoot it as live from page one, right through to the end in story order, which they don’t do now. And they didn’t have the wonderful tape editing facilities they have now, and so if something went wrong in scene three they couldn’t cut it and say ‘We’ll go from there’ so we’d have to go back to the first scene, and so the pressure to do that, and luckily we’re all theatre-trained, but the pressure to do that was enormous.

Q: So you’d get all the hi-jinks out the way in rehearsal?

A: Yes. We found that if you tried to be serious from day one, by the fifth day when tiredness is setting in… You know, people get the giggles when they’re under pressure.

Q: Patrick was notorious, I think, for getting the meaning across but not entirely sticking to the script. Was that difficult?

A: No, I mean I’m a bit like that. It’s like a stage play, you learn the story first, then you learn the lines because your brain knows the story. A lot of actors who’ve learnt it parrot-fashion go on stage and then one day they dry up, whereas I would just think of another word and say it. You don’t throw people, because you’re working with good people. On ‘Emmerdale’, if you were supposed to say ‘Let’s go to the Woolpack’, and you said ‘Let’s go to the pub’, there’s a couple of actors who’d say ‘No, sorry, you’re supposed to say Woolpack’… I think soaps are very good like that, you just learn and paraphrase a lot. But with Patrick, he’d always do that little cough, and I think that was his brain going ‘What’s next?’

Q: When you did ‘Emmerdale’, was it like ‘Doctor Who’ or was it filmed set by set?

A: Set by set. You’d do all the filming one week, then all the studio. One director tried to do all the studio stuff first, we said ‘No, you’ve got to do the filming first’, so what happened? We did all the studio first, a lot of scenes of people coming into the farm, complication, it’s suddenly raining. We’d already done dry scenes, so we couldn’t film. You did the filming first so there was continuity, you could wet your shirt, your jacket in the studio. Luckily, we were all sort of stage trained, so we were used to doing twenty-five pages in one go, whereas in television nowadays four pages is quite a lot.

Q: Do you have any favourite memories from working on ‘Doctor Who’?

A: Yes, working with Patrick… I tried to get him into ‘Emmerdale’, but the producer said ‘Oh no, I’ve heard about you two’. At conventions, people say ‘How can you remember so much?’. I think if you’re having happy times, you remember, if it’s a sad time, your memory tries to erase it. I had such happy times. Never once did Patrick and I, or Wendy or Deborah, have a cross word. Those three years in ‘Doctor Who’ were the happiest years I’ve had in acting. Sixteen years in ‘Emmerdale’, sure, but those three in ‘Doctor Who’, working with Patrick, were the happiest. And Patrick, God bless him, in a book said ‘The happiest time I’ve had in my life was working with Frazer Hines’, which brought a lump to my throat.