Timothy's JCET Celebrity Spotlight interview from 1986 - Introduction
This is an interview that Timothy gave for Celebrity Spotlight while he was on stage in both Antony and Cleopatra and the Taming of the Shrew in 1986 at the Haymarket Theatre in London This is quite a long interview, that I have on video which is about 20 minutes long to watch, so I have typed it up here in its entirety for you all to enjoy as this interview covers a lot of Timothy's work.
The paintings of Timothy that have been used on this page have been beautifully painted by Alena in Russia.
To set the scene for you Timothy in his dressing room at the Haymarket Theatre and he has a mischievous smile and those wonderful sparkling eyes :-) The person interviewing Timothy is Linda Carpenter, so now it is over to Linda.
This is what Timothy looked like while giving this interview.
Linda: "Welcome to this weeks Celebrity Spotlight this week we are here in London the theatre capital of the world I am standing in front of the renowned Haymarket Theatre and in just a moment we are going to go backstage to interview one of the worlds finest actors Mr Timothy Dalton an international star of stage, screen and television. The enigmatic Mr Dalton is best known for his artistically perfect and awe inspiring Shakespearean performances. Right now he is getting ready to star in a nearly sold out production of Antony and Cleopatra. Let's go backstage and see if we can meet him.
Linda: "Well first of all Mr Dalton we would like to welcome you to JCET's Celebrity Spotlight thank you for being a guest on our show.
Timothy: "It's my pleasure."
Linda: "Especially with your very busy schedule. Now I understand right now that your playing in tandem productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Taming of the Shrew with a production schedule that is so demanding most first rate actors would not even attempt it. How are you able to do this?"
Timothy: "Oh no I think I have to disagree with you really umm about it, it certainly is demanding but to do major plays in repertoire is not unusual and to be done at the Shakespeare Company or the National will do it perhaps not umm so close to each other, I mean, we are doing the two, two about. In a major company you will often have a season of say five plays where you might be playing two or three major leading roles, certainly not in all five, so you would get a break, we don't, so that in that sense it is very demanding umm but in the old days of course, I mean the first time, the last time that umm Shakespeare's been done in the West End as we are doing it, in repertoire, was probably about 30 to 40 years ago at the New Theatre with Lawrence Olivier and Ralph Richardson and there was the wonderful seasons there of Shakespeare, and they were used to doing that kind of work, so it is not unusual, but it is hard."
Linda: "Ok well I think your umm underrating yourself there because I think it is outstanding, and this particular show you have had outstanding reviews but the reviewers have not always been kind to you. Do your reviewers whether they are good or bad have any effect upon your performance?"
Timothy: "Well I think umm, one is obviously very interested to hear what the reviewers have to say because a lot of them are very intelligent people who go to the Theatre a great deal and if you agree with what they say then sometimes there are points you can change but ultimately, you know after the work that has been done, and your talking about skilled professional people who work very hard and think deeply umm in every department, that goes towards making a show real and alive then you must trust what you believe. I mean one doesn't do things whimsically, you know, everything has a solid foundation and if some people like it then thats marvellous, if they don't then, then that is tough but you have to stick with what you believe and we have been very fortunate and we have had some reviews for Antony saying it is the finest Antony and Cleopatra they have ever seen."
Linda: "Yes outstanding."
Timothy: "And we have had wonderful ones for The Shrew as well although not everybodys umm reviewers seem to find a lot of problem with The Shrew because they seem to think that it's, it's umm I don't know either a feminist or an anti feminist play and think that this is a problem. It wasn't a problem to Shakespeare I mean it is a wonderful play and a very funny play. It is a play about love and I think we do it terribly well as some of the reviwers of err, well you have seen the reviews there smashing."
Linda: "Yes they are outstanding. They definitely are. Although you have done numerous television film productions you have turned down exceptionally lucrative film roles to play the part on stage is the part more important then the money?"
Timothy: "Well how would you know this?" Timothy laughs
Linda: "I've done a good investigation." Linda then laughs
Linda: "How would you turn down lucrative projects?"
Timothy: "Yes I have, I have often."
Linda: "Does the money mean much less to you then the part itself, that is the stage or do you just prefer stage to film?"
Timothy: "Oh no I love film, I love film very much, I think there can be nothing, nothing better then, then seeing the very fine and wonderful films that are made because you have the opportunity to do a very different and immediate kind of work in film that reaches a very very wide audience. I think film is marvellous but theatres terribly different I mean you are dealing, when you are doing good theatre with umm great writing whether it is classic plays or modern plays, your dealing with the very very finest writing, very finest theatrical literature and that is a wonderful challenge in itself and very exciting."
Linda: "So, but the money then doesn't mean that much to you as far as that sense, or do you simply look at the part?"
Timothy: "I think that money is important, you have got to have money to live, and you have got to have money that gives you freedom but umm I think the freedom is important and if you can make money doing movies or television that money you can spend subsidising yourself doing good theatre."
Timothy: "I mean money is only about how you spend your life isn't it?"
Linda: "That's right."
Timothy: "It is not just about making money."
Linda: "Let's go back a few years, just a few years to your childhood, did you always want to be an actor?"
Timothy: Well I, at one time I wanted to be astronaut umm..."
Linda: "Oh really?"
Timothy: "Well not really, not really, and that all went out of the window. I mean (Timothy laughs) we once upon a time had a rocket called 'Blue Streak' that failed miserably never got off the ground even, so that put an end to that, umm seriously yes I think I always did, my grandfather was in the business he was a theatrical impresario, had started life as a music hall comedian, singer and for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to, to be an actor I had never known how to go about it, I mean, the only acting one saw was, was Saturday morning films. I suppose you have those in America don't you for all the kids, all the series and stuff. I mean it is magic it is fantasy it is not real but you know that somewhere along the line it's, it's umm something you would like to be part of. It was only when I was I suppose about 15 or 16 going to see plays with the school that you suddenly realise, you know that you are in the same room with real people and that it can be done it becomes terribly tangible, so from then on that is when it really got focused and I went to drama school."
Linda: "And the rest is history."
Linda: "At the age of 21 you made your film debut in The Lion In Winter with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn now here you were surrounded by major stars was there anyone in that cast who might have helped you or served as you inspiration."
Timothy: "In that film you mean?"
Linda: "Yes in that particular film, who you worked with, who you felt helped you through that experience?"
Timothy: "Peter O'Toole did very much, I mean, he was wonderful to us it is very interesting, I mean here we are sitting in the err this dressing room at the Haymarket Theatre umm we rehearsed The Lion In Winter in this very theatre..."
Timothy: "And in fact Peter O'Toole came to see us the other day and it is a wonderful sort of circle I mean the very first movie and here we are talking umm he was great, he was marvellous I mean he was like a father to us, I mean, I was 20 years old at the time and err certainly Nigel Terry and John Castle and Antony Hopkins I think it was all our first film and he was marvellous and looked after us and inspired us and made sure we did good performances and was wonderful to work with, he was a tremendous inspiration."
Linda: "After that you did Wuthering Heights and err now here you were playing a role, the role of Heathcliff that launched Olivier into stardom, did you, the critics of course were quick to compare the performances, was this performance your own interpretation of Bronte's protagonist or was it Robert Fuest the director?"
Timothy: "Well to start with the beginning of your question the Lawrence Olivier, Merle Oberon film was, was wonderful but in truth it wasn't Wuthering Heights.
Linda: "Right, the story of Wuthering Heights."
Timothy: "Yes, umm we did try and do I mean you can't do the whole book, you can only do the book up until the time when, when Catherine dies. We tried very hard to do umm to bring to the screen what she had written so our focus was on those pages of Emily Bronte, so really I mean she gives the interpretation and it is our job to try and bring it to life umm I think we fell somewhat short because of how modern film commercial necessities, because at the time 'Love Story' broke and we cut out so much of what we had done which was hard and tough, and lovingly difficult. I mean it is a very tough seemingly hard painful book. I mean that love story I mean that hating each other an awful lot of the time as well as being passionatly, madly in love with each other and err I think a lot of the perhaps more difficult stuff was taken out because umm commercial films at that time would be rather romantic in the idealistic sense, but it was a wonderful film to do."
Linda: "Were you happy with your Heathcliff?"
Timothy: "Well as much as I could be at the time, I mean if I look at it now I'd probably, I don't know what I would say I have not seen it for a long time. At the time I mean one worked very hard and I was very thrilled doing it and err I think captured certainly a lot of the qualities she was writing about."
Timothy: "I think one of the most interesting things that took people by surprise was err the fact that we were rather young because if you have seen the Olivier, Merle Oberon I mean, you know, they were mature people..."
Linda: "They were in their 30's."
Timothy: "And of course when you read the book Catherine dies at the age of 19, the story is a story of teenagers, not a story of err healthy adult mature people, so that I think surprised people, but I think what we did we got a lot of what Emily Bronte was after."
Linda: "What happened to the supposed remake or sequal, excuse me of Wuthering Heights 2 I understand you were supposed to star in that one, it was going to be the rest of the book?
Timothy: "Umm it was mentioned at one time but it never came to anything."
Linda: "Oh ok so it is a project that never came to be. In addition to the Lion In Winter and Wuthering Heights of course you have been seen in dozens of serious film roles but you have also done some rather comic or different film roles, a couple come to mind you played Mae West's husband in Sextette you played of course the prince in Flash Gordon umm what was it like to play opposite Mae West. I mean a 91 year old woman you were playing opposite?"
Timothy: "Well you could write a book about that really, you can't answer that question in just a few minutes that whole experience was err it was the first time I had worked in Hollywood we were working at Paramount Studio's which was you know, I mean for anybody it's special you know, the first time in Hollywood that famous, famous studios of course they were her studios where she had done so many of her films, she was, she was quite extraordinary she was very witty, very funny umm we didn't have much of a script to go on so a lot of it was being made up as we went along, it was full of bizarre, bizarre people I mean the cast list was hundreds of very very famous people including George Raft came and did a couple of lines and there were pop stars like Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper. It was just a very strange odd experience but she was smashing, she was sadly I mean very old and err you know no one can defeat age but she was charming and fun and err she was doing the best she could do. It's an odd film isn't it?" Timothy laughs.
Linda: "It is, it is a very different film. Flash Gordon did you do your own stunt work?
Timothy: "Umm yes in fact I did."
Linda: "You did???"
Timothy: "Except for just one little moment, there was one little moment that I didn't."
Linda: "You are an accomplished swords man then?"
Timothy: "Oh well I mean I fought with a whip I think if I remember rightly. I had to learn how to do that and we had that fight on the tilting disc."
Linda: "Yes and you did all that right?"
Timothy: "I did all that yes there was one shot I didn't do umm which was going over the edge, that had to be done about 60 feet up in the air and they tilted the disc and they asked me if I would roll down and fall off the edge and hang on to a err one of these spikes that were coming up through it and I said 'no I really don't think so, I don't want to try that, I am sure I can catch the spike but I don't know if I can hold my own weight' and they said 'of course you will, give it a go' and I said 'no I think not' and they said 'Well there are boxes down below' you know this is 60 feet below I mean it is a long way so anyway I said no and a stunt man did it and he couldn't hold his own weight either and he was taken to hospital sadly but he was alright."
Linda: "Oh, I am glad you weren't doing it."
Timothy: "I mean he just broke or dislocated his shoulder so I am glad I didn't do it either, but all the rest I did do."
Linda: "What about your television roles now you have done some very diverse television roles you have gone from playing the jewel thief and Farrah Fawcett's lover in Charlies Angels to something like Oliver Seccombe in Centennial. Isn't that, I mean do you like playing such diverse parts or umm do you prefer, for instance in Centennial you were playing in a very long mini series did you enjoy doing that?"
Timothy: "I loved doing that, that was the first American TV that I had ever done, that was the first time that I ever saw America. I mean I knew New York and err the major cities but the location work for that was to Texas and Tennersee and Colorado, the first time I saw America it was wonderful to do that. I mean that was a birth for me to visit that America and I met a lot of very good friends, that are still friends today doing that series but that was a long time ago now that was what '78?"
Linda: "Yes '78. What about umm some of your more recent television productions like Florence Nightengale."
Timothy: "Yes I have not seen that."
Linda: "Mistral's Daughter."
Timothy: "Mistral's Daughter. I have just finished doing Sins which aired this Spring in the States with Joan Collins."
Timothy: "Umm yes I suppose the roles are all different. I think with American TV I mean Americans play Americans, we play the rest you know anyone that is not an American usually goes to European actors so err the roles I've played have been good roles, roles I've enjoyed doing umm but err they are of necessity different. It is not my choice that they are different, I mean if you get offered some good work in a good piece of work you do it. It is nice when they are different but err but one cannot be an arbiter of what one does in American television as one can say in England because in England the choice is much more varied and broad and you can turn down and accept and choose and whatever but if a good part comes along for American TV and it is a part you want to do, you say yes."
Linda: "Of all the roles that you have played which one was your favourite, either on stage or on film?"
Timothy: "I did enjoy doing Jane Eyre very much I think you saw that in the States didn't you?"
Linda: "Yes yes it's wonderful."
Timothy: "I did enjoy doing that. I didn't actually in the beginning think that I would be right for it."
Linda: "Weren't you rather young to play Rochester?"
Timothy: "Umm I don't, actually off the top of my head, I find that a difficult question to answer. I don't think so I think he was supposed to be in his late 30's, or in his 30's, I mean I think he is given as being of indeterminate age around something to do with his 30's or early 40's. This is where it is interesting and we talked about it recently with Wuthering Heights....."
Timothy: "If it has ever been played before in a certain way one assumes that is how it is, Antony in Antony and Cleopatra that we are doing here is always assumed that Antony must be god knows 55 and grey hair and all the rest of it which of course is not true, Antony was in his 30's when he was having his affair with Cleopatra and died at the age of 43 umm which I think is important that is not to say that he can't be a bit grey because he has to be as there is reference to a little bit of greyness, but it is important because if you are playing a man who is already beyond his prime politically as a soldier your really saying there is no future other then then a downward, a downhill future. When you are talking about Antony and Cleopatra your talking about err the possibility of a wonderful future both politically and passionatly, which he has thrown away, which he has lost because of this, this mad compulsion he has for this woman, I mean, he is besotted he is a fool in love as they all say of him, but normally of course, to come back to your point, he is played by again someone 50 or 55 or whatever. I don't think I was too young to play Rochester, no."
Linda: "What is the one role that you would love to play, that you have not yet played?"
Timothy: "I would love to do Cyrano. I would very much like to do Cyrano umm there is a time when I, I will have to re-read it I think I am probably too old now, I wanted very much to play in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' there was a part I wanted to do or any part Clint Eastwood plays." Timothy laughs.
Linda: "You would like to do a Clint Eastwood part?"
Linda: "That kind of a part, that would be very different for you, that would be wonderful!!"
Timothy: "I think some of his films are wonderful."
Linda: "That would be very good."
Timothy: "You think of films like 'Outlaw Josie Wales' I think that is one of the best westerns ever frankly."
Linda: "Have you played Hamlet yet?"
Timothy: "Never have, never have."
Linda: "Do you have a desire to play Hamlet?"
Timothy: "Umm yes I would like to umm yes I would."
Linda: "And what about your recently released film The Dr and the Devils would you like to talk about that?"
Timothy: "Oh that's fascinating, that I think is a very very interesting piece of work I don't know if you..."
Linda: "The Dylan Thomas?"
Timothy: "The Dylan Thomas which he wrote as a film script it is err I think a marvellous piece of work, it would also make a wonderful play actually, and that was made by Mel Brooks Films and directed by Freddie Francis and umm, it's a curious, curious story, it's real."
Linda: "The part you play in that film, yes oh it's a true story but the part you are playing do you have the feeling that the audience should be more sympathectic to the doctor even though, he knows. Your an anatomy professor at one of the finest anatomy schools, you are supposed to be a brilliant professor and you are allowing this unethical practice, your not questioning the fact that the bodies are clearly being being murdered because they are furthering your own career in the film?"
Timothy: "Well I wouldn't say he was furthering his own career, I think when any individual is passionate and deeply, seriously committed to, to an enterprise to a cause, and his was the cause of the advancement of medicine which we have all benefited from and if you remember at that time no doctor could do an operation..."
Timothy: "because he did not know what was inside the humane body, it was illegal to dissect human bodies umm he went into a very very tricky ethical area, and that is really what the film is about. The real doctor was ruined, disgraced but ultimately cleared but for the fact that he was cleared, doesn't mean to say, no, he must have known, he must have known."
Linda: "OK at the very end of that film where the doctor walks up the hill and the credits roll..."
Timothy: "Yes, yes"
Linda: "What does that indicate to you?"
Timothy "What that indicates to me is that the film was about 3 minutes shorter then it should have been because there is a marvellous scene in Dylan Thomas which was shot where the doctor comes face to face with the consequences of his actions and his own responsibility and I mean recognises, there is a scene where he has lost everything."
Linda: "That should be in there?"
Timothy: "Of course it should you know where he realises that from now on for the rest of the life, he is going to be an outcast, despised not able to work anymore finished and then just goes...."
Linda: "Oh that would have been terrific."
Timothy: "and walks off and of course you do get a tremendous sense of sympathy for him in that, but he has also helped, you know I mean, there are prices to pay, and people who take brave courageous difficult decisions often do have err to pay a rather extreme price."
Linda: "In the very beginning they were only allowed to use the cadaver's of criminal's that were hanged?"
Timothy: "Of hanged criminal's yes."
Linda: "They had to be hanged criminal's yes."
Timothy: "There were not that many in fact."
Linda: "Supply would be very limited anyway ok."
Timothy: "Yes yes I mean you have got a modern day doctor and umm...."
Linda: "So it almost becomes a matter of necessity for this modern day doctor to help in his profession."
Timothy: "Absolutely, absolutely."
Linda: "That scene should definitely be in that film.
Timothy: "Should be really."
Linda: "Should have told them that."
Timothy: "Yes your right." Timothy laughs.
Linda: "What film roles do you have, are doing now, what are you working on now besides Antony and Cleopatra?"
Timothy: "Jesus Christ at the moment I am working on this, this is taking..."
Linda: "Are you doing two shows a day?"
Timothy: "We do two shows on Wednesdays."
Linda: "Two shows on Wednesdays."
Timothy: "Well we do two shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays but we do one of each on Wednesday."
Linda: "Isn't that, that is what I was getting at in the beginning isn't that tremendously difficult to go immediately from Antony to Petruchio?"
Linda: "It isn't really??"
Timothy: "No it is not, you would think it might be I mean there is a certain great excitement in the thought because what a wonderful day for anyone who wants to watch both err what a wonderful day for the company to be given the chance to do both in one day certainly you think my god how am I to remember it all? You know, I mean but it has been a week since we did the one before what is it going to be like, in fact it works marvellously umm I think each play feeds the other in a very good way, one is err The Shrew is a comedy which is sort of rigourous in it's language is very bouncy and jaunty in its language, and Antony, you have I think, I would say his greatest play, wonderful, wonderful play deeply felt, deeply emotional, deeply serious, and I think both qualities feed, feed each play. The more we do them both I think the better they get and you can see the company and myself growing as we do them, so umm there extending the run of these two plays, and they are going to extend further then that depending how the season goes but we have had a good triumph and until we know just how far we can carry these two, we have even been invited to go abroad as well with them so err until we know when I finish here I don't know."
Linda: "Well I know you have a show to put on so we won't keep you any longer."
Linda: "And there you have the charismatic Timothy Dalton, whether it is Heathcliffe, Antony or Bond, James Bond, rest assured the kaleidoscopic Mr Dalton will be thrilling audience's for years to come.
(c) Copyright JCET Productions 1986 All Rights Reserved.