Scarlett - An Interview with Timothy Dalton. Timothy as Rhett Butler from Scarlett.
Scarlett - An Interview with Timothy Dalton.
Timothy as Rhett Butler from Scarlett.
Can Timothy Dalton follow in the footsteps of Clark Gable and sweep the woman of the world off their feet in his role as charismatic rough-diamond Rhett Butler? He talks to Garth Pearce in an exclusive on-set interview.
Timothy Dalton knew it was an impossible task. However, well he acted, his performance as Rhett Butler in the Sky One eight hour mini-series Scarlett would be compared to the late Clark Gable. When 'Gone With The Wind' was first shown in 1939, Gable not only swept Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara off her feet, but woman all over the world.
Few women it seemed could forget the dark, smouldering looks and that line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damm," as he walked out, in the final scene, on the feckless beauty he had loved.
But now Scarlett, a lavish $40-million production from the Alexandra Ripley novel, follows through on the story of what happened to Scarlett and Rhett after that, following Scarlett from Atlanta to Tara. "Spears will be thrown before anyone has seen it. I know I can't win," says Dalton, giving a grim smile beneath his new, specially cultivated moustache. So why accept a role that was likely to deliver so much criticism? He looks unsure of himself momentarily, but recovers to say, "I have had some practice in taking on some challenges. This is another step, another challenge, something else to conquer.
"I did Rochester in Jane Eyre, took on Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and, of course James Bond. All the parts had been performed superbly before by other actors. The same question was asked then. Why? 'Gone With The Wind' is one of the all-time greats. Read Margaret Michell's book and watch the film again: it's a soap opera in all its glory. It is superb and memorable.
"The moment the offer to play Rhett came in, a lot of people called me and said 'You've got to do it.' The film-makers were tenacious in hunting me down and making changes to the script when I asked. In the end, I agreed and signed on the dotted line."
Timothy Dalton is one of the few actors who do things his way. Even playing Bond could not change him. He still chose to wear jeans and jumpers when he was around town and stuck to driving his Toyota car. He loves theatre, books and fishing. He shuns receptions, parties, and the bright lights. He is a healthy, heterosexual bachelor. There are those who say they would sooner trust Timothy Dalton with a secret then any man they know. Once he gives his word, then that's it. He can also be blunt, delivering a few home truths to other actors when he feels they fall below what they are capable of, either on screen or away from it. It has not made him the most popular of men, but film crews love him. They know he's on time, detailed, disciplined - a true pro.
He needed all of his skills and experience - his debut movie was The Lion In Winter with Peter O'Toole and Sir Anthony Hopkins in 1968 - during the six months filming Scarlett. The eight hours of film, on locations across America, Ireland and England, is the equivalent to four major movies. There was little time to make mistakes. Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Scarlett was a controversial choice. Whereas Dalton's screen sexuality had been established, had she got what it took? Dalton is, as ever, loyal. "She is good - dammed good," he says. "She has the most wonderful eyes, a great sense of humour and a touch of steel about her. Exactly what's needed for this.
"Scarlett is a character of enormous contradictions. She's passionate, knows what she wants and uses the most manipulative and feminine means to get it. You need a special kind of person to handle it. If there are going to be comparisons between me and Clark Gable, there sure as hell going to be those between Joanne and Vivien Leigh.
"She is going to have to live with them and be just as strong and just as forthright. It is also very much her story. The book and this film is called Scarlett, remember, not Rhett." Typically he has been detailed in his research. "Rhett is from Charleston, not Atlanta, and people sound completely different from the two cities," he says.
"So I have had voice coaching to get the accent just right, playing a lot of tapes. There are all sorts of voice exercises to work on. I get the flavour and the pronunciation and the voice coach then makes it even more precise.
"Rhett was kicked out of the family home and became a riverboat gambler who got as far as Seattle, San Francisco and Britain. So you can play around a lot with that. He's sophisticated and well-travelled.
"The look of the man is a little easier. I toyed around with not having a moustache, but then decided to go with it. The hair is parted, longer and with sideburns. I feel comfortable with the frock coats, too."
So, what did he feel about it all, with the work nearly over and the anticipated criticisms and comparisons to come? He pauses. "I might have been wiser not to do it at all," he says frankly. "But how do you walk away from a great part like Rhett?"
© Copyright TV Guide - 1994.
Getting to know the NEW Rhett Butler Timothy Dalton with Ian Blair.
Timothy as Rhett Butler from Scarlett again.
Tall, dark and dashing Timothy Dalton isn't afraid to take on roles that others have made famous. First, Timothy Dalton successfully inherited the role of James Bond from Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Now he's following in Clark Gable's footsteps as the charming southern rogue Rhett Butler in the eagerly awaited CBS miniseries Scarlett. The media will make the inevitable comparisons, but Timothy relishes the role and frankly, my dear, couldn't give a damn about such criticism.
Ian: "How did you feel initially when you got the part of Rhett Butler?"
Timothy: "I told my agent to turn it down. I thought, who wants to step into Clark Gable's shoes? It's madness!"
Ian: "Do you think he was the definitive Rhett?"
Timothy: "There's no question - he was a terrific Rhett Butler. I read the book, and Gable was the right choice.
Ian: "So why did you finally agree to the role?"
Timothy: "I started thinking about it and reading the script, and I saw there was a really good potboiling soap opera in the middle of it all. I like challenges. I always seem to do things I can get murdered for.
Ian: "Like playing James Bond after two well-known actors?
Timothy: "Yes, but I didn't want to spend the rest of my life playing him."
Ian: "How are things between Rhett and Scarlett in the sequel?"
Timothy: "Well in the beginning, he doesn't want to have much to do with her because he's been trapped and hurt once already. He wanted her and she loved someone else.
Ian: "Can you relate to how he feels?"
Timothy: "I was devastated at the end of 'Gone With The Wind' when he realizes he's failed, she doesn't love him, and he's lost seven years."
Ian: "But he still can't resist her."
Timothy: "He still has that flame in his heart for Scarlett. I guess we can all fall into that trap."
Ian: "And now Scarlett pursues Rhett?"
Timothy: "All the time in the miniseries, he's pushing her away, and she's coming to him, so it's a very different story then the original. I hope people will realize that and forget all the comparisons."
Ian: "Yet you know people will inevitably compare the two stories."
Timothy: "I think it's almost impossible to compare a movie that was made 60 years ago with a TV miniseries today. But there are people out there who can't wait to stick us."
Ian: "How was the chemistry between you and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, who plays Scarlett?"
Timothy: "Simply great. In acting, it's your job to create chemistry. But I think it's just there between me and Joanne."
Ian: "Are you an exciting rogue like Rhett?
Timothy: "I think I'm probably just as boring as everybody else. I go fishing, I sit around and read the papers and drink coffee."
Ian: "Playing Rhett has given you a great deal of recognition. How are you dealing with all the fame?"
Timothy: "I guess the best aspect is that you generally get a table in a resturant. Seriously, I've not had a bad time at all. I think it would be nice to be remembered for something you've done, one thing in your life that affects or moves somebody."
© Copyright Ian Blair and Woman's World - 1994.