A look at television appearances made over the years by Hollywood legend Dirk Bogarde, capturing the milestones and highlights of his life and career.
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The idol of the Odeons was how they described Dirk Bogarde.
Handsome, charming and stylish.
In Britain of the mid-'50s,
he was the nation's biggest box office draw,
his popularity outstripping that of any star from Hollywood.
Under contract with the Rank Organisation,
he started out playing villains in films like The Blue Lamp.
But his star soared after
he was cast as Dr Simon Sparrow
in the hugely successful Doctor series
and from that moment on, pin-up status was assured.
In the early '60s, Bogarde had just left Rank.
And he went to Hollywood to play the composer Franz Liszt
in Song Without End. The film was not a success.
But the role earned him a Golden Globe nomination
and is the starting point for this conversation with
Robert Robinson from the programme Picture Parade.
You're one of the few English screen actors who command attention in
America, command real attention which is underwritten with real money.
And I wonder what it is over and above your capacity to act
which singles a person out for that kind of attention.
I don't know.
Um... You said international stardom but I don't know what that means.
-I'm not an international star.
-No, command attention in America.
-With that in view, I suppose...
I don't really know what you mean, though, Robert,
because I've only done two films in America.
One they wanted me
desperately for because they couldn't get anybody else.
-I'm sure you're being...
-Well, they wanted a special type of actor,
which had to be an actor, sort of, known in Europe, the Commonwealth,
for that market,
and who spoke English with an English unaccented accent
For Liszt, you know, because they didn't think it would be
acceptable if he came from Milwaukee.
But they could have picked almost anyone for that, yet they pick you.
I think what I'm really referring to is the quality of watchableness
which allows an actor to walk into a room
and read the telephone directory and somehow it's exciting, just that.
It's...it's this quality that I'd be interested to ask you about.
I'd wish you tell me what it was
because I know exactly what you mean.
I have the same compulsion myself when I see somebody on a screen
or in the theatre.
I don't know why I'm looking at them, very often.
I suppose it's this extraordinary and ill-used
and much overworked phrase "star quality" which
I don't believe anybody's ever been able to find.
I know that when I was in Hollywood, I was absolutely amazed to see
how many of the great
and lasting stars were in fact NOT frightfully handsome people
or beautiful women, but had quite qualities of ordinariness.
Maybe it's something to do with that quality of ordinariness,
of high sophistication, if you can call it that.
That means high simplicity, sophistication,
or have I got that quite wrong?
I think it's a quality of relaxedness, perhaps.
And something to do, too, with sureness and, I suppose, sincerity.
For a film actor, you live a rather retired and private life.
We seldom read of you in the show columns.
-Is this... Do you avoid publicity? Is it distasteful to you?
-No, no, no.
I don't AVOID publicity,
that makes it sound like something really horrid and unpleasant.
I don't think publicity's always necessary.
I think sometimes publicity is ugly and I think it's vulgar.
And I think then you SHOULD avoid it.
And I think it's wiser perhaps to leave it all alone
than to dabble with a little of it.
I think that to publicise your film is absolutely splendid.
You should go to a premiere, if you have to.
I don't like it because I don't like crowds.
And you should go and talk about it to the press
if they wish to see you.
And you should speak to you on Picture Parade, as we're doing now.
But I don't think it's of any concern to anybody but me
whether I take my dogs for a walk on my head, in my hat,
or in a basket or what I had for breakfast or how I go to bed.
-You must teach your colleagues that.
-I know, that is the trouble
because there are other people who absolutely love everybody knowing
exactly what they do with their dogs and where they go for a walk.
We can't all be exactly the same.
It would be a very dull world if we were.
I was always brought up, which sounds very pompous,
but I can't help it, with that old saying,
"Little boys should be seen and not heard."
It was very deeply drilled into me as a child and indeed
to all my brothers and sisters and I'm afraid it kind of sticks.
I can't put it any better than that!
Do you think that the public should...do you think there's
anything against the public getting to know the actual man
behind the illusion which appears on the screen?
It's a terribly tough one to answer, you know, that one,
because I don't agree anyway, and I'm quite alone on this,
I think the excitement of the cinema
and the theatre is its quality of illusion, of magic,
of "not quite of this world".
And I think that if you know that your favourite actor's bald,
or that he's got spots, or he's shorter than you were,
you know, the illusion's gone.
But if it's a good illusion,
it wouldn't depend on knowing the mechanics.
I think it's a great mistake to know about the mechanics.
And yet you know your fellow film actors very well
and I imagine this doesn't spoil your enjoyment of the films they make.
That's a tricky one, isn't it, really.
I think in a way...I think in way truly it does, not destroy,
but I think it does harm it a little, my enjoyment of their work.
I remember with Kay Kendall, who was one of my greatest
and dearest friends, I was never absolutely convinced that Kay...
I was never quite satisfied, which sounds conceited and impertinent, but you understand what I mean,
I never quite satisfied that Kay had done the best possible job in a film
because I knew her far too well, I knew every trick, every mood.
And I was able therefore not always to see the work that she really was doing.
So it did kind of...familiarity did...
kind of blunt the brilliance of her work for me a little.
You do little stage work now
and I think I read somewhere
that the last three occasions you appeared in the theatre,
you became ill and that as a consequence,
you decided that you'd do no more stage work.
-Is this resolution holding good?
-Yes, it is. It's a great temptation.
I made everybody promise faithfully that if I ever looked as though
I was moving towards a stage door, they had to shoot me.
The thing about it really was that I'd been off the stage for far
too long, a too long a gap.
To be off the stage for three years and do, say, 12 pictures,
which is what I've easily been doing, three a year,
or nine pictures, whatever it is, my mathematics...
It's too long a time to go suddenly straight into a play with all
the intensity and the work and the emotion.
You're tired before you start.
Then you've got to go on tour and kick the play into shape,
and it's a tremendous concentration.
And if you ARE a bit run down at the time, you know,
you're liable to pick up a bug and then you get this panic of,
"Gosh, if I'm off, what'll happen?" So it's not worth it.
I must confess, too,
I am appalled at the length of time a play has to run.
I think this year's run or more is absolutely appalling.
Isn't this part of an actor's...rather the green for an actor?
It is, but you're not talking to one of the great dedicated actors.
It is indeed part of an actor's trade,
but I don't think it's ever a part of an actor's trade to play one part
without any break or any relief for over a year or more.
I think this is absolutely insane.
I think to do what Peter Hall is doing with Stratford,
switching over to the Aldwych, is terribly exciting.
The actors get a rest, they get a break in between.
They can prepare the next production.
And they're amused always because they're constantly being
entertained themselves by the news of the part.
But to stamp on, night after night, in My Fair Lady, I don't know how anybody ever does it.
You've been successful for a long time.
Apart from talent, has luck played a part in it as well as talent?
Yes, I think luck plays a tremendous amount in everybody's life,
but particularly in our life, in the movies.
It's a sort of mixture of all the things
but it's being in the right place at the right time,
maybe even a silly thing is meeting the right man at the right party.
You suddenly says, "My God, you're just what I want."
Luck has a tremendous part of our job.
I mean, you can plan it all ahead very carefully, say,
"I'll do this kind of picture and then that one and various other roles,"
but at the end of it all, you know,
there's this awful element of luck, which still comes in.
A few months after that interview came the release of a film
that arguably changed Bogarde's career for ever. Victim.
I played Bogarde's wife.
It was directed by Basil Dearden
and the first movie to ever use the word "homosexual".
Many now say Victim helped change attitudes to homosexuality in Britain.
Bogarde's part was a sympathetic gay character, a successful married
barrister who risks his career fighting a ring of blackmailers.
Here he talks to Barry Norman about what drove him
to tackle such a controversial role.
I thought there's a point, a statement you can make in the cinema
and you might as well use the cinema to make a statement as opposed to...
just flopping around with, you know, left profile
for every shot and your hair permed and your teeth capped and... Oh!
It was self-disgust, I think. I was too old, you see.
I didn't start at 18, I started at 27.
You've always looked very young, of course.
Well, fortunately, that's been in the family.
But then you were, what, about 40 playing 30-year-olds?
I was about 40, 41.
I was always playing 30...
They said, "You can get away with 25,"
which made me even feel more disgusted.
There were always little kids writing letters saying, "We love you, we want to marry you."
I was a sort of pop singer. Anyway, all that was beginning to change
and I decided the wind of change was coming with this pop thing.
When Bill Haley started to come in,
I realised the film stars were going to go out.
-So, at least I was absolutely right on that score.
-Yes, indeed you were.
And I cleared off into the right kind of movies
before the bottom fell out of popular cinema.
Because all the fan admiration I'd had for years and years
from little girls and teenyboppers, you call them, and things like that,
and people like Maggie Lockwood
and Stewart Granger had before me. They disappeared,
they went into a sort of mist after four little boys from Liverpool,
-called The Beatles.
-By that time...
-By that time, I'd cleared.
Yes, because you'd make Victim by them.
Yes, I'd made all of those films.
And Victim, of course, was a considerable breakthrough as a film.
It was a big breakthrough. The film is a very brave film.
Something Basil Dearden's never been respected or awarded sufficiently for.
When Basil died and he got that obituary, I was so ashamed,
they didn't even bother to say he'd actually altered the course of English cinema,
as much as Lacey did.
Cos it was the first film, actually, to take homosexuality
as a serious subject, wasn't it?
It was the first film to take it as a serious subject
and present it as a serious subject.
To present it as a problem that was solvable and that everybody had.
You know, it wasn't sort of like having some dreadful unknown
disease. Lots of people have it.
It was a reasonable thing to have.
You can't hope to keep this out of the press.
It's not as though you can go to court as Mr X.
You're too well-known.
I don't want to.
I believe if I go into court as myself,
I can draw attention to the fault in the existing law.
Knowing it'll destroy you utterly.
We're going to need each other very much, aren't we?
No, no. I'm going to go through this alone.
I don't want you here when it happens.
I started this thing, I've hurt you terribly, I know that.
But I can just get through it to the end
if you're not here to face the final humiliations.
They're going to call me filthy names.
And my friends are going to lower their eyes and my enemies say they'd always guessed.
I don't want you to a part of that.
But it was particularly bold for you, I would've thought,
because you had had this sort of following of little girls
and then to appear in a film as a homosexual...
They didn't mind...they didn't mind me being a homosexual at all
because most people think that being queer means that you've got flu.
They didn't know anything about that at all.
What did bother them very much was... Anyway, it was beginning
to break away, that pop thing,
because I said the boys, the kids were coming, a new form of adoration
was coming in through the pop singers.
That's rock 'n' roll, that's music.
But they DID get upset because I had grey temples.
I was being a 45-year-old man when I was only 40.
And that really bugged them, frankly.
I thought, "Well, now here it comes." I've got the lines here and all the wrinkles coming,
and the make-up going, the white temples stuck in.
They got a bit leery cos I was too old.
When they wrote and said, "You're older than my dad,"
I knew that I was out.
Was Bogarde homosexual himself?
He always denied it.
From the 1960s onwards, he lived with Tony Forwood,
a man he always described as his partner and manager.
And he insisted the relationship was platonic.
Bogarde never had a conventional leading man role again,
which he considered a blessing.
From that point on, he'd appear in more challenging films,
winning Best Actor BAFTAs
in two seminal '60s movies, The Servant and Darling.
Here, he is discussing the change in direction in an interview from 1967.
I never was a romantic type, you know. It was a great, great mistake.
I was a character actor who got diverted at a time of national
drought, just after the war, and I fitted somebody else's pants
and played their part. That's literally how it started.
I was lucky in having a good left profile.
I notice at the moment I'm being shot on my right,
which is quite the worst one.
That doesn't matter any more but this side was very good
and the y built all the sets at Pinewood for this profile only.
I was like Loretta Young, nobody ever saw my right side.
At what stage did you decide
that you didn't want to play romantic leads any more?
I did a film some years ago which nobody has ever seen called
A Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw
with Leslie Caron and Cecil Beaton doing the costumes and
a wonderful part and a super scriptwriter
and a wonderful director called Asquith.
The scriptwriter, of course, was Bernard Shaw
and the director was Mr Asquith and it suddenly dawned on me
that movies had something more to say than just, oh, you know,
frolicking songs in Spain
and all the stuff I had been doing before and funny pictures like
the Doctors, which had great value but were not satisfying.
They were only extensions of myself.
I wasn't actually doing the job that I had started out to do.
When I found that you could really speak good dialogue
on screen and it sounded good, I decided a break had to be made.
Where other any satisfactions from working on the Rank films?
Oh, yes, of course there were.
The first Doctor was one of the most satisfying things I've ever
done, I think, because more people went to hospital after that
because they were less frightened. I am not being sarcastic.
Because they were less frightened of hospitals than ever before
and people used to come both to Kenny and I, Kenny More,
and sort of thank us rather than, you know, laugh at us.
They were thanking us for making it easy to get
granny into hospital or a child into hospital.
I was recently in hospital myself for various reasons of my own and
the child, you know, care doctor was called Dr Simon Sparrow.
They used to stick that on the door which made the kids feel better.
That's all gone now. In the films, I think, possibly gone too.
Do you do much research when you're preparing a film,
into background, the type of job a character does?
Not if it is about people. There is no need to.
I know, you know, seven and a half or seven years of the Army
and 46 years of living with people, I think it taught you,
taught me a good deal about people.
Research, I certainly do on odd things I find.
If it's something particular like drive a special kind of car,
I'd certainly do that. Research on a special or specialised subject,
certainly, without any question.
-Do you have technical advice on set?
-Always. If it's needed, of course.
In all the Doctors, I had a doctor on the set every day, always,
because I never touched a thing that a doctor would touch
unless I knew exactly how to use it.
Because Dr Simon Sparrow in the Doctor films is the only
straight guy in the pictures.
And an audience had to absolutely believe that he was right
and safe and secure and good for them
and then all the other people, you know, could be funny around him.
He never made a mistake as a doctor.
Basically, because I always had
a doctor there to tell me what to do or not to do.
Although one doctor alarmed me
by taking out an appendix on the left-hand side. Still,
they do do that, I believe.
A year after that interview, Bogarde moved with Tony Forwood abroad
to France and there began a new phase in his career.
With acclaimed performances and artistic films like Visconti's
Death In Venice seeing him become a major star of European cinema.
Bogarde always put his success down to the fact that
he was continuously pushing himself.
He never lost the feeling that there was more to be learned about acting,
as he told the programme Omnibus.
One day, we were changing magazines and I looked up
and there was the camera operator Bob Thompson, leaning over
the top of the camera and he was quite short and he had glasses
and he was very experienced and he was very nice.
And I was just standing waiting and I said, "Hi, Bob.
"You know, you look very worried. What are you thinking about?"
He said, "Well, I'm just thinking
"I don't know how the hell you stuck."
"Oh," I thought, "That's not quite what I meant."
So I said, "Why?" he said, "Well, you don't know a bloody
"thing about this business, do you?" And I had been in it for five years.
So I said, "Well, what don't I know?"
He said, "It'd take too long to tell you."
And I said, "Will you tell me?"
And so Bob Thompson told me.
He told me how the film went through the gate.
He told me how the boom went. He told me where the lights were.
He told me about a 2K, an inky-dink.
He told me every damn thing I had to know about the movies.
My own technicians, mine, my mates,
not my directors cos they didn't know.
I never find an English director that did.
You are an actor who, I think you have said,
-doesn't require an audience in the strict sense.
-Oh, no, God forbid.
That in a way, cinema is a much more preferable medium for you.
Well, cinema is much more exciting because,
as I've said before, it is something you are making technically
together and the thing I have emphasised very
strongly in my last book, as you know,
is that most actors do not realise that that little beast
and that little beast photograph your mind.
And if there is nothing in your mind at the time that that is
working or that is working then no-one is at home
and you can just as well play pussy, it doesn't matter.
How do you mean photograph your mind?
It photographs thought.
-The camera is capable of photographing thought.
The best example of all, apart from me -
cos I've suddenly discovered that I do have some kind of thought,
in the end, you know - is Marilyn,
who had no thought whatsoever in her mind but she had, way down there
at the bottom, Miss Monroe was quite... Well, I mean,
she has become the legend of the century almost.
And the camera found what she was doing and what she was thinking.
Watching her on the floor, you would inch yourself away with misery
and grief because you thought, "Crikey, what is she doing?
"She's doing nothing and she's dreadful.
"She is plain and she's got spots and where's the magic?"
And the magic was there next day on film.
-And you just drained blood when you saw it.
-So it is internal.
It's an internal thing
and this is the essence of concentration, of course.
Without concentration, without the absolute tightness
of concentration here in your head, nothing works on the screen.
You can walk through a part and nearly everybody I ever see does.
Sometimes there is a magical moment where you find some actor
who is not walking through and the camera picks him.
But that's capricious and so is that one.
They're both capricious, the cameras.
Capricious cos they hate you.
You can do your nut and they don't want to record it
but if you can establish a rapport, a love affair between yourself
and the lens - and I'm flattering myself perhaps that I do,
I don't know, maybe I don't -
they will do everything in their power to help you.
But you have got to be thinking and you have got to know what
you're thinking about and if you go to pieces, forget it.
It doesn't work.
The earlier films, there were some that were accomplished.
-You're famous for having shot Jack Warner.
-Oh, yes, The Blue Lamp.
And then you move to a very successful series of films,
which were the Doctor films.
When you're working in what many people might consider unremarkable
cinema, were you striving to do your best within those circumstances
or were you not all that conscious that it was unremarkable cinema?
Look here, let's get one thing absolutely straight.
All I have ever been in the cinema or in the theatre or in my books
is an entertainer. Nothing more and nothing less. That's all I am.
And anything I do, I do to the depths of my gut.
I would never, as I said, cheat anyone.
I never considered those films as crappy or stupid
or whatever they were.
They were there to pleasure people.
There were there to pleasure people who came to see us.
You don't betray that faith.
You don't betray people that have staggered miles in a snowstorm
or something to get to the movie to see you.
You do everything you can.
And people met and married in movies that I made.
They dated. A whole world.
I had three, four generations of people that
I am directly responsible to.
I couldn't possibly say that I did anything more than do the best,
you know, the best thing I could do,
the highest point of my ability and never once looked down on it.
I never. I couldn't do. And I love the cinema too much anyway.
That was another thing. It was growing and growing and growing.
When I found that a crew was working and that was working and that
was working and how it worked and this was working, the boom.
Then gradually all these wonderful things came in
and I was being taken in again, into a force, like I had
been in the Army, and producing something at the end of it.
But I was very, very proud of those films.
I mean, some of them were rubbish, I admit,
but people like rubbish, you know.
People don't want always to be educated.
Acting success and European stardom wasn't enough for Bogarde.
The '70s saw him also branch out into a new career as a writer.
By 1983, three volumes of memoirs and two novels had all earned
rave reviews and become international bestsellers.
But how he started writing was a story in itself as he explains
here to interview Tony Bilbow.
One day I got a fan letter, so-called,
from a woman in America who had been sitting under
a hairdryer in her hairdressers in a small town in America and she
had read a magazine to pass the time which she found rather distasteful.
It was a women's magazine. And it was an English one and rather cheap.
But in it, to her astonishment,
she saw a picture of a house that once had belonged to her.
This is a hell of a long preamble, you'll have to excuse me for that.
And in front of the house, grinning like an idiot, was I, myself, there.
And she didn't know who I was cos she never went to the movies,
she wasn't that kind of person,
but she didn't recognise the house and she saw pictures inside.
So she read the rather sorry little article about me
and realised I was an actor or something
and lived in England and lived in this house which
she has lived in for ten years,
which she had found with her husband in 1929 and lived there
until 1939 when the war broke out and they had to go back to America.
So, to cut a long story short, she wrote me a letter.
Very pathetic and very polite, very tiny, very neat, no great deal.
And sent, inside, a very small, brown sepia picture of the house
as it had been in 1929, covered in brambles and nettles.
And she wrote and simply said,
"It's a great impertinence to write to you.
"I don't know who you are, what you do, but I do know the house.
"Has it changed very much?" And that was all.
And I don't know why, I never reply to letters because it's
impossible anyway, there isn't time and I can't deal with so much.
But I did write to her. I wrote her back.
We wrote to each other for the next five years.
I think I'm right, yeah, next five years.
She wrote in the end, towards the end,
every single day of her life, a letter to me.
On onion skin, which if you know what that is,
it's that very, very light airmail paper.
I wrote three or four times a week
but when I began to put her all together
and realised she was dying, I wrote a postcard,
at least a postcard, every single day until 1975
when she died.
I never saw her. We never spoke. I have no idea what age she was.
But she was determined that I should write.
All I did glean, amongst many things,
was that she was the head librarian -
as far as I can put this together, I could be inaccurate here -
at a very important university in America
and that she knew a great deal about literature and about writing
and she had seen, somewhere in what I wrote in all the years of junk
I sent her, which is only really written to try
and to keep her alive - she lived alone, she was entirely alone -
to keep her alive and keep her going
and give her strength, she thought that I could write.
Or should be forced to.
So would it be fair to say that if it hadn't been for her
you would never have written? Not professionally.
In the final analysis, that is true, yes.
Writing occupied most of Bogarde's time during the '80s,
but in 1991, he was back with a new film.
A French movie called Daddy Nostalgie,
directed by Bertrand Tavernier.
It coincided with Bogarde turning 70 -
a significant enough event to merit another encounter with Barry Norman.
Your first film in 12 years. Why? Why such a long time away?
Well, I had really got out of the habit of doing it.
I haven't... Although I am often accused of, I haven't retired,
I just retreated. It's... I don't terribly enjoy making movies.
I never have.
This coming from a man who has made about 65 is a little startling.
Yeah, I know, well, there it is.
I mean, now that you get to a certain age, it's a hassle.
It's a drag, you know.
And then I found I could write and people want my books so it's easy to
sit on my butt on my farm and write and do
chores of the day on the land and it was easier and it was pleasanter.
I had done one film, which I thought was a miracle film with Fassbinder
called Despair, I think in '76. You'll have to put me right.
I don't remember. It was about '76.
And we made it in East Germany,
on the edge of East Germany with the wall and all that. It was
an extraordinary experience, a wonderful and extraordinary one.
We were picked for Cannes but the film was finished about,
oh, I don't know, seven months before Cannes and instead of...
I had seen the rough cut and done the dubbing in Paris
and instead of just leaving it as it was,
Rainer Fassbinder got bored with it and cut it to shreds over the weeks.
And when I went to Cannes to see the damn film,
Michael Ballhaus, who now works for Martin Scorsese
in New York, Michael came up and said, "Don't come near the movie.
"Don't see it."
Tears were pouring out and he said, "He's absolutely ruined it."
So I went to see the movie at Cannes cos I had to, you know, do
my duty and I didn't recognise it, I didn't know what the film was about.
Totally devastated. So I thought after that,
"That's it. I leave."
And I left for 12 years.
So why, what did Bertrand Tavernier do?
Was it simply because it was Bertrand Tavernier
-that you came back?
I had seen in nearly all the work that Bertrand had done and he is...
I always say if I am asked and I am saying this to you -
well, you haven't asked me but I'm telling you - Visconti is,
as far as I am concerned, the emperor of the cinema.
Losey is the king.
But Bertrand is the genius and he is a genius only
because he absolutely knows every inch of cinema, every angle,
every technical trick but he also knows about people
and that is terribly rare.
I was brought up in the cinema when the director would say,
"Do let's hurry, darling. A little pink gin in the bar."
And that was the way we made movies.
To find someone who actually really wants to scoop the yolk
out of your egg and savour it, is fairly exciting.
So what happened? Did you put a lot into the script?
Was there a lot of rewriting going on?
Because I know you went happy with this script even
when you agreed to do it with Tavernier, were you?
Well, there was a rewrite which I got and Bertrand
came to London to see me and I said I'd do it
because he was doing it
and there was a rewrite, which was still a bit cutesy-pie.
There was an awful lot of Pussykins and Daddykins.
I'm not a Daddykins type, you know. And neither is he.
And we had both been through some fairly grown-up experiences
in our life, like death and life, and all those things,
and he just was experiencing it through the death of his father
who was dying at that point, and we kind of put it in turn around.
I must be very careful what I say here because he let me
alter my stuff and my conception of who I was,
the daddy I was, and
he assisted me greatly and we wrote a lot of it together.
You know, I would like to take a plane
and go somewhere like Hong Kong, Singapore.
See them for the last time.
More than Mexico?
The light in the East is...
It's the colours...
It doesn't matter.
I didn't want to get old.
'Playing a man who is dying and you had,'
I mean, you had a stroke which, thank God, you appear to have
recovered from fully about, what, about four years ago?
That must have been an experience you could have used, surely, was it?
The memory of that, you used
in playing the part or do you not believe in that kind of thing?
Well, I mean, you know, Barry, come on now.
Every act is... You know, even having a terrible row or
bursting into floods of tears or whatever.
If there is a mirror near, you look and say,
"Oh, that's what I look like when I do that." Of course you do.
You squirrel everything away for some use,
some later projection of whatever you're doing.
But I have been doing work classes recently in London
and a lot of the actors, young actors,
they're all between 18 and 25,
want to know why I so mistrust the method.
And my point is I don't see any point in being
shoved into a dark room for three months
and being told you have got to come out as a tin of condensed milk.
Because that is not acting, it's not screen technique,
it's not screen acting.
Most people do a sort of cornflake packet performance
and what I find so exciting with working with people like Tavernier
and in Europe... I haven't made a movie in England since '66.
-I know that.
-And then they were always foreign companies.
Paramount or MGM.
But they don't ask you to do the cover. They want to know...
It's like an onion.
They want to know...peel the skin off bit by bit and come
right down to the little, tiny bit in the middle
which is the heart of it.
And so in Daddy Nostalgie, giving Daddy a different, bad-tempered,
very selfish, rather like a car salesman with the matching
handkerchief and tie, he is not quite right, he's like a politician.
But those things I found terrifically exciting to make him...
Because, you know, after all, he is married to a woman who no
longer speaks her language to him or his. So they're absolutely lost.
And there is nothing to talk about. He's retired, he's dying
and they are living in this dreadful little town in the south of France
and all she has got is her bridge
and all he's go is listening to her playing bridge.
You know, I mean, it could be very gloomy.
I don't think it is, because a nerve is touched.
Indeed. Indeed there is. Another nerve that perhaps you touched -
I don't know whether this was inadvertent
but there is a scene in which you talk about the xenophobic
middle-class Britain which your character left.
I just wondered if that came from the heart.
Yes. It came from me anyway.
And, you know, when I think
that I could have ended up
like those thousands of retired businessmen who live
in those dreary little bungalows outside Brighton
or Budleigh Salterton,
pottering about in their rain-drenched, gnome-ridden gardens,
sipping their sherry or their Horlicks,
waiting for the Nine O'Clock News on television,
loathing all bloody foreigners,
hating and mistrusting anything beyond their sceptred isle,
when I think of that, it makes me really ill.
You have left xenophobic middle-class Britain for, oh,
the best part of 20 years. Why did you do that?
Oh, gosh. Why did I do it?
Well, there was no reason to stay.
I mean, the last thing I did here, as I have said
so many times before, the last thing I was asked to do here was
a voice-over for television for the Forestry Commission.
-About felling pine trees in the north of Scotland.
I mean, well, if it has come to that...
And I have never been asked to come back.
Well, that's not quite true. David Puttnam asked me to come back.
But, I mean, nobody has asked me to work here.
I mean, I think I'd run my limit, Barry.
You know, I was in the movies... I started in '47
above the title, right?
I think people had got awfully used to me
and then a new group came in in the beginning of the '60s
and they didn't want my kind of work or indeed my kind of name.
They wanted the new boys, you know, the Terence Stamps,
the Albert Finneys, the Tom Courtenays, and they got them.
And quite rightly too.
But we were pushed. We were out. And I realised that in time.
The Beatles were making a new sound.
The movies were taking... The movies were becoming gritty and grainy
and a lot of people were not growing up with that fact in this country
but they were in the Europe and they had always been that way.
That's when I went back to Europe.
From a professional point of view,
that was the best thing that could have happened to you.
Oh, gosh, the last 22 years of my life were the greatest ever.
Critically. I mean, not critically but from the point of view of film.
Oh, yeah, sure.
Because the curious thing now is that you're much more, I think,
"revered" is the word in Europe as an actor than you are in this country.
Well, revered is a very strong word. I'm better-known, yes.
Yes, of course, I'm a big fish in a very large pond in Europe.
I am a European player.
But do you realise there is something extraordinary?
I only realised this coming to see you today that in all the time
I have been working abroad, I have only once played an Englishman.
-They have all been Germans.
-Yes, you are good as a German.
-I'm very good as a German.
Born in the wrong country.
I'll tell you what though, for all that you're saying,
you are a marvellous survivor, aren't you?
I mean, 44 years now with the name above the title.
The name is still above the title.
Oh, yes, it won't come down either.
-You insist on that, don't you?
Because I still believe one of the earliest things I was ever told
when I first joined the business and 47 was,
"You realise what's happened to you, don't you?"
This was the Rank Organisation.
"You are unknown and you're going to carry a movie.
"Do you understand what that means?"
Now, I didn't understand what it meant but I learned.
Sure as hell, I learned.
And I thought, "Right, if it's going to cost this to carry a movie,
"I am going to do it all for the rest of my life." And I have.
And I am not going under the title.
That's why I don't do those cameo parts.
I mean, I'd rather write a book or review a book for a newspaper
or whatever but I won't go underneath. I still carry a movie.
And I still do.
Daddy Nostalgie in Italy, for example,
-is one of the biggest box office hits ever known there.
-Is it really?
Yeah, it has made milliards. Not millions but milliards of lire.
-Why? I don't know why.
-That's the question I was going to ask.
I mean, it's marvellous that, you know,
44 years ago you started as a star and here you are, aged 70 -
and many happy returns for the great day - still a star.
How have you managed that?
I think it...
I don't know, really.
Learning my trade, being taught and being very selective
and choosing the right people to teach me and never being greedy
because I never earned what we call Caine-Connery money at all.
I don't mean to denigrate either of those gentlemen,
I just did not earn that kind of money.
The most money I ever made in my life was on Despair.
I got 200,000 for that.
That was the biggest sum of money I ever earned in one lump.
I didn't want more.
As long as I had a small portfolio and, you know,
I kept my money in an Oxo tin. It practically was that.
That suited me very well but I would rather do the job well
and have a decent job to do.
I'm not interested in doing three-day bits in, you know,
a warehouse at Wapping in a cutaway coat and handmade buttons.
Is it literally really true that you haven't been offered anything
at all or anything worthwhile in the cinema in this country?
No, not entirely true.
David Puttnam, who I respect greatly, did ask me
to do a film called The Mission but I really couldn't get away
and I thought I was really much too old
to go clambering up and down waterfalls.
I was in my mid-60s.
Which role was that?
Well, it was later played by a younger man.
And... But, yes, indeed, David did ask. But no, no, I am not asked.
-Does that make you feel at all bitter?
-No, no, not at all.
Because I don't want to work here.
John Boorman, indeed, he's another one, he has asked me to work here.
But I am a European and the way we work in Europe is totally
different to the way we work here.
Why, then, did you come back to Britain?
I came back because I was forced to come back through
ill health of my partner and manager who was living out there.
He had terminal cancer and when we knew that it was terminal
he wanted to die with his family
and that meant his immediate family and his son and his grandson
so we came back and I just hadn't...
Then I had a stroke after I had packed up.
You know, packing up something I thought I would live in
for the rest of my life in three weeks was quite difficult.
-Do you feel you belong here now?
-Does that mean that you are unhappy?
-No, no, I'm not at all unhappy.
I mean, I'm back living in Chelsea, which is where I started.
I'm full circle.
Cos I started there at 16 at art school in Manresa Road
so I know everywhere there.
My father was a student there, my mother was a student there too.
You know, I'm back where I was.
I remember Peter Jones being billed.
That does go back a few years.
Yes, it goes back a few years.
I saw Judy Garland for the first time in my life at what was
-then called the Royal Court Cinema.
But I'm all right but, I mean, every morning I wake up thinking,
"Well, you're still here.
"That means that A) you're alive and B) here you are."
In the end, Daddy Nostalgie was his final film.
In 1992 he became Sir Dirk Bogarde,
knighted for services to acting.
And in 1999, at the age of 78,
he died in London from a heart attack.
Amongst the tributes was one describing him as
"Britain's first home-grown movie star.
"They don't make them like that any more."
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd