Brian Blessed Fern Britton Meets...


Brian Blessed

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After 100 yards, turn right. Go around the roundabout. 4th exit.

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Which exit? 4th Exeter. At the end of the road, turn left... I must

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have interviewed hundreds of people in my time and very often you are

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going to their house or a film set or a TV studio and they send you

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detailed directions so you don't get lost. But this has to be a

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first. Turn left. Turn right. it is rather surreal. How far to

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the next exit? 700 yards!. You have reached your destination. Here we

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are, outside the house of my guest today whose voice is as distinctive

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as his figure, and whose career has spanned uneventful 50 years.

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# Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time...

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Brian Blessed is a man with a greater sense of adventure. He has

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been a pioneer of Live TV drama. He has climbed Everest. He has

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presented wish shows. I am Brian Blessed. He has flown with Flash

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Gordon and paid cats and emperors. -- played. And throughout it all,

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Brian has had a fascination with religion. He has met the Dalai Lama,

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played Saint Peter and called on divine help when needed. 1 Everest

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when an avalanche is coming down in this place and that place, 200 mph

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and it is heading for the, I called for God. He is, of course famously

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loud. "Gordon's alive!". Brian is a force of nature, if you want

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something extreme and mad and poetical, Brian is your man.

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will fill any room. But there is a side to him that few know about, a

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more reflective Brian Blessed. is a national asset. There should

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be railings but around him. We are going to sail to the top this time.

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Brian Blessed is one of our best- loved actors and he is a man with a

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taste for adventure. We now he has climbed mountains but he is also on

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a spiritual quest. -- we know. I have no idea what Turner this

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conversation will take. -- what turn.

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So, Brian, this is your temple. it is. To your work and you're

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doing so. Yes. I have always wanted to have a shared and my wife was

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not always that happy about it -- shed, that I didn't want to be in

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the house, but quite a lot of men, they want to have that kind of

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cubbyhole. I love peace. I love silence. The Boer War is very thick

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in his wooden shed -- the Boer War. I can come here and be meditate and

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pray and I can read and learn. It is here that I create my projects

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and the things I want to do. Brian was born in 1936 and grew up in a

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village in South Yorkshire the son of a miner. He was a boy with a

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vivid imagination. As a child, I wept at the thought that there were

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no dinosaurs. I missed the dinosaurs. And I used to create

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them and scare the whole street. I said they lived under my house in

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great caves and caverns leading down to South America. And they

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believed me. A petition was drawn up by the parents, a long line of

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parents to our house, to complain that my imagination was too much to

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the children and I had to tell them there were no such thing as

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dinosaurs and I refused. When I discovered at the age of six that

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the planet Mars existed and there were other worlds beside mind... We

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are the children of stardust, as old as the universe, we are part of

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it. All of that was in me as a child. I arrived happy. I feel as

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if I am trying to tether a hot-air balloon. You don't spend your life

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with us mortals, do you? I do, I do. He is a one-off, it is a terrible

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cliche, but he is. Like no one else. He is not constricted by class, he

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is never showing off, he is authentic and eccentric, yes, but

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not in a self-conscious way. If a true eccentric doesn't know perhaps

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why he is funny. Sunday Driver! am not sure whether Brian knows

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about reining himself in. I admire that. There are lots of us who

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would love to think that we could just let ourselves go in any

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society. The most important thing in life is to love yourself. Oscar

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Wilde said "To love oneself is to have a lifelong romance", and so I

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do love my company and I like myself, and therefore, I like

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people. He has this extraordinary vitality and sometimes it is

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completely off the wall, but there is always an absolute truth and

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honesty about what he says and what he believes. When he comes round,

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my children adore him, and they see the truth very instant the, kids,

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whether people are interested in them, what they like a don't like -

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- instantly. They think Brian is the funniest person on the planet.

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He never forget she wore what he cares about and his generosity of

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spirit and generosity of soul will never be diminished -- he never

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forgets you or what he cares about. Perhaps that the generosity of soul

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first sprang from his interest even as a child in religion. But that

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interest was even quashed before it began. We had a wonderful school

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and wonderful teachers. Three or four times a week, you had the BBC

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Rep company doing religious stories. You would hear the same actors

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doing it. "I am Jesus!" And they were lacking. But Mr RB, he was at

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gardening teacher and a priest on the weekends, he had one eye -- Mr

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Paul Daly. He totally entranced me about Jesus as we turned over the

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compost heap. We talked about the distances Jesus walked. He worked

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it out in mileage, he was incredibly fit, and what kind of

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language he had used. Brian lived in the village of Goldthorpe in

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South Yorkshire. Most families they relied on the Colman's for

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employment. -- coal mines. It was a hard life with little scope for

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ambition. Most of the kits would follow their fathers down the mines

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and marry pretty younger and that is how they imagined it would

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always be. A difficult life with soot in your lungs and it collapses.

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Not exactly the highest paid job and one of the most dangerous and

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unpleasant. So Brian, although his childhood was tough, then it an

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inspiring time. The coal mines, they were wonderful days. I am not

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knocking the days I had. The war years were wonderful and fed meat,

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my imagination, because we had to cinemas in the village -- fed me.

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We could see Flash Gordon in black and white, we had a wooden radios,

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no television, programmes on the BBC, and Mike father was a cold

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cure and he came through at home with their gas lights -- my father

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was a cold cure. He came through like Hector, with his light on. "I

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am reading about the amazing Mr X, Dad!". And I had uncles with

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enormous power he would go to the opera in Sheffield, Orpheus in the

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underworld, and they would describe it and acted and we had heroes

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around us. With such inspiration, it is hardly surprising that Brian

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felt drawn to perform himself. He discovered that he had a talent for

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acting and there were plenty of opportunities close at hand for

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young person keen to take the stage. There was a man in South Yorkshire

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called Harry Dobson. I have never met the director to recall him, as

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a mentor, a big man with sausage fingers, great big ball of a man,

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and I beg him to take me on. He said, "My God, lad, you're a rough

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diamond. It's going to be an lot of hard work". And he worked on May.

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Harry Dobson worked on another people who would become a famous

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actor. The future captain of the USS Enterprise, Patrick Stewart.

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is strange to think that these two, one of them unbelievably hairy and

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I think Patrick Stewart was bowled when he was 17, so a wonderful

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mixture, -- bald. I think God was soon an amusing mood when he was

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sending babies down the chimney that particular day, he thought

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there would be fun to have been that part of Yorkshire with two

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extraordinary people, both of them extraordinary actors. Patrick has

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that extraordinary tenor voice. Brian like this... The most

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extraordinary couple. Let's ask about this voice. As a South

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Yorkshire boy, you obviously had a good Yorkshire accent, and now...

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Yes, it was a problem. Patrick Stewart was the same. He was my

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buddy, Patrick, though he was much more refined. I have to say, the

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people in South Yorkshire found it very hard to understand what I was

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saying. I told him very much a Yorkshire accent, even Shakespeare,

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everything. I could hold on to the Val also be there could reasonably

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understand, but by Haddad incredibly thick Yorkshire accent,

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more than anybody ass -- I had. Harry encouraged him to moderate

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his accent but not lose the expression. The result is one of

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the most distinctive voices. He has resonance, power. I will never

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bring him back, he can stay there and rot. Brian was always quite

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allowed young man. He wasn't quiet. He has a kind of Henry VIII sort of

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voice. It is like an instrument, his voice. At first blush, he

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appears to be allowed, and they actor. -- a loud. And then you

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realise he is very good. Goldthorpe in the early 1950s,

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Brian's new way of speaking and his love of acting lead from criticism

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from some who felt he was getting above himself -- led to criticism.

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For his bravado, he was a sensitive lad. I think he is more complicated

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than he seems and growing up in Yorkshire, this mixture of

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sensitivity and intelligence, with a big, boisterous energy and

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strength, it is an odd combination. I don't think, if you're an actor,

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it's very easy to be part of the group who grew up with and there

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she grew up with in a bohemian sort of atmosphere, because most people

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regard actors as a bit weird, and I can't imagine what a lot of his

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contemporaries, the other boys at school, would have thought, that

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saw him on stage, speaking in Shakespearean verse or whatever.

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harsh review in the local paper of one of his amateur performances had

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a terrible effect on Brian. It led to dramatic break them. The paper

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claims that he had over acted his part. Everywhere I went, people

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said, I will try to this part. It was a chink of light armour, and I

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didn't take any notice, or so I thought. I ignored them and ignored

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them and then suddenly I found, gradually, that I was becoming

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morose. And my mother was frightened. I would come home in

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the evenings and look at the fire, with big staring eyes. "You're

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frightening me, Brian, what's the matter?" "I'm fine!" I thought my

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thoughts were speeding up, "You have got a gift, you have got a

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gift" and I was doing it all day. I couldn't cope. And then I called

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for God. Help may! I'm drowning! I need help! -- help me. And I called.

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No point being an armchair philosopher, do you believe in God,

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do you not? For God's sake, if you are put in that situation, you call

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for help and I needed help, I was There was an answer to Brian's plea

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for help in the form of his speech to a chair, Frank Cooper. Brian

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went to visit him. I walked in through the door. Forget the speech

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election, I am finished! I can't think, I can't speak, I can't do

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anything. And I collapsed. I said "I'm no good, everyone says it" And

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I wept and wept and groaned Emily and groans and collapsed,

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unconscious on the floor -- a million groans. When I woke up, he

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was washing my face with at Halle and his wife was saying "It's all

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right." And he started singing songs and then he did some poetry

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about love and bits of Shakespeare, bits of this, bits of that.

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Wonderful, deeper things that penetrated my head. And he stroked

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my head and whispered all of these are wonderful Lions from Ulysses by

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Tennyson, to strive to yield, you know. Not to Gillian and it all

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went in to my head -- give in. And he cured me. It was a miracle. And

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I laughed and he said, that better. Nice to see a laugh. You'll be all

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right now. And that never looked Brian has certainly never looked

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back. After National Service with the RAF, he went to drama school at

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the Bristol Old Vic. Brian was different, he was quite different

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from all other students. Not that one particularly looked up to buy

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up -- to Brian. One just looked at him in amazement and wonder. Brian

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used to tell stories, a bit like a fairy stories, and everything he

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ever said, one bought 100%, even though one may have thought, he is

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having me on. You believe everything and maybe that is the

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mark of somebody who is rather a good actor. Brian couldn't be

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described as a model student. He had his own ideas. He wouldn't

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necessarily do what teachers wanted him to do. Maybe that is the nature

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of a drama school. I am not sure that they are much use to you, if

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you have already got what Brian He didn't have to wait long for

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success. His first big role was in I watched Z Cars as a boy. If I

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hear that tuned to this day, I get prickles up the back of my neck.

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Cars was a police drama set in the fictional Liverpool suburb of

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Newtown. What was startling is that it was an extremely realistic

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depiction of police work. He is arguing with the inspector, he

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can't win. It used top quality writers, high quality scripts and

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realism about police work, and compelling characters. Brian played

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a confident bobbly, nicknamed Fancy Smith. I am going to have to take

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you in for stealing property from a toy company. I have nothing to say,

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I want my scarf. We can let him have a cup of tea before he goes?

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We could, I suppose. It was a series that lived dangerously. It

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went out alive. It is being with him, I suppose. Live performance

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gives you the same as theatre, it gives you an age, and excitement, a

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pace. The other side of that is that you can't, by definition, have

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retakes. Genuine courage was required. I did not by those

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brushes. As far as I know, he opened the door and he went. What

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courage was it, to do a live broadcast every week, live

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television is exciting, and good fun. But dangerous. Yes. It was all

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new on Z Cars. It was 45 minutes live, and five minutes filmed. We

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had 24, to 28 million viewers. The first time I was introduced as

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Fancy Smith, dancing outside a pub, I a slightly get a word wrong.

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you got... One of those cars. managed to grip on and do something

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interesting. You wait there.

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I almost lost it, I almost lost my nerve. After that, I was fine. I

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could do anything on a live show. Ad-lib if things went wrong, hold

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up a wall if things went wrong. Even hold up the car if the springs

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had gone in the studio. I have said nothing about it to

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John. I believe you. You don't! It was a wonderful challenge.

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guests used to have terrible times. John Hurt, I had a 10 minutes seen

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with him. The light came on, that meant 24 million, or 28 million

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viewers, and I was supposed to break him down. I said, I want to

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have a word with you. He said, I'm guilty. Steel 10 minutes scene had

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gone! The news went out 10 minutes early map - the whole 10 minutes

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scene had gone. It was me who got the blame. When the news comes in

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early, it is because people are terrified of me! Fancy Smith is

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this marvellous character that you grew and loved and created. He was

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as big and as famous as The Beatles, they were there at the time as well.

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Yes, I couldn't walk down the street. I lived in Richmond, Surrey.

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I had to wait until about 515, and rushed to Woolworths and get some

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food quick. I went to Derby to do a book signing, I had never done a

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book signing. James Bond was on, Sean Connery, From Russia With Love,

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thousands of people were going to see this film. I said, can you tell

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me the way to this book... He's here! I spent nine hours in this

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book shop, signing autographs with the police looking after me. That

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was the effect of Z Cars. It was phenomenal. How do you stop that

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making you too big for your boots? Or did it affect you? You are young

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man, it is going to have an effect on you. It was a shock that one

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could be so well known. And yet not known? I wasn't resentful, but I

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realised I had lost a lot of freedom. That I couldn't get around,

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I couldn't go into my parks. I was already thinking of Adventures and

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things, it curtailed a lot of that. I slightly became a prisoner. I

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think it would be fair to say, I was known as the big head of the

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company. In that I tended... I find it difficult, being a somewhat

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classical actor. I had to do a little bit off the set as well,

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which I think people found a bit Brian had run-ins with one member

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of the cast in particular, Stratford Johns, who played

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Inspector Barlow. I said you are a cheeky young fellow. I was always

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answerable to him, as the inspector in Z Cars, Stratford Johns. In I

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Claudius, I was Augustus Caesar. Suddenly, he was a senator in my

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court. There was a long scene, I walk down and I put it in and I say

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about moderation. Don't I know you? No, Caesar. He suddenly dropped it

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After leaving Z Cars, Brian took on roles very different from Fancy

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Smith. He played St Peter in its Dennis Potter's controversial TV

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drama, Son Of Man. Brian hadn't lost his childhood fascination with

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the figure of Jesus. Colin Blakely played the title role. I wanted to

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come with me. Where to? All over this land, I have to preach to the

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people. I have to tell them things kept secret since the world began.

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There had not been many depictions of Christ, or Christ's story in

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broadcasting, because for many decades they were not allowed.

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What Dennis Potter did, and the cast did fantastically well in Son

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Of Man, was to try to give a more naturalistic, realistic portrayal

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of that story. And so the key thing in the acting and the writing was

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realism. When it came to doing the film, when they started the first

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scene, Colin could not come out of his dressing room. I can't be

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choosers, I can't do it. He was a terrific actor. -- I can't be Jesus.

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They couldn't get him out. I went in there. I had him doing the

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Lord's Prayer. I said, that's it, that's it, mechanical. Like every

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time people do the Lord's Prayer, it is generally mechanical. So

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there is a kind of boredom element about it. I had him doing things,

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for thine is the kingdom! Thine is the kingdom! The Power And the

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Glory! For ever! And ever! And it shook him. And I said. Get on and

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play it! And he was tremendous. He sailed through it and it came to

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the Crucifixion. It is the Crucifixion... You find out, you

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ask, before you do the scene. You find out what it means. And he went

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on the cross, and he went, my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?

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Colin went, my God! My God! Swire Everybody went, God... It was

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amazing. It was so amazing that there were live debates after it on

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television. And all sorts of things. Yes. What do you feel about this?

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He was a real man, he had hairs on his chest, he had failings. He said,

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is it me? One word from the cross, only. Why have you forsaken me. The

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one that expresses doubt. This sums up quite validly, dramatically from

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Dennis Potter's point of view, that this in no doubt is in Jesus. He

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doesn't say that the final words of Christ are, it is completed, a cry

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of triumph. More than 40 years on from Dennis Potter's drama, the

:27:59.:28:02.

importance and power of the Crucifixion is undiminished for

:28:02.:28:12.
:28:12.:28:12.

Brian. The creator, God, loves his son. Who he is proud of. It's but

:28:12.:28:19.

he allows his sons to be stretched on a cross, and nails put through,

:28:19.:28:29.
:28:29.:28:29.

and why? It is Jesus' mission, why he came. They would take all the

:28:29.:28:34.

sins of the world on his shoulder. All the sins, Hitler, everything,

:28:34.:28:39.

everybody, Saddam Hussein, whatever, all this, murderous killers, he

:28:39.:28:49.
:28:49.:28:49.

takes it all on his shoulders. And what loneliness must he feel, as he

:28:49.:28:55.

allows himself to become a man? I am being over-dramatic on his

:28:55.:29:01.

interview, aren't I? When are you not have a dramatic? There is

:29:01.:29:05.

nothing I can do about it. I have a three-litre engine, there is hugger

:29:05.:29:15.
:29:15.:29:17.

all I can do about it. Brian is an extraordinary person to interview.

:29:17.:29:20.

And he is right about the three- litre engine, he has an agent

:29:20.:29:25.

energy for a man of 75. -- amazing energy. It has field some

:29:25.:29:33.

remarkable acting. To be, or not to be. -- it has fuelled some

:29:33.:29:39.

remarkable acting. This is my patch. It is something inside him. It

:29:39.:29:43.

transmits through the camera, you don't have to stand next to him,

:29:43.:29:46.

sit round the dinner table with him, be in his physical presence, I

:29:46.:29:51.

think you can feel it. Sort of imagine it, imagine being hugged by

:29:51.:29:57.

him and how it could turn into a rib cracking experience. I think he

:29:57.:30:01.

is quite an instinctive actor, actually. I am not sure he goes

:30:01.:30:05.

home at night and looks at the lines and thinks, if I go up at the

:30:06.:30:14.

end of this line or down, that will do that. He was back - it was

:30:14.:30:20.

always an adventure, and excitement, on stage to work with him. Some

:30:20.:30:24.

people might say Brian is not subtle. But why should he be?

:30:24.:30:30.

Quiches is a performer. He is an over a go. -- he is a performer. He

:30:30.:30:40.
:30:40.:30:45.

perhaps does more than is necessary, I sometimes have a longing to be a

:30:46.:30:50.

private citizen again. One of Brian's most famous roles was

:30:50.:30:55.

Caesar Augustus and the BBC series I Claudius. It showed he could play

:30:55.:31:00.

not only policemen and fisherman, but emperors as well. I watch it at

:31:00.:31:05.

least once a year, it is so magnificent. It is the last great

:31:05.:31:09.

studio made drama in British television history. It is the

:31:09.:31:13.

acting that people remember and they were really on a tightrope,

:31:14.:31:18.

because they were using theatre actors predominantly and they bring

:31:18.:31:25.

a power and a weight and a sort of Shakespearian Association. Is it

:31:25.:31:30.

too late to lay down the burdens of office? You are just like your

:31:30.:31:39.

father. Always wanting the Republic. He was my enemy to at one time. --

:31:39.:31:45.

also. He was the bullying but rather put upon emperor, Augustus,

:31:45.:31:50.

the first emperor. Under around him, his family and his loved ones were

:31:50.:31:54.

being poisoned by his wife, whom he trusted and that the very end, he

:31:54.:32:00.

himself is poisoned. It is very embarrassing. People might think we

:32:00.:32:04.

were trying to poison you. death of August this is one of the

:32:05.:32:11.

series's most famous moments. death scene is magnificent, if you

:32:11.:32:15.

watch it, he keeps completely still with his eyes are open for, I think

:32:16.:32:22.

it must be, 90 seconds. You actually watch him die, you see the

:32:22.:32:28.

RA's the Delays slightly. They don't blink and he doesn't move. --

:32:28.:32:33.

you see the IRA's blaze. It is one of the great death scenes in

:32:33.:32:43.
:32:43.:32:47.

television history. -- eyes glaze. The extraordinary adventure of

:32:47.:32:51.

Brian Blessed's life took another turn in the early 80s and it had a

:32:51.:32:56.

lot to do with a set of poems around cats and one of Britain's

:32:56.:33:00.

most successful composers of musical theatre. When Andrew Lloyd

:33:01.:33:05.

Webber said his next musical was based on TS Eliot's Old Possum's

:33:05.:33:08.

Book of Practical Cats, the common feeling was that he was completely

:33:08.:33:13.

mad and it would be a disaster, so the claws were red, as it were, for

:33:13.:33:20.

Cats. -- out. It was as far away from the mainstream as you can get.

:33:20.:33:26.

A group of people saying, "We are going to turn ourselves into

:33:26.:33:31.

pussycats and we are going to seeing children's songs." it was an

:33:31.:33:39.

extraordinary experiment. And the fact that it ran for 23, 24 years,

:33:39.:33:43.

those of us involved could never quite believe it. Brian played the

:33:43.:33:48.

role of the wise cat Old Deuteronomy.

:33:48.:33:54.

# The cat who has led many lives... A Old Deuteronomy was gentle, why

:33:54.:33:59.

is, ultimately ecstatic and priest like -- why is. And scarcely ever

:33:59.:34:08.

moves, the traffic stops for him. Hatchback you've heard there are

:34:08.:34:16.

several kinds of cat... I had no idea that Brian could sing,

:34:16.:34:21.

but he was very game. He was very up for it. He was an adventurer in

:34:21.:34:29.

every sense. The first time I saw my dad acting on a stage that I can

:34:29.:34:36.

remember properly really was when he was in Cats. That was this

:34:36.:34:42.

amazing voice. It was overwhelming, so exciting. The first six months,

:34:42.:34:47.

it was like no other show. It was transcendental, wherever you went.

:34:47.:34:53.

You could touch the air. The audience and the cast became one.

:34:53.:34:57.

Old Deuteronomy stayed on stage during the interval, and children

:34:57.:35:03.

were encouraged to cuddle and talk to him. It became a big thing. Boys

:35:03.:35:07.

and girls dressed as cats and they would come and sit with me.

:35:07.:35:13.

stage? They would have ice-creams and talk to me. It is lovely to see

:35:13.:35:17.

your dad like that, everyone loving him and him being the safe, warm

:35:17.:35:24.

place. When I was that age, I was five, that is what he was for me.

:35:24.:35:28.

Then up on stage, he was that for everybody else, which was lovely.

:35:28.:35:32.

At one performance, something remarkable happened. There was a

:35:32.:35:38.

man and woman to bear and a little girl and I said "Are you enjoying

:35:38.:35:47.

it?" and she said "... Yes" And her parents started to cry and I

:35:47.:35:52.

thought I had said the wrong thing. And they said, "Know, quite the

:35:53.:35:59.

contrary. That is the first time at child has ever spoken -- no.". And

:35:59.:36:03.

she came after that quite regularly and her speech got better and

:36:03.:36:08.

better. What you think it was in Old Deuteronomy that did something

:36:08.:36:15.

to that little girl that she could respond? She totally and utterly

:36:15.:36:23.

believed that as Old Deuteronomy... She forgot her ailment and

:36:23.:36:28.

responded with great heart. She just believe did me. A child's

:36:28.:36:36.

belief is astonishing, isn't it, occasionally? Occasionally, you get

:36:36.:36:41.

feedback from audience, a letter, a postcard, a telephone call, and the

:36:41.:36:47.

sort of incident that Brown has described, where somebody will say

:36:47.:36:51.

that as a result of the show, something like changing has gone on

:36:51.:36:56.

-- Brian has described. You definitely can't ever set out to

:36:56.:37:02.

bring that about and if you hear of such a thing, it is only humbling

:37:02.:37:12.
:37:12.:37:15.

and just make you go a bit quiet. There is one place that appealed to

:37:15.:37:20.

Brian's sense of adventure far more than being on stage in the West End.

:37:21.:37:28.

Somewhere that as a boy, he often dreamed of. Mount Everest. Brian

:37:28.:37:33.

was inspired by one climber in particular, George Mallory, who in

:37:33.:37:40.

1924, died attempting to conquer the peak. I wanted to follow in his

:37:40.:37:43.

footsteps to pay tribute to this great man, and his great

:37:43.:37:48.

mountaineer friends, a tribute to their great ideals. Ideals that to

:37:48.:37:53.

a certain extent we have lost the day. People said it was impossible.

:37:53.:37:57.

But Bryant didn't want to just conquer Everest, he wanted to make

:37:57.:38:03.

a film that faithfully recreated Mallory's climb. Murray left his

:38:03.:38:08.

wife and children, babies basically, for this dream and passion -- and

:38:08.:38:13.

Mallory. I think that appealed to Brian, because he has the same

:38:13.:38:16.

desire to do something extraordinary. There is no way that

:38:16.:38:21.

Brian could play Mallory. He was too old, he was and slim and young.

:38:21.:38:28.

But what he did do was embody Mallory. He sold it as a one-man

:38:28.:38:34.

show up Everest. And also not in modern beer. We had gone out and

:38:34.:38:39.

got tweed jackets and tweed trousers -- Kiev. And hobnail boots,

:38:39.:38:45.

basically. We were doing it as Mallory would have done it. When

:38:45.:38:51.

Dad did finally go up Everest to make his film, I think my mother

:38:51.:38:57.

and I just listened to the silence. It was quite restful, because he

:38:57.:39:01.

had been so obsessed with it was such a long time, he needed to go

:39:02.:39:04.

out there and do it, because he could only tell us the story so

:39:04.:39:10.

many times. And there was only so me times we could hear it. John-

:39:10.:39:14.

Paul Davidson knew that when Brian Ayres or Everest for the first time,

:39:14.:39:19.

it would be a moment he had to capture -- saw Everest.

:39:19.:39:25.

purposely held it back from him and those days, you had to have all the

:39:25.:39:30.

magazines Loaded, so could week -- so we could record his first sight

:39:30.:39:34.

of the mountain, when you see it at the head of the ballet. It was

:39:34.:39:40.

extraordinary, because he just filled up. It looks so beautiful. I

:39:40.:39:46.

can see the North face... He is not one for weeping and crying, but you

:39:46.:39:50.

could see the intensity of the experience. He had dreamt about

:39:50.:39:59.

this moment for so long. I think that is where... That is where

:39:59.:40:09.
:40:09.:40:10.

Mallory is. I just can't believe I am there. It is a dream come true.

:40:10.:40:14.

Just to add to the adventure, despite the dangerously thin air,

:40:14.:40:23.

Brian was climbing without oxygen. He loves the fact that he has a

:40:23.:40:28.

pair of lungs on him that are almost unique and therefore have

:40:28.:40:33.

allowed him to climb up Everest and without using oxygen. Yet when you

:40:33.:40:38.

speak to him, he is always wheezing and you think "How can he even

:40:38.:40:46.

climb the stairs" This is hell, I never envisaged this.

:40:46.:40:50.

I have always thought that my father was indestructible and I

:40:50.:40:54.

have no doubt that he would come back. He is a force of nature and I

:40:54.:40:59.

can't imagine anything ever happening to him. I have never

:40:59.:41:03.

climbed a mountain, so I don't know, but I have a feeling that there

:41:03.:41:06.

must be a conversation that the mountain is having with you.

:41:06.:41:11.

there something spiritual, that when you get so high and you can

:41:11.:41:14.

see the heavens and you are so close, do you feel you are closer

:41:14.:41:19.

to something else? Absolutely. And the beauty of the place is

:41:19.:41:23.

staggering. The privilege of being amongst its millions of rainbows

:41:23.:41:30.

and to look up into the cobalt blue and the ridges that go on, and the

:41:30.:41:35.

curvature of the Earth. You are closer to the Creator. Your

:41:35.:41:41.

emotions are rarefied. For me, the sacrifice of being physically

:41:41.:41:45.

pummelled was made up for by the spiritual ascent that I made and I

:41:45.:41:49.

have never looked back since. were talking before you went and I

:41:49.:41:52.

heard you say that you were concerned about hallucinating it,

:41:52.:41:57.

you were scared of that, yet fellow climbers said they are to be

:41:57.:42:03.

welcomed. Yes, I welcomed them indeed. Reinhold Messner, the

:42:03.:42:07.

greatest mountaineer ever, he said, "You hallucinate, that is good and

:42:07.:42:12.

you will talk to your rucksack, it is good. Hallucinate with the

:42:12.:42:21.

mountain and she will look at you". So just go with it.

:42:21.:42:27.

Everest, or when it is you are feeling refined and in love with it,

:42:27.:42:32.

that is when she is at her most dangerous. And at one point, my

:42:32.:42:38.

grandfather appeared. This happens many time on Everest Two people.

:42:38.:42:44.

Open but you better go down, that, you have done really well, -- "You

:42:44.:42:50.

better go down, lad, you have done really well." And I turned around

:42:50.:42:57.

and he was not there. He is not there. Then I turned around and he

:42:57.:43:01.

was still there. Solid. I have had that experience several times on

:43:01.:43:06.

Everest. We are going to sail to the top

:43:06.:43:15.

this time, God willing! All we will stamp to the top. We are taking the

:43:15.:43:25.
:43:25.:43:36.

Brian did it turn back. He had climbed to 27,000 feet -- did turn

:43:36.:43:40.

back. It was a significant achievement. There is just now F. I

:43:40.:43:48.

have got to stop or I will never get back. -- no the air. I can't

:43:48.:43:52.

think of many actors that would have the endurance, the fortitude,

:43:52.:43:57.

the persistence, all the qualities that are needed to climb any

:43:57.:44:07.
:44:07.:44:10.

For Brian, life is a spiritual as well as a physical adventure. On

:44:10.:44:14.

his expedition, he was fascinated by the Buddhist faith of the

:44:14.:44:19.

Himalayan people he encountered. To Brian's delight, after much

:44:19.:44:23.

negotiation, he was able to meet the Dalai Lama and get his blessing

:44:23.:44:28.

for that climb. But any conversation involving Mr Blessed

:44:28.:44:34.

can take an unusual term. Mallory, when they were first going, they

:44:34.:44:38.

were going through Tibet and had to get permission from the Dalai Lama

:44:38.:44:43.

to climb it, because it is a sacred mountain. I was trying to recreate,

:44:43.:44:49.

in a sense, that meeting. Brian was, of course, thrilled to meet him.

:44:49.:44:54.

And it his blessing. That was what we were hoping for. He was very

:44:54.:44:59.

generous and found the meeting with Prayad Hallur areas. Brian is not

:44:59.:45:03.

intimidated with anyone -- the meeting with Brian hilarious. The

:45:03.:45:12.

I think a middle-aged man here, dressed in 1920s clothes, very much

:45:12.:45:16.

needs a lot of blessing. It would be a great privilege and I would be

:45:16.:45:26.
:45:26.:45:30.

This is a symbolised blessing. you meet someone like the Dalai

:45:30.:45:34.

Lama, if you can get some time alone with him, or someone like

:45:34.:45:41.

that, you become yourself. I was almost rude to him. I am saying,

:45:41.:45:48.

it's Your Holiness, you make me 6th! You make me really sick! Why

:45:48.:45:57.

do I make you sick? Because you are so good! It is hard to live with.

:45:57.:46:01.

So millions turn out to see you, you are so good! Don't you ever get

:46:02.:46:06.

angry? Yes, if you weeks ago, a doctor came to inject me, to go

:46:06.:46:12.

abroad, and he had a needle, and he stuck it and it went into my bone

:46:12.:46:16.

and I was in such pain, I thought, I hate that doctor, he is fatter

:46:16.:46:24.

than... What? Fatter than me? Is that what you are saying? I am a

:46:24.:46:28.

human being, you are going to hurt me. I am hurt.

:46:28.:46:34.

So, please forgive me. On your knees! He goes on his

:46:34.:46:39.

knees! I said, all right, I am a forgiving man, I forgive you, stand

:46:39.:46:46.

up. That was my relationship with him all the time. He is a man with

:46:46.:46:52.

a powerful sense of humour? A huge sense of humour. This extraordinary

:46:52.:46:56.

conversation took an even more surprising twist. Brian claims that

:46:56.:47:00.

the Dalai Lama knew that Brian's brother was seriously ill, and told

:47:00.:47:05.

him that when he died, he would be reincarnated. He said, your brother,

:47:05.:47:13.

not well. It won't be long now. It's when you pass away. -- when he

:47:13.:47:19.

passed away. But three, 4 o'clock in the morning, he believed in God.

:47:19.:47:29.
:47:29.:47:31.

He will be fine. He will be born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Yeah. I never

:47:31.:47:36.

mentioned that before. Good heavens, did that come true? I believe so. I

:47:36.:47:41.

would rather leave it alone, but yes. That is what he said. My

:47:41.:47:50.

brother is alive in Nova Scotia, about 12 years old. Go at heavens.

:47:50.:47:57.

-- good heavens. Can I ask you how you know that? Because I have

:47:57.:48:01.

visited him. I went to Halifax, I was filming in some lovely studios

:48:01.:48:06.

there. I went to this area where he was, and that is exactly the guy I

:48:06.:48:09.

knew, my little brother when I was 12 years of age, with a Canadian

:48:09.:48:15.

accent. I have to keep asking you this. Did the Dalai Lama to you

:48:15.:48:20.

precisely the address? He did. went to that address and waited?

:48:20.:48:23.

didn't tell anybody, I said I was in the area for but I didn't even

:48:23.:48:28.

say to the boy. The boy like me straight away, we got on very well.

:48:28.:48:35.

I was looking at Allen. You totally believe that? Totally. I find that

:48:35.:48:40.

life is a miracle, the whole thing is a complete miracle. I agree that

:48:40.:48:45.

life is a miracle in itself, but once again, Brian has left me with

:48:45.:48:55.
:48:55.:48:55.

For many people, Brian Blessed is not associated with climbing

:48:55.:49:02.

Everest, starring in Z Cars, or I Claudius. Instead, he is famous for

:49:02.:49:07.

possibly the two best-known words in cinema history. I am sure when

:49:07.:49:12.

he goes down the street, everybody shouts, Gordon's a live! Because

:49:12.:49:20.

that is how they remember him, been good old Flash Gordon. Flash Gordon

:49:20.:49:23.

was an epic and slightly camp science-fiction film, in which

:49:23.:49:28.

Brian played Prince Vultan, leader of the Hawkmen. It was a part that

:49:28.:49:33.

Brian was thrilled to take. Did you think this was going to be a very

:49:33.:49:41.

defining role for you? This is your Everest, on film, in a way? Yes, I

:49:41.:49:46.

did. I had seen Flash Gordon as a child in the local cinema, the

:49:46.:49:50.

Empire Cinema, once a week on Saturday, in black and white,

:49:50.:49:54.

terrific. I always pretended to be Prince Vultan, pretending to fly

:49:54.:50:00.

and jumping off the bridge, on to the top of a train and on again.

:50:00.:50:07.

Anyway, I never dreamt I would play it. During one important day's

:50:07.:50:11.

filming, Brian got rather carried away. His boyhood self took over.

:50:11.:50:17.

There is a scene in it, where we attack a rocket ship. It took five

:50:17.:50:21.

days to get these dynamite ready, the special effects, the lads on

:50:21.:50:29.

board, the monsters on board. We are flying 2,500 men. We are trying

:50:29.:50:35.

to get ready, I had a big bazooka, which was made of cardboard. It

:50:35.:50:45.

took five days to get ready, stand by! Action! Come in, a flash! Dive!

:50:45.:50:53.

Which I invented, it is from the iron. Squadron 14, died! -- it is

:50:53.:51:03.
:51:03.:51:07.

They said, cut, cut, cut. Brian, we put in the special effects. I had

:51:07.:51:13.

never felt such a twit in all my life. Because I was doing the

:51:13.:51:18.

special effects with my mouth. bless you! They had to reset the

:51:18.:51:22.

whole thing, it took two days. Brian! We put in the special

:51:22.:51:32.

effects! You raced to be there. That is one of those... You'll have

:51:32.:51:42.
:51:42.:51:44.

to give us a quick Gordon's I live! I feel good! Wherever I go and I am

:51:44.:51:47.

walking down the street, on the scaffolding and taxes, people say,

:51:47.:51:53.

give us -- hears the telephone, please say to my wife, Gordon's

:51:53.:51:59.

alive. Jukes and Lords and Camilla Parker Bowles! Would you mind

:51:59.:52:09.
:52:09.:52:09.

saying Gordon's alive. Everybody asks me to say Gordon's alive.

:52:09.:52:14.

polls continued to slide for Gordon Brown. Some people are saying he's

:52:14.:52:18.

dead and buried, but I think the opposite. I say Gordon pars alive!

:52:18.:52:25.

Yes! Other people know dad would different things. The vast majority

:52:25.:52:29.

of what defined the idea of Brian Blessed really was Prince Vultan.

:52:29.:52:33.

Which is fantastic, I just think it's a bit of a shame that some of

:52:33.:52:40.

his other work gets missed. He is no one-trick pony, but sometimes I

:52:40.:52:44.

think people see him like that. There is a difficulty being an

:52:44.:52:47.

actor, many actors go through their careers without ever having a stand

:52:47.:52:53.

out role. Obviously, that's bad. The flipside is that sometimes, you

:52:53.:52:58.

get a role that is so remarked on, and so visible, that it actually

:52:58.:53:02.

overshadows the rest of your career, and the decisions of casting

:53:02.:53:08.

directors. I think that did happen with Flash Gordon. It was such a

:53:08.:53:14.

perfect role that I think that after that, when the parodies of

:53:14.:53:20.

Brian Blessed really became very big. Do you have a copy of All

:53:20.:53:25.

quiet On the Western Front? quiet on the Western Front! Let me

:53:25.:53:29.

just check! With his booming voice and Everest sized personality,

:53:29.:53:33.

there was always a danger that Brian would become an exaggeration

:53:33.:53:37.

of his younger self. He seems very comfortable, it is just another

:53:37.:53:44.

part of his big adventure. Bollards! Is see a national

:53:44.:53:48.

treasure, yes. He is a national asset. There should be railings but

:53:48.:53:54.

around him. He has done 60, 70 films now. Dad had is still the

:53:54.:53:59.

high point, physically and I think, metaphorically, of what I have done

:53:59.:54:09.
:54:09.:54:17.

I would like to say how really lucky I think I am, to have grown

:54:17.:54:26.

up with someone who is so it's generous, and extraordinary and

:54:26.:54:35.

funny. And just inspiring. You know, and a pain, obviously! Brian is

:54:35.:54:39.

still busy acting, which after 50 years in the profession, is quite

:54:39.:54:44.

an achievement. Last year, he and Ros perform together for the first

:54:44.:54:48.

time in the BBC series, Doctors. She played a daughter whose father

:54:48.:54:52.

is suffering from memory loss and he believes he should go into an

:54:52.:54:56.

old people's home. How long have you been in the nursing home?

:54:56.:55:01.

has been an age. South you tried it for one day. It is full of old

:55:01.:55:06.

people! It was lovely to work with dad, we have never acted face to

:55:06.:55:16.
:55:16.:55:18.

face before. It was basically a tussle between a daughter, who

:55:18.:55:22.

wants to come into her own right as a person, who has grown up with a

:55:22.:55:26.

famous father. I don't know where they got that idea!

:55:26.:55:32.

Daddy, are you all right? Yes, I frightened Stirling Moss here.

:55:32.:55:37.

you only know how much it's worry you have called me. I have aged 20

:55:37.:55:42.

years in an hour. That's nice, you can catch up with me! It's not

:55:42.:55:50.

funny! Your youngest daughter is an actress and recently, your paths

:55:50.:55:57.

crossed and you work together. Was that a deliberate happening? They

:55:57.:56:00.

cast their before me and then they realised I would be good as an

:56:00.:56:06.

eccentric who is a bit of a genius. I wish I had been born infertile.

:56:06.:56:14.

wish I had been brought up by nerves -- by walls. I was very

:56:14.:56:19.

nervous. She is very mercurial and volatile. The pair of us, having

:56:19.:56:29.
:56:29.:56:32.

such gargantuan qualities, would we Daddy, you are wonderful. But if we

:56:32.:56:36.

carry on like this, we are going to kill each other. And I love you too

:56:36.:56:43.

much. Our time in Brian's little hut at the end of his garden is

:56:43.:56:47.

almost over. With Christmas close at hand, I wondered how Brian's

:56:47.:56:51.

family would be spending it. How important is this Advent time for

:56:51.:57:01.
:57:01.:57:01.

you? I find I will not be put off Christmas. Since a child. I find it

:57:01.:57:06.

my favourite time of the year. I love all the carols. Some of them

:57:06.:57:14.

There is something about it that centres people, and that I believe,

:57:14.:57:20.

even the person who despises the commercial side of Christmas, or

:57:20.:57:24.

quietly on their own somewhere, in their garden, in their sitting room

:57:24.:57:34.
:57:34.:57:34.

somewhere, quietly just so's an unheard pref -- quietly just says.

:57:35.:57:40.

An unheard prayer. Because we are saved. The politicians can't save

:57:40.:57:47.

us, but we are saved by this single act of colossal bravery, and by the

:57:47.:57:57.
:57:57.:58:00.

trust of the maker. Happy Christmas, What an extraordinary man Brian

:58:00.:58:04.

Blessed is. I know he has conquered so many things in this physical

:58:04.:58:08.

life, whether climbing mountains or creating Prince Vultan ordering

:58:08.:58:13.

whatever he does, but it is the spiritual question inside him that

:58:13.:58:17.

is so fascinating. I don't know what he is going to do next, he

:58:17.:58:21.

probably will climb Everest, he probably will be on the first space

:58:21.:58:25.

Fern Britton interviews actor Brian Blessed and discovers that behind the famously loud voice is a man fascinated by religion and especially Jesus. Brian discusses his teenage breakdown and a love of adventure that has taken him up Everest three times. Friends Stephen Fry and Virginia McKenna pay tribute to one of Britain's most flamboyant actors.


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