Tom Baker and John Culshaw on Dead Ringers
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(with thanks to nmg)
I managed to get hold of the 1999 documentary, "Adventures in Space and Time" the other day, which is narrated (in another Hitch-Hiker link) by Peter Jones. Tom Baker's interview bits, roughly in the middle of it, are hilarious. Transcribed below for your enjoyment.
My trade, such as it is, is to try to be convincing. And the more preposterous the situation or the script, then the more interesting it is to try to be convincing. If youi're playing a realistic thing, you know a man with a gun, that can't be difficult - but to play someone from outer space, a benevolent alien, but who still looks like a human being, and who has secrets - how do you suggest that he is alien?
And so I felt that the best way to suggest that I was an alien and came from somewhere else and had secrets, dark thoughts, and wonderful thoughts, I thought, the way to do that is just to be Tom Baker.
[about the wool for the scarf] They gave it to a woman with a wonderful name called Begonia Pope. (I wonder where she is now? I hope she's happy.) And she was so impressed to be working for the BBC that, so, Jim gave it to her, and he knew nothing about knitting, and so she knitted up all the wool, and because the wool was on the tax-payer, you know, I mean, a whole lorry-load of wool was delivered, or something like that, and when we got to her little house, she could only talk through the letter-box because we couldn't get into the house because of the scarf...
[On his own religious background] I mean, if you can believe in the Christian religion, you can believe in anything. You know, it's so utterly preposterous.
When you went to Communion (it's a big thing about being a Roman Catholic) and you take the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ; and I remember being a difficult child in a sense, always curious and wanting - I said, "Listen, doesn't that make me a cannibal?"
My mother said, "What did you say?"
"Well," I said, "I mean, er, if I'm eating the body and blood and soul and divinity of Our Lord, that makes me a cannibal, doesn't it?"
And then I remember waking up underneath the sideboard, because, you know, she had a tremendous kinda short jab; she didn't like that kind of, um, blasphemy.
So I would recall those amazing days of my faith and try to do the Doctor Who lines - which I never understood anyway - and people Believed them.
[On the overall effect:] I was very aware that people, you know, that children who were frightened, for example, used to bury themselves in their granny's bosoms. And so grannies adored me, because when a granny would see me, you know, in Sloane Square, or Oxford Street or somewhere like that, the granny would suddenly see me, and for some inexplicable reason - here's the power of television - her bosoms would start tingling. Which I think grannies like (I don't know, I'm not a granny). And so, then she'd say, "Ohh! Hello, dear!" And then she'd realise who I was.
So there were all sorts of things that gave me a sense of power, because, you know, I was drunk on this. I was drunk often on other things as well, but I mean I was drunk on being Doctor Who - drunk on being this benevolent character who everyone found funny. It was amazing, that people found me funny all the time. I couldn't pass anyone in the street. Everybody knew me. I was like St Francis of Assisi. I was kissing lepers, or, you know, embracing anyone at all. I was always catching lice from neglected children, and then going home absolutely teeming with nits.
But I didn't mind actually catching illnesses or diseases from them. That's so pitiful, isn't it, really? It's a fearful confession, that's right. I would embrace the afflicted and the contagious, and the infectious.
Anything, really, for a laugh.