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The Devils: memories from Michael Gothard

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Jul. 15th, 1971 | 05:30 am

In an interview that appeared in ‘X’-Films Vol.3 No 1 in 1973, Michael discussed a number of films, including “Scream & Scream Again” and “The Devils.”

“I sweated over [Scream & Scream Again] to get it right, as I did in more serious projects, like “The Devils”, for instance. … in terms of deeper satisfaction obviously “The Devils” was better, but it was a much harder thing to do. “The Devils” was more a mental pressure, by comparison.

I played a priest on the 17th century, a fanatic. I had to speak Latin as naturally as I speak English. I had to really work on that. I spent some time in a monastery with some monks to get that whole atmosphere.1 I studied pages on Latin and exorcism prayers – terribly difficult things to learn. It was agony – you have to learn it like a priest would. I suggested it. [Ken] Russell fixed it up for me to get into this monastery. He understands how actors work, he’s so professional.

I get the impression that it’s helped my reputation in the business. It was, after all, a very celebrated film. For me, it was well publicised. I got 3rd or 4th billing. I did all sorts of things in the movie – tortured Oliver Reed, ended up burning him alive and chanting Latin prayer at him. It was an exhausting film – I enjoyed doing it.

For the last two months of “Arthur” we were knee-deep in snow and rain, so physically it was a much harder part. But Russell was a very exacting man to work for – everyone jumps around. It really challenges you. You’ve really got to get yourself together and concentrate. It’s good. You really feel you’ve accomplished something. That separates the amateurs from the professionals. There’s a lot of amateurs in the business who have no right to be there, but who get away with it – people who have never really studied, who approach it in a very casual sort of way, who take up space. When you work for Russell, you feel good … you know you’re being used as a professional.

He’ll give you all the help you need. I used to get prayer books in the mail, which is incredible. Any success that man has, he deserves.”

1 A.S., who knew Michael well, is doubtful of the monastery visit; Michael was a not a "method" actor. His attitude was, ‘you are an actor, so ACT! You don't need to experience it.’

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