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1966: Michael Gothard's memories of Philip Saville, Director of "The Machine Stops"

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Jan. 1st, 1970 | 01:15 pm

In an interview that appeared in ‘X’-Films Vol.3 No 1 in 1973, Michael discussed ‘The Machine Stops’ and his relationship with the Director, Philip Saville.

I was walking down the King’s Road on a Saturday morning with some friends, something I very rarely do. We went somewhere for a coffee. I was with a young lady actress who was doing very well at the time. I was sitting at this table and suddenly a young guy came up to me and said, “That gentleman over there wants to talk to you. He’s Philip Saville.” I didn’t know who Philip Saville was, but it turned out he was a television director.

We went for a walk down the King’s Road, chatting away all the while and he told me about a film he was making. Apparently he wasn’t looking for actors and didn’t even know I was one, but said he was looking for a young guy to play a part in a short film he was making for TV. When he realised I was an actor, we arranged an appointment for the following day.

His office was somewhere in Shepherd’s Bush. After being out of work for two years I was very edgy and easily offendable – in as much as I was quick to take insult. Somehow we got into one of those strange interviews. He was really trying to audition me via an interview, asking me very personal questions. I got progressively more annoyed and pissed-off. I thought, ‘Here we go, another little power trip. He’s enjoying himself at the expense of another out-of-work actor.’ I’d been through that scene so many times I was really ready for battle and, well, we ended up having a flaming row – and that was that! I didn’t see him again for quite a long time and I didn’t – needless to say – get the part in that film. Then a few months later I got a phone call. It was Philip Saville.

He said he could use me for something on television with Yvonne Mitchell – a superb actress – and we ended up doing a show called ‘The Machine Stops’, which went on to win a prize in the International Festivals, and that’s more or less how I got in, how I started work again.

I remember Saville with affection, because it was through him I got into this work again (I was absolutely flat broke). When I completed that show I didn’t have a penny. Normally it takes quite a few weeks before you get paid. Anyway, the night we finished recording I went into my dressing room and there was an envelope with money in it. He knew I was broke and without saying anything he arranged for me to be paid that night – as soon as I was finished. But he was a fiery bastard to work with. He shouts, screams and curses, but he’s great – tremendous energy and enthusiasm. I haven’t worked with him for many years, but I remember him as I said, with great affection. It was my big break.

Complete 'X'-Films Interview

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