is running in syndication on many public television stations. What follows is a conversation with the show's star and creator, conducted by "Anglofile's" Bill King during the Spring of 1985. The critically acclaimed Broadway production of "Pack of Lies" ended two and a half decades away from the stage for Patrick McGoohan, who first attracted international attention in the mid-'60s as cool master spy John Drake in TV's DANGER MAN and SECRET AGENT and who followed that up by creating and starring in the cult favorite THE PRISONER. Drinking coffee he’d brewed himself, McGoohan sat in the hotel suite that was home during his stint on Broadway, surrounded by evidence of two of
his passions: pictures of his family - Joan, his wife of over three decades; his three daughters; and his three grandchildren - and a word-processor on which he spent his off hours writing.
DIESER TEXT AUF DEUTSCH
DAS TROYER-INTERVIEW MIT PATRICK McGOOHAN
PATRICK McGOOHAN: INTERVIEW MIT MIKE TOMKIES
Since it was in repertory theater in Sheffield, England, that McGoohan got his start in the early 1950s - he was twice named Britains stage actor of the year - he was coming full circle with his return to the boards in "Pack of Lies." His role also hearkened back to earlier work by featuring him as an urbane, slightly condescending British Intelligence officer whose operatives invade a suburban London family’s home disrupting their lives by spying on the family’s best friends - who turn out to be Russian spies.
His stint on Broadway culminated an intensely busy period that saw McGoohan starring in a Canadian film, KINGS AND DESPERATE MEN; playing the villain in the Disney film, BABY - SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND; and co-starring with Jane Seymour in a TV miniseries remake of JAMAICA INN.
McGoohan, who has lived in Pacific Palisades, CA, since 1970 and has 30-odd films under his belt, never has lacked for work since the days of THE PRISONER. As busy as he was, however, the tall, slender Irishman obviously was a frustrated man when he sat down to talk the day before his 57th birthday, three years ago. He was, he said, tired of going from film to film in which he had no say. He was determined to regain control of his career and pursue some measure of the creative freedom that he enjoyed with THE PRISONER.
|Dieses interview ist bemerkenswert aus mehreren gründen. Zum ersten, weil die allfällige diskussion, ob John Drake Nummer Sechs sei, unzweideutig mit "nein" beantwortet wird. Zum zweiten, weil deutlich wird, dass McGoohan eine miniserie von sieben teilen im sinn hatte, wobei offen bleibt, welche der schlussendlich produzierten episoden dazugehören würden. Drittens, weil McGoohan hier wie sonst kaum irgendwo betont, was andernorts als "autorentheorie" begriffen wird: NUMMER 6, das war sein baby. Bei dieser sache hatte er volle kontrolle über nahezu den gesamten produktionsprozess. Und viertens, weil zwischen den zeilen zutage tritt, wie wenig diese autorenschaft in den USA tatsächlich wert war. Für einen wie ihn gab es dort nichts zu tun. Darin trifft er sich nicht zufällig mit Peter Falk. Trotz einer beachtlichen filmliste blieb auch Falk ein außenseiter in Hollywood, seine schauspielerische reputation gewann er eher im independentkino. Nur im rahmen der serie COLUMBO konnte er sich, konnten eine zeitlang sich beide gemeinsam, ausdrücken. Peter Falk wie Patrick McGoohan, ihre kunstfiguren hatten sie längst überwältigt.
He talked with open disdain about most of his more recent film work - largely consisting of playing villains. "I enjoy acting on occasion." the rumbly-voiced actor said with the crooked smile that's always marked his more sardonic roles. But, peering through horn-rimmed glasses at a stack of his own unproduced scripts, he made it clear he would prefer writing. producing and directing his own films. _
Q: Do you work only when something interests you?
One works mainly to keep working. But I've been writing a lot. There are three [film] scripts there [gesturing to his desk]. I'd direct them and coproduce them. That's what I want to do now, more control over my own destiny. The same thing I did with THE PRISONER which I produced and wrote and conceived and directed, and if you fall flat on your face you can't blame anybody else. Which is a good way to go. And if you pull it off, it's very nice. So that's what I want to do.
Q: You've been writing all along. Have many of your scripts been produced?
I've been saving 'em. For this specific reason. I've sold a couple of scripts, but these I want to keep so I can do them myself, you know, you have control over them. You sell a piece of paper, and it's gone.
Q: What does a Patrick McGoohan have to go through to get a film produced that you've written and want to direct?
Well, my main calling card is something that I did that was very successful in its way, THE PRISONER, which I totally controlled. It's on home video now and selling like hotcakes, apparently, I have a piece of it. That's one reason that I got to do it, because I said I don’t want much up front just expenses and I'll gamble on it being a success and I'll take a share Of it. So I did.
Q: After being a hero on TV for long, you’ve played a lot of villains in feature films in recent years.
That's very difficult to explain, really. But I've finished with that. I'm not playing any more villains. That’s it. Unless it’s a great classic villain. For instance. My favorite thing that I've done in the States was a COLUMBO show. He was a commandant of a military school. Now, there's a guy that I wouldn’t call a villain In that sense. He commits murder. In his eyes, totally justified, because he's a dedicated man of the army. And they’re trying to turn his military academy into a coed [school] which he thinks is beyond the pale. Therefore, he believes in his own mind that he is justified in preventing this. And he doesn't go around leering like a villain. He thinks he’s right. And I rewrote a lot of that. [McGoohan won an Emmy Award for it.] That was the first time I’d worked with Peter [Falk]. And then after that I did some more COLUMBOs.
Q: You did one where you were a CIA agent.
I directed that as well. And one Bob Vaughn [THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.] was in.
Q: I remember watching that show and there was something about some of the little quirks in it, the way Columbo was acting, the way he'd sit too close to Robert Vaughn. And I said to my brother, "You know, I'd swear Patrick McGoohan had something to do with this episode." And then your name came up at the end!
I'm very gratified, as a matter of fact, to know that that's been mentioned a couple of times. someone has said the same thing you said. I'm not sure it was absolutely true to the general COLUMBO theme but I enjoyed it. And Peter certainly enjoyed it at the time. Because he was very near the end [of the series], he was finishing up. One of the last ones. And I said. „Well, let's have a little fun. A slightly different COLUMBO. And at the end, that last shot of him going off in a rowboat to meet his wife at the yacht club that was put in. I mean, it wasn’t in the script. Yeah, I enjoyed that. And also playing the military man. That's not what I call a villain. A role like that. I mean, Iago, for instance is as villainous as you can get. But it's on a grand scale, you see.
Q: How did You come into doing villains?
I don't know.
Q: I guess the most notable were the warden in ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ and in THE SILVER STREAK (dt. TRANS-AMERIKA-EXPRESS, 1976).
That was very successful. Once they get that in their heads, casting directors, they forget the fact you've been playing a hero for 160 episodes [laughs]. Now you're a villain.
Q: You're sort of judged by what you've done most recently.
Oh. yes. Its frightening. But no more one-dimensional villains. I mean, what can you do with the warden in ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ? Apart from feed lines to Clint Eastwood in a situation which is tailor-made for him. What can you do with it? There's nothing you can do with it. You just have to be the nasty warden.
Q: You said no more villains. Have you ever reached a point where you said, no more secret agents, no more spies?
Well, yeah. I have. Again. It depends. It's very difficult to draw a black curtain over something and say never again, because something may come up which is the greatest thing ever written in that field. This that I'm playing now ("Pack of Lies") I don't regard in any way as a secret agent. It never entered my head that he was a secret agent. He works for MI5. He’s a guy who might send out secret agents. He's more a sleuth who moves in very high circles.
Q: It’s an espionage story.
It's espionage. He's dealing with spies. And that's one of the reasons I'm in it, I suppose. That’s why they wanted me. But it never occurred to me until it was brought up by somebody else here. This is a cerebral guy, he's not an action guy. But it's a good play. Fascinating.
Q: In terms of television work, you haven't done a lot in recent years. Have you avoided it or did it just not work out that way?
It didn't work out.
Q: You did RAFFERTY in 1977.
Which was a disaster. That was the most miserable job I've ever done in my life. I would think. Because I've been spoilt by having total control over the series I did in England, both of them. I mean, SECRET AGENT, after the first 20 episodes I had complete control of that. And then, of course, I had total control of THE PRISONER from start to finish. I didn't have to deal with executives or committee meetings or anything. I had two fellows working for me who handled all the business end of it, making sure that the machinery ran well. Any decisions that had to be made, they came to me with options - a, b or c - while I was working on the set, and our meetings were over in three or four minutes. After the decision was made, I didn't have to think about it any more. They would make sure that it was done. So I was spoilt. And then when you get RAFFERTY when you get all sorts of promises up front that it's going to be a certain style series... and the scripts are monstrous pieces of garbage, and there's no time to rewrite them. I mean, I wanted him to be a roving doctor. And they promised me that this would happen. And instead of that I was spending all my time walking up and down fucking hospital corridors! I said get me out of this fucking hospital! Because it's been done to death. There's nothing new to say about that. So it was total frustration from start to finish.
Because I had been promised all sorts of things that were going to happen to make it an original series. And they didn't transpire. COLUMBO, you see, was okay. That was the only other [series] TV I've done over here. [A bearded McGoohan since has made a guest appearance earlier this season on MURDER, SHE WROTE (dt. MORD IST IHR HOBBY) playing a bombastic barrister.] COLUMBO was okay because Peter had the same sort of situation that I had in England. He had say-so. Peter had a very successful series and they'd do anything he wanted.
Clout. I had clout in England. And you have to have it. But on the RAFFERTY thing, I counted them, there were 11 people who thought that they were the boss, who thought that they were the "creators" of this load of garbage. But you couldn't find one to take responsibility.
Q: Have there been any projects in recent years where you've had that control?
Q: Has that been frustrating?
Totally frustrating, of course.
Q: Have you done any writing or directing since COLUMBO?
No, I haven't. I've been building a stockpile of stuff until the right moment comes along. I mean, I'm talking about scripts which are finished and another of which is nearly finished. That's a big one, a very expensive one. It's an extension of the PRISONER theme, although there's nothing directly connected with it. And it's 200 years hence. And I'd have to make the smaller pictures work. They are modest budgets but they are commercially viable. That's the way you get clout. You make a picture at a reasonable budget and it makes money - you've got clout. Then you say I want to do a slightly bigger one. And this other one has to be big. There's no wav it can be a small picture. It needs a lot of special effects and stuff. I mean, I'd rather not do it at all than have somebody else do it.
Q: You mentioned that the big film you'd like to do is sort of an extension of the theme of THE PRISONER. Where did that whole idea come from?
That's an idea that's always been with me. The survival of the individual, really. Of individuality. The resistance to the various pressures that are around to make one [conform]. To avoid the overall blandness of the mass. Not to be one of a mass. That concept, I suppose, is resistance against the sort of education that one has being brought up in religious schools. So THE PRISONER was a guy resisting and desperately fighting for individuality. It wasn't really anything about a secret agent who'd been locked up because he had secrets they didn't want the enemy to have. It wasn't about that at all. Though that was how it was interpreted by a lot of people because I'd just done SECRET AGENT and I happened to be the same fellow with the same face, but with no name.
Q: Was the Prisoner supposed to be the John Drake character?
No! He had no name. He was called Number Six. It was never said what he did for a living, ever, except that he'd got some secret they wanted. And why did he resign, from something. You never knew what he'd resigned from. You never knew what his secret was. Just that they were trying to break him.
Q: But you, of course, realized at the time that people were going to assume it was the man from SECRET AGENT.
Of course. I didn't let that worry me too much. Otherwise, I wouldn't have done it. And it could equally apply. I mean, he could still be a guy who just happened not to want to do the secret agent job. It could also play on that level. But it became an allegory of another sort thereafter.
ARTWORK BY STEVE RAINES
Q: In your mind, was it his own side, or the enemy that had him?
Either. But probably his own side. Your own side more often is the dangerous one. I mean, it's easy to tell who the enemy are when you're in the trenches. Because they're facing this way, you see. If you put your head up, they're gonna shoot you. So you know who they are. The guy you've gotta watch is the guy behind you who might stab you in the back if you run off with his wife or something. These are the enemies that you've got to be careful of, the ones that creep in at the back and the side. So the implication would be this could be anyone that's around you that doesn't accept you for what you are as an individual and allow you to have quirks.
Q: Was that envisioned from the start as just 17 episodes?
No. It was envisioned as seven episodes. I didn't want to do more than seven, because I didn't think the idea would sustain beyond seven, it was such an obscure subject. It isn't as though you say this can go on forever, it can be another BONANZA. It wasn't of that nature. It wasn't episodic TV. It was a theme from start to end and I thought seven would be .... I mean, nowadays it would have been a miniseries. But there were no miniseries then. That's how I would have liked to have done it. And then I was persuaded .... Lew Grade sold it to CBS and they wanted more. They wanted 26, and then possibly more. And we had a meeting and I said, "I don't want to do more than seven." And [Lew Grade] said, "Do me a favor." Well, he'd done me a favor by letting me do it and giving me complete, utter freedom. He never bothered me from the day we shook hands and said let's go. We never had a contract, either. It was all on a handshake. So I owed him something. So I said okay, I’ll see what I can do. And
DAVE BARRIE: SEVEN FROM SIX
over a weekend, myself and these other two guys [George Markstein, David Tomblin] sat down and we wracked our brains and we thought up 10 other story ideas. And then we had writers develop them; I developed a couple myself. So, ideally, if I had my choice, there are seven I'd pull out and say that's the PRISONER series, that’s it. The rest are related but it's a struggle to get them in. Though we had fun with them. I mean, there's a cowboy episode, ["Living In Harmony"; Ed.] for God's sake! Because we were stuck. And we made it work.
Q: CBS didn't even show that one.
They didn't show it? I didn't know that. But we made it work within the context. You could have picked any theme.
Q: Are you aware of the cult that has grown up surrounding THE PRISONER?
I can't avoid it. Because they sort of come after you all the time. I mean, when we did "Pack Of Lies" in Boston and after the fourth night, you come out of the stage door and there are six, six people who’ve come from London to see me in the play, with PRISONER badges on. Then you’re certainly made aware of it. And then the Yale PRISONER club and the Harvard PRISONER club, they came. I mean, it's very gratifying that people are still interested in it after what, 17 years?
Q: Did you have any idea at the time that this would be something with such a lasting impact?
No. No idea. All you can do is just do what you feel you have to do. And then if it turns out that way, it turns out that way. You don't sort of say, okay, I'm going to sit down and write a cult series. I had no idea. I mean, I didn't know if it was going to go or not. I didn't know if anyone was going to watch it. I mean, one shouldn’t do anything and say, I'm just doing this for myself. I mean, that's very dishonest. I thought there was something in it that I wanted to say. And then, fortunately, some other people must have thought so. They may have put different interpretations on it, but that doesn't matter. You can put your own interpretation on this painting or whatever. It doesn't matter. As long as it has some reaction. If it has no reaction .... I mean, I've had some people say, "I loved you in SECRET AGENT and hated THE PRISONER." That's fine with me, too. Fine. Because it wasn't designed for everybody. I mean, I could have gone on doing SECRET AGENT until they were coming out my ears, until my grandchildren were running around fully grown men, I suppose. It was my choice to terminate that, not anybody else's.
Q: Is THE PRISONER the thing that you're most proud of?
No, I mean, I don't go on living off whatever bit of fat's left on THE PRISONER. As far as I'm concerned, it was finished the last day of shooting. When I finished editing the last episode and delivered it for screening, THE PRISONER was finished, as far as I was concerned.
ARTWORK BY BRIAN GORMAN
Q: But looking back over your body of work, what would you pick if not THE PRISONER?
Oh, I don't know. I'd pick things that I did in England. Theater work and stuff like that. Work in repertory. Definitely. You didn’t have to worry about anything, you just went out there and did it. A lot of those plays I did at Sheffield Rep. I did things there that I was proud of. I remember those, only they're not recorded anywhere. Does it matter? [shrugs] Not as long as you’ve done it.
DIESER TEXT AUF DEUTSCH
DAVE BARRIE: SEVEN FROM SIX
DAS TROYER-INTERVIEW MIT PATRICK McGOOHAN
PATRICK McGOOHAN: INTERVIEW MIT MIKE TOMKIES
This interview with Patrick McGoohan conducted by Bill King dated
1985 was published in "Anglofile"
magazine in 1988, a US subscription magazine on British topics which
is no longer in existence it appears. It was then republished in
1991 in issue 5 of the "Chimes" PRISONER
fanzine (London and Southwest England).
this issue of Anglofile (no. 6, vol 2, not the one in question above),
its exact date uncertain, presumably 1980s, mention is made about
an upcoming PRISONER TV sequel and although the text is barely readable
actor Leo McKern is said to be in it.