We were excited to have the opportunity to talk to the man himself about his upcoming visit to Yeovil.
Did you always want to become an actor?
Acting is a must. Good, bad or indifferent you must do it. I think of all the arts it’s probably the most difficult in the fact that in opera you can have an excuse, you can say you’ve got a bit of a sore throat and as a dancer you can say I’ve got a torn ligament but in acting your face, your body, your eyes, your voice, your mind, your imagination, your very soul is judged. But 50% of my life is expeditions. I’ve always loved exploration and space is my biggest love. I believe quite firmly that we are the children of stardust because we are; we come from stars. And so I’m doing a great deal of work with NASA and I’ve completed a lot of space training in Russia in Space City, so I can say I can be quite objective about acting. I think that Hamlet says, “acting is holding up the mirror to nature, to life” but of course climbing Mount Everest is life and there’s a big difference so I like to go off on adventures.
You’ve starred in so many iconic films and TV series over the years; do you have any stand out memories from shooting?
I’ve been lucky, I was “Fancy” Smith in ‘Z Cars’ in the early 60s, the tough policeman, and we had 27 million viewers a week, I think I was sent about a million letters a day, then there was ‘The Three Musketeers’, and ‘I Claudius’ won lots of awards, where I played Augustus Caesar, and so it went on. I played Long John Silver and then in ‘Cats’ the musical - the original cast - I was Old Deuteronomy. So I’ve been well looked after and I’ve had a terrific career.
You’re known and loved for your booming voice and particular catchphrases like, “Gordon’s Alive!”. Do you ever get tired of people asking you to quote them?
I think me saying the Flash Gordon phrase, “Gordon’s Alive!” is a celebratory cry all over the world. I’ve had it said to me by Russian sailors from a submarine, I’ve said it to them, I’ve done it in South America, I’ve done it to the Queen, I’ve done it to the Prime Minister, they all want to hear “Gordon’s Alive!”. And then to top it all I got a standing ovation at the O2 arena a while ago when I was saying that I am Grampy Rabbit in ‘Peppa Pig’!
You’re also a featured voice on TomTom satellite navigation systems; how did that come about?
Well, the police said “Can you make it very colourful, Brian, because we’re finding there’s something that people don’t talk about and the fact is that people fall asleep at the wheel during the daytime and they don’t know they fall asleep and so we want your Tom Tom to keep them awake.” So when you’re going along in the car I’ll say
“Turn right”, “Turn left down this lane; it’s a farmers lane, watch out for the chickens [cluck cluck cluck]” and I do Tarzan’s battle cry [Brian proceeds to demonstrate the cry] and “Gordon’s Alive!” of course. They said, “That’s brilliant, Brian, because it keeps them awake”.
What was it like on the ‘Black Adder’ set?
Great. Insane. Rowan Atkinson is a wonderful, serious actor and he gave notes to everybody but he never gave me any notes. “Brian”, he said, “you’re a law unto yourself.” It was wonderful, I had a terrific time. The director used to laugh so much that he’d collapse on the floor and he had to direct on the floor sometimes because he had spinal trouble. He had a slipped disk and if we made him laugh too much it would go out. So it was bloody insane. I mean, we never dreamt it would be so legendary and so successful, the critics, when it first came out murdered it.
What was it like being appointed an OBE in the 2016 Birthday Honours list?
I think the queen always finds me a hoot. I mean it was great fun to receive it. I think the ITV announcer at the time said, “We’ve had 20 minutes of grim news and to cheer up thank God Brian Blessed has got an OBE.”
You’ve had many adventures throughout your life; where’s your next adventure going to take you?
I’m going to go down to the bottom of the sea, I want to go to space, I’ve been trained, I’m now a fully trained cosmonaut, I’m now part of the team and I hope to be called up to go into space in the next two years.
What can audiences expect from ‘An Audience With Brian Blessed’?
What I shall be talking about in Yeovil is the fact that I believe that nature doesn’t cheat. That we’ve all got something that nobody else has got but we’ve got to be given the opportunity to bring it out. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. There’s no one like you. That’s the message I’ll be putting across. And of course I’ll be talking about the theatre; I’ll be talking about the films and lots of fun. I’m looking forward to Yeovil. My introduction to Yeovil was fascinating. When I was a little boy I used to watch Manchester United and they played Yeovil and Manchester United were the champions and Yeovil beat them! They had this sloping pitch and they beat them. It was the early 40s/50s and so Yeovil Town became quite famous for courage and tenacity and producing a lovely football team. So I’ve always been a fan ever since. I want to give people a tremendous time and I hope to change every cell in their body and to talk about things they’ve never heard before.
An Audience With Brian Blessed’ is at Westlands on Friday 19 October. Tickets are £26.50.