Richard Curtis Exclusive

Blackadder Hall was given the chance to pop a few questions to writer, producer and all-round nice bloke that does a lot of work for charity, Richard Curtis, one of the men responsible for bringing the Blackadder family to life. It was something of an exclusive so I decided to let you, the guests of Blackadder Hall to ask the questions yourself. I had great response, and unfortunately, I couldn’t use them all. So, I picked the cream of the crop and here they are for your enjoyment.

1. The scenes from The Trouble with Mr Bean’s Dentist sketch with the creative driving; how were those shot? Specifically, were the close-ups (internal and external) shot in front of a blue screen? If not, what (if any) safety precautions taken with the car?

RC: I don’t know the answer to this question – but I imagine there was no blue screen – almost pre-blue screen days and I imagine safety precautions were minimal.

2. In Bean, the movie, there were shots of the Mini driving through Harrods that were cut out of the final edit of the movie. Were those scenes really shot in Harrods, and if so, what kind of insurance did the film crew need to buy to be able to do the scene?

RC: Yes they were shot in Harrods and I don’t think there was any fancy insurance.

3. Now that the publicity for Bean, the movie, is past, and all involved can rest comfortably on its success, would you say that the character was served well by being placed in a Hollywood-style plot? How did you feel about the necessary changes before starting work on the script? Did the new Bean grow on you or were you enthused about the new possibilities from the beginning? What new changes will Bean have to go through to morph into the proposed cartoon character?

RC: Too many questions! I think the interesting thing about the Bean film is how, in the end, the funniest bits were still the simple, rehearsable, physical jokes that we actually did rehearse like stage pieces before we wrote the film.

4. In one of your interviews, you say you’ve had a lifelong fascination with fame. Have you now completely explored this fascination in Notting Hill or do you think you’re not quite done with the subject yet? How has fame affected your life? What lessons, if any, are there to be learned from fame?

RC: Too many questions, it’s very late at night. I think I am done with the subject of fame though.

5. What kind of advice could you give to young aspiring screenwriters? What’s the key to becoming a successful writer (or at least being able to make a living at it)?

RC: To aspiring young screenwriters – write cheaply about what you know like Gregory’s girl, The Brothers McMullen, Rita, Sue & Bob too etc…

6. Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?

RC: To write and make a good movie faster.

7. Being a Beatles fan, could you talk a little bit about what the new Beatles album means to you? You know Beatles 1, “not just an album but an event.”

RC: My favourite Beatles album is still ‘hard days night’, and my two favourite Beatles songs ever – If I fell & and I love her, neither of which were singles.

8. One article claimed that your characters “are all damaged people in a little world.” Are their reservoir of pain and sense of incompetence something you have intentionally placed in them, or would you say the quoted characterisation is an exaggeration?

RC: I’d say my things set up the expectation of two dimensions and then deliver maybe 2 and a quarter, and that’s where the sense of complexity might come from.

9. Richard, are you fed up of the media fascination a new Blackadder series?

RC: Nope – doesn’t impinge much of life and I hope there will be this new one in 2010.

10. If you can remember, what was your favourite episode to write?

RC: I can’t remember – I’ll guess it was the final of series four and bells of series two.

11. Was it the intention from the beginning to do Blackadder in a different setting and historical period with every successive series? And, if not, at what point did you realise this would be an ongoing feature of the Blackadder series?

RC: Yes, it was – I think John Howard Davies (who played Oliver in the original movie ) suggested it, like the Flashman books.

12. Were there any time periods or setting that were considered but not used for a whole series?

RC: Absolutely – Ben in fact wrote a couple of half episodes in the Victorian period before rejecting it – it resurfaced in the Christmas special.

13. Were there any ideas/plots/jokes considered but discarded for the four series that WERE made?

RC: Absolutely – there was certainly a whole episode for series two that was a sort of murder mystery, but it didn’t work.

14. Were any other ideas considered for a 5th series before it was decided there wouldn’t be one? And why wasn’t a 5th series made?

RC: I think it’s well known that the fifth would have been The Blackadder Five, about the pop group, with Tony as Bald Rick and Rowan as the ruthless lead singer/manager – we would have intercut our series with real news footage etc. It wasn’t made because we all got busy in other ways, and number four was very hard work indeed.

15. Why was Edmund’s character so different in the pilot episode from what we ended up with in the first series?

RC: Can’t remember. Think it was because we tried to complicate it, and sort of failed.

16. Are there any plans for another Vicar of Dibley series?

RC: Not really at the moment – though I think it would be fun to do a whole that only last a week – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday etc….

17. How did you come up with the idea of Blackadder?

RC: Fear – trying not to be like Fawlty Towers that hung over us like a great big scary hanging thing – and the idea of getting away from Terry & June and plots about visiting vicars, and having a real plot. Ironic the vicar bit, in view of Dibley.

18. It seemed Rowan in Blackadder Back & Forth came across more as Raymond Fowler than what we expect from BA i.e. his mannerisms/delivery & saying sorry, ding dong etc. Why?

RC: I didn’t notice that. Ooops.

19. What did you enjoy most about working on Blackadder Back & Forth?

RC: The dinosaur prop, and being with the old friends.

20. What do the Actors say when they hear the name of the Scottish play as it’s been bugging me for years and it’s not in the book?

RC: Why isn’t it in the book? I don’t recall…. (you can find it on the DVD)

21. What do you prefer writing for, the big screen or the small screen?

RC: I think retrospectively, as I die, I’ll have preferred TV, for just being so much quicker. Movies are so slow – like eating the same meal every day for four years.

22. A question not related to ”Blackadder” though I do love all his work. Where was he born, and were any of this forebears named William or Richard Hart Curtis? (from Lyn Curtis)

RC: born in New Zealand – no Curtis forebears, my dad changed his name from its Italian original of Cicutto, so people didn’t misspell it all the time. And actually I think I might have mispelt it myself – it may be Ciccutto…

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