Friday, January 28, 2011

Robert is leaving Holby?

Finally real news in this blog!! Thanks to a fellow fan (from Canada, dear readers, where are you English people fans???????). Three days ago Robert gave an interview to Steve Wright (BBC2) where he said that he was leaving Holby City because he has been there for 6 years and it’s 5 years longer than he had anticipated. Now, he says, he wants to get back to the roots (stage!). Indeed, on March he’ll be in the play “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” at the Royal Theatre of Bath.
You can find the interview on at 3 :30) hurry as you have four days to listen. If there’s a fan who would like to make the transcription, we’ll be all extremely grateful!
Robert as Jeffrey Bernard

However, I didn’t find anything about it in Holby City sites, so maybe Robert is considering leaving but has not confirmed it as in the interview he says that normally 6 months before the end of the contract he will be asked if he’s staying or leaving. Even if I’m not fond of the show, it was nice to know that he was on TV and that a new generation knows his work. But Robert is above all an actor, and he needs to do something else. Of course Robert, we wish you all the best! And now I wonder how his character will leave the show. Oh please, I don't want him to die! I would like him to find a new love and move away very far!

Back to the play, if you want to know more information I found this (Wikipedia) :

Bernard wrote the "Low Life" column in The Spectator. The play's title refers to the magazine's habit of printing a one-line apology on a blank page when he was too drunk or hung-over to produce the required copy and a substitute article could not be found before the deadline for publication. Its premise is that Bernard has found himself locked in overnight at his favourite public house, the Coach and Horses, Soho, and uses the occasion to share anecdotes from his life with the audience. A highlight of the play is an exhibition of sleight of hand involving a glass of water, a matchbox, and an egg which must remain unbroken at the end of the trick. This trick is more fully described in an obituary of Keith Waterhouse in The Guardian.
Often remembered as a one-man show, but in fact packed with characters performed by a versatile supporting cast of four, Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell was a highly successful vehicle for its original star Peter O'Toole. The show opened in Brighton in September 1989, moved to Bath and made its triumphant London debut at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue in October. O'Toole also appeared in a later revival at the Old Vic. A filmed version of the stage play was shot at the Apollo Theatre with a live audience and was released in both full and abridged versions.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

About What waits below

We all know Robert Powell is an excellent actor, however I’m the first to admit that not all of his films are good… his performance is always great, but a film is a whole (the story, the actors, the direction, the music…) and he can’t save a film alone. To my own regret, as a Robert Powell fan I must admit not all of his films are good (sadly, many of them… but it’s not his fault!).
One of the films I don’t like (I won’t say it’s his worst…) is What waits below or Secret of the Phantom Caverns (US title), though I prefer the first title, I don’t know why it was changed for marketing reasons.  There are many reasons I don’t like this film.
You can see all the art work for the video and dvd in German, English and Spanish

The first reason is THE FILM IS BAD, really bad, let’s admit it!
Secondly, and is the main reason: why does Robert appear on it? I mean this is not the kind of film he does, it’s like those films made directly to tv or video, Robert is too much of an actor for this kind of film.
In my researches, I’ve read here and there that the reason he did the film is that he was under contract with the Rank organization (the same that produced The Thirty Nine Steps) before it went on bankruptcy (or it was already). So maybe that’s a good reason – the same reason that made Edward Norton to appear in the awful remake of The Italian Job, isn’t it? (am I the one who hated that film??).

Robert looked so cool and sexy
Back to the issue, the film may have an interest for Sci fi amateurs. I have friends who will find it “watchable” (even more watchable than Hannay…), so there are films for all tastes!
When I tried to see all of his films I hesitated to watch this one because I’ve read a review which detailed the film. The review is in the site (all it’s in the name!), the review is just great! It is extremely funny and witty (when you read about explosive cigarettes you just know you shouldn’t watch it if you really love and respect Robert Powell). By the way, I’ve discovered that the site is still online and many people kept posting comments! Many posters were extras or part of the staff in the film. Funny isn’t it?

 Well, just to leave a positive comment I just loooooved how Robert looks in the film, you can see him in action during a battle scene with a lemurian, and I loved the line “ Hola amigos, cigarros!” maybe because he speaks Spanish, maybe because just deep inside me I loved the idea of the explosive cigarettes.
As a bonus, I’ll share with you parts of an article I found in a Fangoria magazine from 1983 (sorry you won’t find high resolution scans… maybe some day!). It’s an article written by Donald Farmer “Secrets of the Phantom Caverns, A behind-the-scenes look at the perilous filming of a subterranean fantasy-adventure”. There you learn many interesting things, for instance while the film wasn’t even finished they’ve told nearly all the story of the film! (3/4 of a page description plot!).
Taken from Fangoria, 1983 (this is a cutting so I have no more references).
The film was filmed on location in two famous caves in the US: Cumberland Caverns and Cathedral Caverns, the reason? Producer Sandy Howard said that the caves gave “a special beauty and grandeur that has taken over one million years to develop, and which no Hollywood set could ever dare hope to recreate.” We all agree, and believe me I love visiting caves, more over the “wild tours” where you really go deep into the cave. So caverns are really beautiful places, wonderful, but you need to be there to feel the sensation! I watched again this film after my first speleology tour and I was extremely disappointed.
Indeed, filming on a set would have been better, at least for us, the audiences! In the article you learn about other unfortunate events such as the difficulties of carrying the equipment to the caves, the rain, and the famous carbon monoxide poisoning incident (read the comments on the for the testimonials). The article says : “Even more troublesome was an incident of carbon monoxide poisoning which sent 15 crewmembers – including director Don Sharp – for a stay in the hospital. The problem arose while filming was underway in front of Goliath, the world’s largest stalagmite and a main attraction in the Cathedral Caverns. Countless takes and retakes pushed filming late into the evening, and crew members were soon complaining of drowsiness and even nausea. At first, simple fatigue seemed a likely explanation, but Sharp and coproducer Robert Bailey became more concerned when some of the personnel actually began passing out. The problem was soon traced to the carbon monoxide fumes being emitted by the four generators in use, but not before Sharp, Bailey, actor Liam Sullivan, costume designer Betty Madden, and 11 others had succumbed. And while the group recovered in a local hospital, Alabama newspapers immediately latched onto the story, with one headline labeling the mishap a “Twilight Zone accident”.
They were proud of the monster...
The article also mentions that the script was written by Marvel Comics veterans (Christy Marx and Robert Vincent O’Neil). Ahem! The writer of Biker Mouse From Mars? He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? And above all Jem and the Holograms? Run, Robert, Run!
You can also read that they were very enthusiast about the special effects and the design of the Lemurians, for the FX, is understandable as special effects designer (and co-producer) is Robert Bailey, whose work at that time was Blade Runner, Tron and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
About Robert, the article says : “Star Robert Powell says that the picture’s many action sequences also resulted in some real-life mishaps. During his big fight scene with Prime Hunter Jackson Bostwick, Powell says he got a “clip on the head” when Bostwick’s knife blade came too close for comfort. ‘He’s about six inches taller than I am,” Powell points out. “He’s about 6’4” and we had a very physical eight or nine hours.”
“Powell says he also landed “in the drink a couple of times” while filming near the underwater streams, but comments that working on Phantom Caverns has convinced him that the final product should be more than just “another pulp movie. It’s a romp, a more physical movie, and fun stuff for an actor,” Powell says.
- - It’s a mystery to me what does “clip on the head” and “in the drink” meant in this context...
Relaxing at a champagne and caviar reception, hosted by Howard, Powell adds, “We’re not finished yet, I’ve got a whole 10 minute screen time sequence to do this week which is jeep chases, rock climbing… the whole start of the film is set in a different place. It’s where I’m discovered doing a little undercover spying on some mercenaries and all hell breaks loose. We have a whole wonderful James Bond-type sequence with car chases and hand grenades. Great fun!” ** At least he got fun! Me too I found it extremely funny!

** Check the scene (specially at 3:30)
Thanks for reading!

First contact (of the third type)

To continue the saga of a Robert Powell fan or how difficult was to find information about him (at least to me), in the mid 90s, after having discovered that he appeared in Jesus of Nazareth I had the feeling that he was still active (even if at that time I couldn’t say when Jesus of Nazareth had been filmed). The only reference date I had was The Italian job, in which he looked very young as the film was certainly from the 60s. So I deduced he was around in his 40s or 50s (enough to scare my mom!).
As a fan I really wanted to know all those details (birthdate, birth place, interviews, was he married, etc.) but was unable. Then I had a great idea, which I didn’t have before, I don’t know why as it was so clear! I decided to write to the BBC and ask for his agent's address. I had the idea after I read a note in the local tv guide, which celebrated its 30th (or 20th?) anniversary and published all the greetings they received... among them the BBC! Incredible why the BBC should congratulate Mexican TV guide! Whatever! it was precious information to me as that’s how I got the BBC's address! So I started to write every week until I get a reply! (I’m crazy, I know). I did it because Mexican postal service is awfully bad, so I really want to be sure they get my letter.
Weeks later bingo!!!! I received a letter from England (ohhhh my!) giving me the address of Robert’s agent and informing me that he was currently in a show, The Detectives. Wow! From that day until I actually watched the show I was so thrilled about the show. Needless to say that at that moment it never occurred to me that it was a comedy! (I couldn’t imagine Robert doing comedy at that time). So I kept receiving the same letter week after week...!
So I wrote to his agent’s address and again to the BBC asking more information about The Detectives. And again I sent many times the same letter! So I got many promo cards from The Detectives signed by Robert and Jasper Carrott. They looked so serious in those pictures that I couldn’t imagine how funny Jasper could be! I also kept writing to Robert’s agent but had nothing... until one day (this is very important!) I saw on TV the miniseries The Phantom of the Opera with Charles Dance and I was very impressed by him (I have a “Coeur d’artichaut” as they say in France, that is I fall in love very easy). I’ve also discovered on a video club First born, which Charles Dance again and loved it! So I wrote again to the BBC (I’m sure they have put my name in a black list!) and asked for Charles Dance’s agent AND just for the hobby, for Robert’s agent. And of course they replied very soon and I was so surprised to discover that they sent me a different address for Robert’s agent! So I don’t know whether he changed at that time of agent or if Charles Dance gave me luck as this ultimate address was the right one!

I received about 5 or 6 cards like these ones (these are pictures gathered everywhere)
Some months later I received one of the most precious things I have! A beautiful picture on b&w of him (presumably from Hannay) signed and dedicated to me! The picture came with a small biography which was a great help to me! Finally I knew when and where he was born, which prizes he had won (I think he deserved more) and which films he made. Now I know that filmography wasn’t exhaustive.
THE picture with THE autograph

After that day, I knew I had finally reached a “contact” even if it was very far even if that it was unlikely that he had read my letters, I kept writing again and again.
Now he’s appearing on TV in a BBC show I haven’t written to the BBC nor asked for the promo cards. Why? I don't know! I suppose because I've seen the pictures (or I have too many!). I just have one, I got it from Ebay (it was a bid for a charity).
The last acquisition

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 17, 2011


OK, my readers (if I have any!) should be asking “Why this blog don’t talk about Jesus of Nazareth?”. OK, I’m coming. I must confess that this was the last role in which I would have expected to find my idol! Let’s say that I could hardly imagine Jesus with curly hair!
So, when Jesus of Nazareth was scheduled on tv, I wasn’t that eager to watch it, let’s just say I don’t like that kind of religious stuff. I just wanted to check the credits if Robert was there and OH MY! He was there! And playing the lead, playing Jesus!!! My jaw dropped so much that since that day I can’t bite my nails anymore.
And when I saw him like this I screamed "My God!!"

Like most of you I found that Robert’s performance was marvelous, well all the adjectives to define that it was perfect! Just like one imagined Jesus. And I was very happy as finally I had found a film that most people have seen! However, as a fan I really find it worrying the amount of religious fanatics that are unable to make the difference between Robert the actor and Jesus. They are a bit scary!
So all of you know the legend about Robert’s casting (he was going to play Judas, he “beated” Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman who were the other choice for Zefirelli). There are a lot of things that have been said about him and his performance, some of them extremely irritating, some other surprising, some other awfully funny. I’ll present some of them here :
  • The curse
Stupid people like to say that the role is cursed and that’s why the actors who have played Jesus will never meet fame or will never act again. FALSE! I don’t know why before the upcoming of the Internet, people liked to fantasize about Robert and Jesus of Nazareth : some people have said that he killed himself after playing Jesus, or that he joined a monastery, or that he became crazy! And then, when they discovered this was false, people started to say that he never played again, or that never “made it” (I even read the word mediocre in an article!).
To those comments, I would like to point out that Robert indeed “made it” as he is still acting in Holby City (OK, it’s not the best tv series, but he got late to the casting of Dr House! -that's a joke of course!). He is an excellent actor and has never been involved in scandals and seems to be happy! Well, to me that's real success!
But about this "curse" of playing Jesus, let’s hear Robert’s point of view :
Excerpt from the article “Robert Powell The man chosen to portray Jesus talks to Sue Clarke about his most demanding role” Photoplay Film Monthly, November 1975 Vol 26 N° 11
[...] The potential success that an international TV series might bring him leaves Robert unmoved. He’s been told too many times how a role is going to “make him a star”.
“From an actor’s point of view, there are two good points about playing Christ in this TV series. First, there will be very few people who won’t know who I am, which has always been a problem in America. People don’t know my work over there. I have had more response from Tommy – where I did five minutes work and don’t even speak! – than anything I’ve done. I was flown to New York for a screen test on the strength of that. Didn’t get the part though!
“The second thing is that if I was 21 and offered ‘Christ’ and no one knew me, I think I would be finished. I’d have to wait ten years for a career. But I’ve been around for a while (he’s 31) and people do know I do other things. [...]
---  I'd love to know which was the film for which he did the screen test! About the other comment, well dear Robert, don't you think that a 21-year-old Jesus is TOO young?? 
Robert in his early 20s, a bit too young for Jesus.

  • The Jesus diet
I like to read interviews in old magazines and discover a lot of details. The two excerpts below concern how did he prepare physically for the role (taken from “Robert Powell : How portraying Christ changed his life” by James Barclay, Movie Stars magazine, May 1977)
[...] “Theoretically, the Crucifixion was not supposed to be a difficult scene for me. But I was slightly nervous, nevertheless, perhaps due to the fact I’d literally starved myself on a diet of cheese for 12 days before the shooting, in order to look worn. [...]
[…] To keep in shape, Robert has been practicing his tennis on the hotel court. Fortunately for his lean, gaunt image in The Life of Jesus, he hasn’t been able to whip up one of his “angel pies” – made with meringue and fresh lemon topping – while on location. “I’m not such a bad cook when I get down to it.” He said modestly. [...]
--- Mhh! I'd like to taste one of these angel pies! I loooove lemon pies!! About the cheese diet, it reminds me of The Devil wears Prada where the other assistant is on a cheese diet too to look thin for the Fashion week in Paris.
Well, about Jesus of Nazareth I have a lot of things to tell, but they will be the object of further posts.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to be a fan in the prehistory?

After the discovery of Robert Powell in Hannay, I decided to find more about him. But how? In the early 90s, in Mexico, for a teenager it wasn’t easy. Had I born in England or the British Islands I wouldn’t have had any trouble to find information about Robert Powell! Everybody know him over there! It was a certitude for me… and ever since every time I meet a British person I always ask “Do you know Robert Powell?”.  
Without the Internet (and even with the Internet it wasn’t that easy!), the only way to find Robert’s filmography was to watch EVERYTHING on tv (British series and films) and read all the credits. I was lucky as this method made me discover: Jane Austen in Manhattan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and … Jesus of Nazareth, which will be discussed in another post. I was lucky too that my father liked films with Michael Caine as in his personal video collection I found The Jigsaw Man and The Italian Job.

Curly, curly, curly, curly... Straight! no wonder why most people think the only film he made was Jesus of Nazareth! (from left to right : Yellow in The Italian job, Pierre in Jane Austen in Manhattan, Phoebus in Hunchback, Jamie Fraser in The Jigsaw Man and the last one you already know).

I scanned the cast of any film in every Tv schedule so I wouldn’t miss a film with him. And everytime I found a film with him I was oooooverjoyed and shouted a victorious “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”. During the 90s then, The Survivor, Il Segno del Comando and Hannay back again were shown on Mexican tv (and of course Jesus of Nazareth, twice a year, but that again will be discussed in another post). Maybe other films were shown but I just didn’t catch them. Ah! I've forgot one! Just once I “found” a film with him on tv and I nearly missed it! I’ve caught The Four Feathers nearly by the end.

Curly Jack Durrance in The Four Feathers and Captain Keller in The Survivor

Newspaper promo for Il Segno del comando (Mexican newspaper Excelsior)
Finally, the videoclubs were an excellent place to find his films! And that was very tiring as I had to search in each video box for the cast, if by any chance Robert Powell was in the film. So I found The Thirty Nine Steps, Harlequin (put in the children section!!), The Asphyx and Shaka Zulu.
Curly again and again! From left to right : Giles in The Asphyx, Gregory Wolfe in Harlequin, Hannay in The 39 Steps and Dr. Henry Flynn in Shaka Zulu
So you can see, without the Internet, without living in England (or any other English speaking country) up to 1997 I’ve seen most of Robert’s filmography. Now things would have been different, I don’t know if they are easier now with the internet or not, as there are too many things now and as I would say “too much information kills information”.
So a part from TV, tv guides and tv schedules, videoclubs, which other source of information was available? Forget the magazines! They only had (and still have) articles about telenovelas and Hollywood stars. What about books? Books? Oh yes! In my school library I found the greatest bit of information for a Powellian fan! Remember the old days in which paper encyclopedias existed and some of them published a “Book of the year”. So in my school library I found the “Book of the year 1982” (even if I found it somewhere in 1994), I searched for Robert Powell just for curiosity’s sake, knowing that I wasn’t going to find anything. However, I was so much surprised to find that a certain Robert Powell had won a prize in the Venice Film Festival for the film Imperative. From that day my big wish (besides meeting Robert in person) was to see this film (which will be discussed in another post).

For several years this was the only image I had of the film Imperative, I found it in a review somewhere in the Internet.
 Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A fan is born!

A long, long time ago, during the glorious 80’s I grew up in Mexico City, watching TV shows and films. Instead of being crazy of Tom Cruise or I don’t know who else, I was crazy about Clint Eastwood : I loved the Dirty Harry films and one of my favorites still is The good, the bad and the ugly. OK, so when did Robert appeared? Well, one day,  in the morning before going to school I was “reading” the newspaper (Excelsior, I liked it). I was about 12, and if you ask what I was reading it was mainly the tv schedules of course (shame on me!). The tv schedules were illustrated with pictures, so the only picture I had of Clint Eastwood came from the newspaper (b&w). OK, back to that wonderful morning, I came across with a picture of a new show : Hannay and to my eyes, the guy in the picture looked so much like Clint Eastwood! So I decided to watch this show.
Just add a bit of imagination! Don't you think they have a little something in common? (Eastwood on the left, Powell on the right)
Hannay was broadcasted in Mexico in 1989 – 1990 by Canal 13 of Imevision. Imevision was a public service broadcasting company and I liked it very much when it existed : it had great shows and most of them European (most of the British). I ignore if British shows were cheaper and if that’s why this public company – that sadly disappeared in the 90s, well it became a Private company, but it wasn’t the same – broadcasted a lot of tv shows like The tomorrow people, Armchair tales and Hannay of course, among others (curiously, Shaka Zulu and Frankenstein but I didn’t know it at that time and I don’t remember if I’ve noticed him).
Cutting from the newspaper
So, when I saw the show I just became crazy! I fell in love of those beautiful eyes, that perfect nose, that lovely curly hair! And the period of course was one of my favorites! The turn of the XXth century, the wardrobe, the stories, everything was perfect in that show! Even the voices! Yes! Robert’s wonderful voice was dubbed and the voice he had was lovely, it really helped so much to my fascination. Of course I prefer Robert’s real voice, but that voice was just perfect to the character! If you want to hear, just follow the link. Just for the detail, that was the same Mexican voice for Tom Selleck’s Magnum.

At that time I didn’t see all the episodes, I’ve missed some of them because it was late (10 PM at that time was late for me! That’s the reason I’m not tall, I should have slept more at that age!). But for the few episodes I watched, I decided to memorize everything! As I didn’t have the chance to record any episode, I had to record every detail in my mind, so I’d never forget the show, nor the wonderful actor that played Hannay. It’s incredible, but something told me that I could see more about him. The two episodes I recorded in my mind were Terrors of the Earth (which was and still is one of my favorites) and Coup de grace (which I loooooved when I watched it). Then, the show was cancelled and I was very sad!
Why? Because nobody knew Robert Powell! I knew nothing about him! I supposed he was English and that was all! When you become fan of your idol, you want to know everything about him and want to have his picture in your room and talk about your idol with other people, so that was a bit frustrating that nobody knew him (in Mexico and people of my age). Later on, around 1996, Hannay was going to be back on tv, in Canal 11 IPN, the cultural channel of Mexico City.
About 20 years ago, thanks to the website, I was so happy to discover that at that time, in Mexico, there was another girl of my age that was a fan as crazy as me about Robert Powell. Incredible, isn’t it?
A fan was born.
From that day, I started to look for Robert Powell in every tv guide, film guide, magazine, etc. I was sure that I’ll find more about him. But, of course that will be the subject of another post.
Thanks for reading.


This blog is dedicated to the best actor of all times : Robert Powell. This blog follows the Powellisimo website that I’ve created about 10 years ago (!!) and sadly I haven’t updated for a long while.
In this blog I’ll talk about his career, the films I’ve seen, tv series and all the information (old magazines pictures, interviews) I’ve gathered and I didn’t have the time to add to the site.
OK, even if I’m not English speaker, I’ve decided to publish this blog in English (my poor, poor English I remember from my studies!). As Robert’s fans come from all around the world, I think this blog should be in English.
So enjoy!