Nick Brimble [Interview]

There are few mythical tales out there that really hit the way that Robin Hood does. It is an absolutely brilliant moral driven legend that I have been fascinated with since I was a young boy. And for me, at this time, it was the film Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves that really struck me as the greatest depiction of the Robin Hood mythology. I’m certain that some could argue against this, but no one can argue that it is a fantastic film, and a brilliantly told story of Robin Hood. And one of my favorite characters of note from the film was the man with a bit more common sense than the rest, the wonderful Little John. And wouldn’t you know it, I have a man here today who just might know a thing or two about this character, as he is the brilliant man who brought it to screen!

That’s right folks! Today’s interview is with the legendary actor of screen and stage, the wonderful Nick Brimble. Now, I may have just given a long winded introduction about Robin Hood before introducing Mr. Brimble, but as regular readers will know, that was only the kicker. So often I become intrigued by an artist for some piece of work they have done, and then I quickly realize that they have been a part of some other amazing works of art as well and are continuing to wow audiences in a career that is nothing short of stellar. And that is definitely the case with the brilliant Nick Brimble. He is also a very versatile actor. BBC viewers will recognize him from his work on Granchester, and horror fans may be familiar with his work in Roger Corman’s brilliant take on another creature of mythology in Frankenstein Unbound. And he has done just SO much more.

Obviously we are very excited to have Nick Brimble on the site today! So let me stop the babbling and let you all get on with some great words from the brilliant actor, Mr. Nick Brimble!

I’ve come to learn that you studied philosophy and English Literature in college. Which isn’t so far off from acting, in some respects. But, how did the transformation into acting come into play? When did you realize you wanted to perform for a living?

The one thing you know after completing a degree in Phiosophy is that you don’t know anything. That disqualifies you from almost every profession….. except perhaps being an actor!

My father was a keen amateur actor in Bristol where we lived and I used to go to rehearsals, take him through his lines and occasionally take part if they needed a kid. He also did some radio drama work and again I would sometimes take part.

I was also given a season ticket to Bristol Old Vic, our local repertory theatre and went to every play from the age of 11 until I went to University at 18. The standard was very high and I got to watch some fantastic actors (including a young Peter O’Toole) doing all sorts of work.

When I was in my mid-teens my father also took over the management of a French/Czech troupe of High Wire Artists (called the White Devils) when they were touring England, and for three summers we toured with them.

He would do the commentary and I would sell souvenirs. One year he arranged a blind-fold crossing of Cheddar Gorge which was a pretty big event at the time. At the end of the English tour I was sent with them touring through France, helping put the equipment up and living in the back of a truck . When it was time for me to go back to school they would give me my trainfare and I would find my own way home. It was huge fun.

All of this background meant that a steady job didn’t really appeal to me.

After leaving Sussex University I got a job as Lecturer in English at the University of Baghdad. The ex-pat life style appealed to me as a young man and I might well have continued on that path but at the end of my first year in Baghdad the Six-Day War broke out and I was forced to leave.

Finding myself back in England I took a job teaching at a large London School for a year before deciding to try something in theatre.

I was offered a job as “Youth Theatre Organiser” at a theatre in Canterbury. My job involved organising tours of plays to schools in the area, as well as performing in them, driving the van, helping build the sets for the main theatre productions and playing any small parts that were available in main theatre.

From this I was, to my surprise, offered a job as an actor in the Northcott Theatre company where I worked for three years before going on to work for the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West-End

As a man who has mastered the craft of acting in the world of film, television, and stage…what would you say is your favorite type of production to be a part of?

Well, I wouldn’t claim to have mastered my craft, part of the fun is that you are continually learning and reinventing yourself.

Initially I only considered theatre…. it didn’t occur to me that I could work in film or television, but once I began to be offered screen work I found I really enjoyed it.

Wessex Tales was one of my early “film-for-tv” jobs. I remember being taken to a field where the art department had created a fabulous Inn. The scene involved me meeting the girl I was in love with. I watched as she came over the brow of the hill in a stage coach pulled by white horses…. it was a marvellous sight.

The director called “Cut”, then told me that I had done a really good job which confused me because I hadn’t done anything…. just watch.
That was the beginning of learning about screen acting.

In 1990, you performed as the legendary Monster in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound. What was it like to take on the role of such an iconic figure? What sort of preparation did you do for this role?

I tried to create a different physicality for the Monster. He had been created to be better than a normal person, he was stronger and had more sensitive hearing and could speak and reason.

I got help from a movement teacher and worked on walking without opposing movement of the arms and legs. Then we developed a loping run with both arms moving together. I used to practice this run early in the morning on Wimbledon Common near where I lived… and scared a few early morning dog-walkers!

The prosthetic make-up was designed by Nick Dudman and I spent hours with his fabulous team each day applying it all. The final bit was the eyes, which were rigid pieces with art work showing that different eyes had been stitched together for the Monster. This gave me very limited vision and I had to be helped on set. I was told that on no account should I get any dirt in my eyes….. So, naturally, the first scene I shot had me running behind a the horse-drawn carriage while a wind machine blew handfuls of dust in my face.

We had the best fun making that film. I spent most of my evenings in fabulous restaurants in Milan eating, drinking, laughing and arguing with John Hurt and Raul Julia.

A truly unforgettable time!

Roger Corman is a legendary filmmaker and producer with a very specific way of doing things in the world of cinema. What was it like working under the guise of a man like Mr. Corman?

Roger is a very conservative seeming gentleman….. but with his own wild ideas.

In one early scene we shot, The Monster has gone into the town where a fiesta is taking place. The noise of fireworks hurts his sensitive ears and in his distress he frightens some children. A nightwatchman runs up blowing his whistle which makes him even more distraught. He grabs the nightwatchman, plunges his fist into the man’s chest and pulls out his still beating heart which he holds up in front of him. Seeing this the poor man dies!

As we prepared to shoot I had a tube running up my arm which was pumping sticky artificial blood through the throbbing prop heart in my hand.

Roger came up to me and said, “Nick, at this point over-acting is impossible”.

1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves will not only go down as my favorite Robin Hood story of all time, but one of my favorite films of all time. And you were freaking Little John! What was it like to work on such a iconic film, and what are your thoughts on the final cut of the film that we know and love?

I grew up on the Disney live action film with Richard Todd as Robin and James Robertson Justice as Little John. I saw it several times in the cinema.

There was a stream near my house and as a kid we would act out the fight in waterfall. What a treat to get to act it out again – this time in a hugely popular modern version!

The actual shoot was chaotic and hard work….. we had no idea it would be such a success. Our fight in the waterfall was shot in Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire…. in November. And let me tell you, it was cold!

It took three days to shoot that sequence – what you see in the film is a small part of what we actually shot. We were in the water first shot to last shot, for three days, fighting on treacherous boulders in fast moving water, and because of the fighting we couldn’t wear wet suits under our clothes.

But I feel so lucky to have been part of something that people know and love.

After being in the world of acting for over 5 decades, what is it that keeps you in this business? What is it that you still adore about the profession of performance?

You never know what you will be asked to do next. That is priceless.
Getting an early call to be driven out to some exotic location to meet your fellow cast members and crew never grows old.

So, what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m so lucky to still be asked to do things. Currently I’m in the third series of Grantchester which is a joy to work on. Set in the 1950s, James Norton is the Anglican Vicar of Grantchester and Robson Greene the local policeman.

I came into the first season in a guest role and immediately felt at home. I was asked back to do a couple of episodes in the second season, and now in the third, I am a potential romantic interest for the vicar’s house-keeper played by Tessa Peake-Jones.

Who could have predicted that!

What was the last thing to make you smile?

I just heard that after a five year hiatus there is a new series of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
Can’t wait!

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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