In May 1986 Peter Cushing reflected on his life during an hour-long interview that was thought to be lost to the archive, but now we can hear his reflections for the first time and get a unique insight into his personality that helps us assess his lasting contribution to our cultural heritage.
PETER CUSHING: In His Own Words is a feature documentary based around an extended one-hour radio interview recorded with Peter towards the end of his career in May 1986. Peter became known to many as the epitome of evil on the silver screen, but his interview reveals a very different character.
Through revisiting the interview, much of which is being heard for the first time, we explore Peter’s personality, hearing in his own words how he progressed from the fumbling actor making his first appearance on stage at the Connaught Theatre, through to the sure-footed international screen actor. We hear the warmth of his personality that is often at odds with the many characters that he played, we understand more about his acting technique and get to appreciate why colleagues adored him.
Peter is often defined by his work with Hammer Films, but his output was much more extensive. For many he’s as fondly remembered as Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes or Grand Moff Tarkin as he is for playing Baron Frankenstein or Doctor Van Helsing. Consequently, the documentary also offers an appreciation of the breadth of Peter’s work and explores his enduring place in our popular culture.
The documentary’s director, Richard Edwards recorded the interview with Peter in 1986, a few days after the Royal Premiere for Peter’s final film, Biggles. During the interview Peter reflects on landing his first acting job at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing and his many subsequent film and television roles. He comments on the mechanical nature of film acting, is optimistic about the future of the film industry and describes his great affection for his country. He finishes by expressing his love for his late wife Helen, without whom, he concludes, none of it would have been possible.
The audio from Peter’s interview is animated with contemporary live-action footage from many of the places that were pivotal in his life. The collage of images is presented as if Peter were able to return to them today and we get to see them through his inquisitive eyes. Some of the locations that we’re revisiting to illustrate Peter’s interview include the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, Bray Studios, Oakley Court, Elstree Studios, Hammer House, Baker Street (221b) and Whitstable in Kent, where Peter and Helen made their home from the late 1950s.
We’re making this documentary with the wonderful assistance of the team at Elstree Studios, which played an important part in Peter’s career. Many of the interviews will be recorded at Elstree and include senior film industry execs, former backstage runners and some of the actors who either appeared alongside Peter or in some of Hammer Films’ other notable productions, including:
- MADELINE SMITH: Madeline is an established international actress known for many film and television appearances, including the Bond film Live and Let Die opposite Roger Moore and Hammer Films’ ground-breaking gothic shockers The Vampire Lovers with Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing, and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.
- VALERIE LEON: Valerie is an internationally renowned theatre and film actress. She has appeared in many of the classic Carry-On comedy films, is a former Bond-girl who appeared alongside Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me and also took the lead role in Hammer Films’ production of Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb.
- JENNY HANLEY: Jenny’s extensive career spans film, television, radio and theatre. She appeared in Hammer Films’ Scars of Dracula and alongside George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As our narrator Jenny brings her wealth of experience to help us pull the whole story together and present a single narrative.
- DEREK FOWLDS: Derek appeared with Peter Cushing in Hammer Films’ classic 1967 shocker, Frankenstein Created Woman, one of the last to be produced at their former home, Bray Studios. Derek has many acclaimed leading roles on stage and television to his name, including the notable BBC comedy Yes, Minister and ITV’s Heartbeat.
- JUDY MATHESON: Judy appeared in a number of horror classics in the early 1970s, in particular appearing with Peter in Hammer Films’ Twins of Evil in 1971. Her horror film credits also include Hammer’ Lust for a Vampire (1971), as well as Crucible of Terror (1971) and The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) with Jenny Hanley.
- MORRIS BRIGHT MBE: As chairman of Elstree Studios, leader of the local council, a journalist and a broadcaster, Morris has a long track record not only with the studios but within the British film and television industries. He has tremendous insights into the studio’s history, Peter’s work and the future of the film industry in the UK.
- PAUL WELSH MBE: In 1997 Paul was awarded the MBE for his services to preserving Elstree Studios. As a film historian and as the former chief entertainments officer at Elstree & Borehamwood Town Council, Paul worked very closely with many of the leading performers who came to the studios, including Peter Cushing.
- PHIL CAMPBELL: Phil, a former runner at Hammer Films, is co-author of Running Scared. He spent much of his time in the late 1960s and early 1970s working with Brian Reynolds at the company’s offices in Wardour Street and at Elstree Studios, where they worked on many of Hammer Films’ iconic productions from that time.
- BRIAN REYNOLDS: Brian worked closely with Phil at Hammer Films and together they had the pleasure of working with many of the company’s stars, including Valerie Leon, Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Ralph Bates. They jointly published their experiences in their recent book, Running Scared.
Our film will appeal to admirers of Peter Cushing, his work and that of his contemporaries, as well as those with a passion for films and filmmaking, whether classics or the latest releases. We see our audience as being those who prefer more in-depth subjects that go beyond soundbites and which are presented with higher production values. They’ll respond to the warmth of Peter’s personality, the respect that he earnt from his colleagues and the film’s revealing insights from performers and industry professionals. They’ll be taken by Peter’s views on Hammer Films, Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Star Wars, how the industry sees his contribution to our cultural heritage and how his enduring legacy is still appreciated by fans, old and new, around the world.
PETER CUSHING: In His Own Words is produced and directed by Richard Edwards.
Feature Documentary. In Production