In this epic science fantasy drama, Michael Gothard was eventually cast as European Space Agency Director, Dr. Bukovsky.

Bukovsky appears in the first half of the film, directing investigations into three transparent caskets containing naked aliens, found on the burned-out remains of the joint US/European Shuttle, Churchill.

In trying to rescue a security guard who is having the lifeforce sucked out of him by a newly-awakened female alien, Bukovsky is also attacked, by “the most overwhelmingly feminine presence” he has ever experienced.

He is later involved in the astronaut Carlsen’s debrief, but - having been drained of some of his lifeforce, and distressed by the loss of control - he never really recovers.

Having announced the arrival of the alien spaceship in earth orbit, he suggests that - like the vampires of legend - these space vampires are bringing their earth with them,
Bukovsky isn’t seen again.

He is later said to have died “like the rest”, though in the absence of evidence, it is tempting to think that he might have just gone for a quiet smoke and a lie down!

The film divides opinion, with reviews ranging from the “so bad it’s good” variety to “flawed genius”, with Jungian and Freudian readings, and suggestions that this was a parable about AIDS.

The film won the 1985 Caixa de Catalunya for Best Special Effects (John Dykstra), and was nominated for the 1986 Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, and Best Special Effects.


Casting

Michael’s friend Sean McCormick tells of how, when he last saw Michael, “he had just lost the lead role in the Toby Hooper film 'Space Vampires' [released as 'Life Force' on June 21, 1985] to American actor Steve Railsback, and it crushed him. I think it was one of the straws on the camel's back that started his six or seven year darkness.”

Former girlfriend, N.B remembers, “I think there was talk about Michael getting another part in that film Lifeforce. I am pretty sure he talked about the crooked ways in which people (actors) got shuffled about and got made redundant or put to minor roles than was originally foreseen. He was angry, but didn't want to do anything about it. He hated going to places where you could socialise with directors and producers. He wasn't that kind of a person who wanted to ingratiate himself in order to get a job.”

Per an uncredited contributor to IMDB, Anthony Hopkins and Terence Stamp were the original choices to play Colonel Caine. Michael Gothard screen-tested for the role, but after meeting Peter Firth, director Tobe Hooper decided to give Firth the role, and gave Michael the role of Dr. Bukovsky instead.

A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends, confirms that both roles were supposed to have been on the cards for Michael.

"I don't remember if Michael talked to me about it, or to my father while I was around, but I remember that Michael was supposed to get the role of either the Commander of the mission [a role that went to Steve Railsback] or Colonel Caine [eventually played by Peter Firth], but was shuffled into the less important role of Dr Bukovsky.

He didn't blame the other actors at all, but ‘the business’: the producers, and the fact that actors had to play the political game - 'prostitute themselves', as he put it - to get on. He hated that actors had to go to parties, and stitch other actors up. Michael would NOT play the game. He felt actors should be cast on their merits, but that now they had become pawns, and talent didn't count for much.

I'm only surprised he didn't pull out, but perhaps his contract made that impossible, otherwise he would have no hesitation in telling a producer where to go. I’m sure the disappointment over that film helped push him further away from acting."

~~

Michael had worked with Peter Firth before, on "Arthur of the Britons", where Firth guest-starred as Corin in "The Pupil."

Personal statement

In correspondence with Belsizepark, Mathilda May, who played the alien vampire girl, (and was supposedly embarrassed by the film), says of Michael Gothard: "I remember him as a lovely person; a gentleman ..."

Watch on Youtube

IMDB entry
Memory from Michael's friend Sean McCormick.

I saw Oliver Reed's (one of my favorite British actors) name, and it immediately brought back to mind an amusing and inebriated lunch with Michael Gothard in the Executive dining room at E.M.I. Studios.

Michael had us in stitches with his description of a typical luncheon with his friend and co-star Oliver Reed, and Reed’s at-the-time co-star, Klaus Kinski. Reed and Kinski were shooting ‘Venom’1 and Michael was wrapping the Bond film2 at Pinewood.

Michael spoke of the absolute hatred Reed and Kinski had for one another: the war, pure and simple. Kinski would order his meat (beef) raw, because he ate it that way, and – mostly – because he knew Reed hated it. Sorry for the profanity, but the following exchange, which Michael recounted, is word for word.

Reed: You absolutely disgust me, you heathen.
Kinski: Shut up you English pig! I hate you!
Reed: You vile Nazi!
Kinski: I hate you, you English sheeet!
Reed: I thought we had killed all of your kind in the war.
Kinski: [smacking his full mouth of raw meat] Fuck you English! I hate all of you Engliiiish pigs!
Reed: Then why don't you just fucking go home, you Nazi c**t!

According to Michael, this was not an isolated event, in fact it was daily, and on the set of ‘Venom.’ Things were so bad that they had to change the script and schedule so Reed and Kinski had as little time together as possible.

Michael's telling of the tale was the best, and one that should have been filmed for sure! Michael got a big kick out of telling that story; he would look at you over the top of his glasses and get the funniest look on his face!

~~

1 ‘Venom’ was released in November 1981. Klaus Kinski played a hostage-taker Jacques Müller and Oliver Reed played his accomplice Dave Averconnelly.

2 ‘For Your Eyes Only’, in which Michael Gothard played Emile Leopold Locque, released June 1981.
See entry on "The Three Musketeers" for background information.

In "The Four Musketeers", Michael Gothard's character, Felton, is charged by the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward) with guarding Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway), because Buckingham mistakenly believes Felton to be impervious to beauty.

Milady convinces Felton that Buckingham is secretly a Catholic, and therefore his enemy, and that she, on the other hand, is of his persuasion; then she seduces him, and persuades him to help her escape.

Still under Milady’s spell, Felton then kills Buckingham, and is immediately apprehended.

Michael Gothard’s performance here, as a righteous man, being gradually lured to his destruction by a manipulative woman, is subtle and compelling.

Asked what Michael considered his best performance, his friend from the 1980s, Sean McCormick, said “I think [Michael] thought that his best work was the ‘Three Musketeers’ or at least it was the best film he had done.” [Presumably he was still thinking of the two films as if they were one.]

Reviews

DVD Savant – Glenn Erickson


“As D'Artagnan's sidekick, Lester brought along faithful stalwart Roy Kinnear. A blinkered producing decision might have signed up someone like Benny Hill, and thrown the picture off balance. Even a 2nd string role was filled by Michael Gothard (Scream and Scream Again), another clever choice instead of a commercial one.”

Full review

Krell Laboratories

“Dunaway gets the showiest role in the film as the most fatal of femme fatales. She gets an entire sequence to herself to corrupt the puritan gaoler [Felton, played by Michael Gothard] provided her by Buckingham and, boy howdy, does she make the most of it.”
Full review


Review on “Audio Video Revolution”

IMDB entry
“Scream and Scream Again” was Michael’s first foray into the horror genre, as the vampire, Keith

Vincent Price is reported to have said: “Michael Gothard … received the best notices for “Scream and Scream Again” as the dynamic and desperate vampire.”

Both the Director, Gordon Hessler, and the Executive Producer, Louis M. Heyward, were very favourably impressed with him.

Incidentally, Nigel Lambert (who played Ken Sparten) appeared in two of the same episodes of “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers” as Michael, “Peril” and “Escape.”

From: “The Christopher Lee Filmography.”

The real stars of this film are Alfred Marks and Michael Gothard. … As the brutal vampire-killer, Michael Gothard projects an out-of-control, psychopathic quality that is cold and ugly and not easily forgotten.

Remarkably, he performed all of his dangerous stunts himself. He fell ten feet from a beam, rolled part way down a rocky quarry, and allowed himself to be pulled up the side of this same steep quarry by a steel cable to give the effect that he was running up it with his super strength. Gothard’s dedication gives this film much of its punch because, according to both Heyward and Hessler, "this was the only way the stunts could have been included because of the low budget."

(Johnson, Tom, and Mark A. Miller. Christopher Lee Filmography: all theatrical releases, 1948-2003, The. McFarland & Co., 2004. p. 199-200.)

~~

Interview with executive producer, Louis M. Heyward.

"I felt that Michael Gothard was going to be the biggest thing that ever happened. He had that insane look and that drive, and he was wonderful. Here is a kid who really threw himself into the picture wholeheartedly. Do you remember the scene where he appears to be walking up the cliff? That's a stunt that, as an actor, I would not have agreed to; I'd say, 'Hey, get a double or get a dummy. I ain't either one.' But the kid agreed to do it, without a double--he was that driven. He had a lot of class and a lot of style. Gordon [Hessler, Alfred Hitchcock's protege] came up with the idea of using an overhead cable to give that illusion of his walking up the cliff."

(Weaver, Tom, Brunas Michael and Brunas, John. Science Fiction Stars and Horror Heroes: Interviews with Actors, Directors, Producers, and Writers of the 1940s through 1960s. page 176)

This is all the more remarkable when you consider Don Levy's assertion, "Mike Gothard ... can't stand heights." But Levy made him stand on the edge of the roof of an 18-storey block, with no safety devices and in a howling gale. At least on "Scream and Scream Again" he was attached to a cable!
Read more... )
From Petticoat interview 6 October 1973:

Eventually, he returned to London [from France] and got a job shifting scenery at the New Arts Theatre. A friend of his was making an amateur movie and was auditioning actors. Mike felt that he could do better. “As a joke I read to him, and much to my surprise landed a leading role. The picture was a triangle love story, typical of the home movies being made at the time.”

That part brought him encouragement from people in the profession. He decided to go to an actor’s workshop run by an American actor, Robert O’Neal. But he could only attend evenings and weekends – he had to support himself with a full-time day job.

He became involved in making ‘shoestring’ movies.

He says he didn’t finally make up his mind to become an actor until he was twenty-one. [that would have been in 1960].

“I became an actor because I was better at that than anything. In the early days I was full of energy and into trying a number of jobs. But I soon discovered that I couldn’t escape show-biz, even if my instinct didn’t like its superficiality.”

Aileen McClintock spoke to actress Sarah Guthrie on the phone.

Along with Michael, Sarah was involved in a small fringe theatre group in the early 1960s – setting up lunchtime theatres in pubs.

She recalled a couple of the plays they had put on – mainly French ones – ‘The Rehearsal’ [presumably the one by Jean Anouilh] and something by Jean Genet.

Lunchtime Theatre got you lunch and a play for 5 shillings!

There is an interview with Sarah here, but she doesn't mention Michael by name.

She remembered that he attended drama school in the evenings, but couldn’t recall which one.

She said that Michael did not have a voice for theatre, and that, in any case, he always wanted to work in film or television.

Per The Runewriter

He told me that he in the beginning of his career had been offered a job at RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), and I asked why he hadn't tried this, and I must say I never really understood his answer; it was something about not repeating yourself.
But I thought film actors had to repeat the scenes all the time ...

Before Michael Gothard chose to work with his language as an actor, he had also volunteered as journalist at local papers. He was a witty and funny letter writer.

Sean McCormick’s Uncle Dan, who evidently lost touch with Michael for a time, after sharing a place in Paris, suggested:

“You might also ask your friend if they have run across two blokes: Tony Chappa [Greek] (guitar) or Bob White [Anglo-Indian] (photographer) in London. ... They were Brit pals from Paris days who led me to M. a year or two later, when he was studying theatre but had not yet landed a film ... He was living in an obscure garret/loft somewhere in the city.”

I have not been able to make contact with Tony Chappa or Bob White as yet.
In the BFI notes with Herostratus, Michael is described as “a directionless state-school leaver.”

From TV Times: 8 February 1973:

"I left school when I was 17 or 18 with little idea of what I wanted to do. I think this would be true of most people if left to their own devices. Most of us are channeled into various functions, for better or for worse.

This is how things are constructed, but you always get the odd one who slips through, who doesn't fit too well. I mean, people either find something they like doing or they end up gangsters or just plain bums. It comes down to that, doesn't it?"
Read more... )

Early life

1 Jan 1970 02:00 am
Per The Runewriter:

"Talking about war, Michael told me he had suffered through the Blitz as many other Londoners, but during those – also to grown-ups scaringly dark years – he was parted from his parents."

NB. While some of what The Runewriter says does not seem quite to fit with what we know, other things they have said clearly show that they must have met and socialised with him, as they mention various personal details which were are not widely known.

Per a researcher at the Imperial War Museum: the evacuation programme was set up in 1938, as they knew war was looming. Infants, and children under school age had to remain with a parent. Children were evacuated by schools rather than areas.

Michael could have been a late evacuee, because Hendon was a target of the V2 bombs, which were used towards the end of the war. He could have gone to school at the age of four, in Sept. 1943, as it was quite common for children to start at this age, and been evacuated with his school.

This scenario fulfils the criteria of him suffering in the Blitz, and being separated from his parents.

It also seems possible that he went to stay with his grandparents at Bream's Eaves.

Angharad24 has checked the electoral roll, and found that Irene Gothard was living at 1 Gloucester Court, Park Village East, NW1, in 1950, so she must have moved to the area in 1949 or 1950. She is the only person registered at that address in 1950 and 1951; Michael would have been only 10 or 11 at the time, and so would not have been included.

Angharad24 tracked down someone who lived in that area, and knew Michael and his mother between 1948 and 1952. Ritva's account is here.

Ritva says that Michael used to go to the country during school holidays, so he probably went to stay with his maternal grandparents, in or near Bream, on the edge of the Forest of Dean. On visiting the area, Angharad24 found that horse-riding is a popular activity there; this is probably where Michael learned to ride.

Around 1951, he was a member of the 15th St. Pancras Boy Scout Troop, as part of a patrol listed below:
L Clark
D Fielder
M Gothard
B Hillier
B Janes
J Kesner
D Parr
J Smith
R Murphy
R Corrie

Aileen McClintock wrote to various North London schools but no one remembered Michael going there. He went to a state school per. the BFI notes on Herostratus.

I asked one of Michael's friends from the 1980s, "Did he ever talk about his early life?"

Sean McCormick replied: "No. He never really talked to much about his parents ... I'm sure they were working folk."

Michael’s former girlfriend N.B., who first met him in 1984, says:

“Unfortunately I never met his mother … I don’t know what happened to his father, either. I just know that he was very upset that his mother never told him the truth about his father when he was little.

Because it was his father who kept seeing him as a child, but his mother told him to call that man “uncle” and he thought it was just an acquaintance of his mother’s.

But sometime later his father vanished from his life completely, a fact that Michael never bore easily.

I don't quite remember whether he just imagined it, or if his mother had ever made such allusions, but he thought it possible that his father was German or had German blood. He was often asked if he had German blood, but maybe just because of his surname and not because of his looks.”

Post-war Britain would have been an uncomfortable time for anyone who could have been taken for German.

From 1952 to 1958, a man named Jack Walker was living at 1 Gloucester Court with Irene. Jack was presumably a new partner, and unofficial step-father for Michael, rather than a lodger, although depending on the dates, it is also possible that the man Ritva had seen around that time was Michael's real father.

It seems possible that conflict with Jack Walker was one of the reasons Michael left home so young, but it could also have been to do with his mother's refusal to talk about his father.

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