The following piece was added to ‘Wikipedia talk’ on 17 November 2011 at 13:53 by someone calling themselves The Runewriter - evidently a Swedish person, sex unknown.

A lot of what they say about Michael is accurate, and not widely known, so The Runewriter had clearly met him, and got to know him. Michael’s former girlfriend N.B. thinks the person might be a Swedish woman called Kerstin, who was living at Michael’s house in Shirlock Road in 1984.

However, some of what The Runewriter says cannot be confirmed.

“In the spring of 1984, Michael Gothard came to Stockholm to stage a minor role in a film called ‘Starman’, where he was originally cast for the title role. However, due to some intrigues, he was replaced by Jeff Bridges.

In the film you can see that the mechanical dolls, supposed to show the Starman taking the shape of a human being, are based on Michael Gothard’s traits. He would have been perfect to embody this alienated personality trying to survive by adapting to the life on earth.

Instead he was to stage a researcher in wheelchair. Anyway the film a year later was promoted with Michael Gothard’s name in capital letters, as if he still was playing one of the leading characters.1

So he had a lot of hours off in Stockholm and went to a performance of ‘King Lear’ staged by Ingmar Bergman at the Dramatic Theatre.2

Michael Gothard was an intellectual man who knew his Shakespeare by heart, and probably he was the only one in the film team who bothered to attend a theatre performance in Swedish. I happened to sit behind him and got the whole story about ‘Starman’, and it really astonished me.

I visited Michael Gothard in London, and learned to know him as a warm, intelligent and humorous character that made original remarks and comments about things going on.

I will never forget what he said about the centre of Stockholm, that used to be a place with old houses – among them palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries. When Michel saw the brutal city renewal from the 70s he would go: "I didn't think Sweden was in the war!" I had to inform him that the stupid Swedes had destroyed their city.

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.

Michael Gothard, although working for the commercial film industry, was a culturally critical person, he was a member of the peace movement, he was against nuclear power and politically leftist.

A film he recommended to me from those times was ‘My Dinner with Andre’, not interesting for its camerawork, but for its way of explaining the social situations of actors.

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.3

He was a witty and funny letter writer.

Michael Gothard was a multi-talented person, he played the saxophone, he was also sketching what I remember as abstract pictures, and he closely followed his times, describing himself as a news addict.

Coming from a country famous for its suicides, I also want to add, that of course the cause of death throws its shadow on a person’s life, but it doesn't mean that the life itself was a very dark one. At least Michael and I had a lot of fun together, and I wish our friendship had lasted longer.

What also bothers me are some stories about the less serious parts of the film industry Michael told me. He said actors could sometimes get killed and their death then masked as a suicide or an accident, so they wouldn't have to pay the actor.

Anyway, if he took his life it wasn't an action against us that loved him, it was due to very sad and tragic circumstances. Depression is a disease with as big a risk of death as some severe forms of cancer, and it has to be treated by specialists, sometimes even in hospital. What a tragedy that there was no one there to take him by the hand and lead him to the hospital.”

~~

1 While the mechanical bodies could be said to look like Michael, there is no sign of him in the film. Either his role was cut completely, or there has been a misunderstanding or misremembering by The Runewriter. I can find no trace of Michael Gothard’s name on the Swedish poster for “Starman.”

However, Michael was said to have been in the frame for two other roles in “Lifeforce”: those of the hero, Col. Tom Carlsen (eventually played by Steve Railsback) and Col. Colin Caine (eventually played by Peter Firth) before he was eventually cast as Dr. Bukovsky.

As they posted this many years later, it seems possible that The Runewriter's memory is a little unreliable, and that he or she has got these two films mixed up.

Neither of the two productions were filmed in Sweden, so presumably Michael had gone there during a break in, or at the end of, the filming of his scenes in "Lifeforce."

2 The Ingmar Bergman production of King Lear mentioned by The Runewriter was first performed on 9 March 1984.

3 Childhood friend Baz encountered Michael working as a trainee reporter for the Kensington Post in 1961.
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.
Memory from Michael's childhood friend Baz:

"In 1961 at the time of his mother’s re-marriage, he was working as a trainee reporter on a local paper, 'The Kensington Post.' I know this to be the case because I had occasion to talk to him there.

He did not work on the paper for long as it was obviously not his metier.

The paper was part of a large group, abiding by all the employment regulations. One of these would be to question young men if they had been called-up to serve in the forces, to establish there would be no career breaks if the answer were ‘yes.’ Michael was close to my age, and I was called-up, with thousands following me before the draft was ended.

Government officers kept a very close eye on employment details and absentees from military service. Very few slipped through the net. The Head Office of the group Michael was employed by was in Loughton, East London now (Essex, then), and the Parliamentary constituency of one Winston Churchill. I doubt any Civil Servant would wish to embarrass Churchill with a draft dodger under his nose.

The call-up in those days required draftees to have – if not 20-20 vision – good eyesight, that may have to be aided by glasses under certain circumstances, reading and sighting firearms. It is my firm belief Michael did not go to Paris to dodge the draft. I suggest he failed the medical through poor eyesight.

I trust this may satisfy you that Michael was not a draft dodger; just a little vain about the glasses. Funny really, how a pair of goggles later became quite iconic on Michael.

NB. The Runewriter also mentions Michael working as a reporter.

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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