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 19 April to 20 May 1983, Michael Gothard appeared on stage, playing Agrippa, and Thidias, in The Young Vic Company's 'Anthony and Cleopatra' at the Young Vic Theatre, 66 The Cut, in Waterloo.

Michael Covenay in the Financial Times: 25 April 1983

"All things considered, I have no hesitation in recommending the young Vic’s version in preference to that of the RSC at the Pit … [being staged concurrently]

The exotic swirl of the piece is excitingly maintained in Keith Hack’s production …

The Young Vic cast is, on the whole, stronger than at the Pit.

The whole show has a movement and energy missing at the RSC …"

MICHAEL GOTHARD was among the first of the "underground" heroes to emerge into the mainstream of the acting profession.

In Arthur of the Britons (Wednesday) he plays the Saxon, Kai, brought up in the Celtic community. Generally, he is associated with more sinister, misfit roles, for example his part as a killer in Scream and Scream Again, and the psychopathic priest-inquisitor in another film, Ken Russell's The Devils.

Gothard, single and in his early 30's, has a broad, massively square face and a deep, hard voice which seems un-English, though he comes from North London. Contrasting with his appearance are his small, rectangular metal-rimmed glasses, perched low on his nose in the style of the docile shoemaker in Pinocchio cartoons.
Read more... )
Michael loved going to the theatre. He went a fair bit with my parents, but they were not Shakespeare fans, and Michael had an extraordinary knowledge and love of the Bard.

He was a huge influence on my love of Shakespeare, and I saw my first Shakespeare play with him when I was very young. He took me to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, wanting to introduce me to "the best". He selected the play, prepared me for it by going through it beforehand, then discussed it with me in the interval and afterwards. It was brilliant I had someone to take me.

One of the Shakespeare plays of which Michael was particularly fond was “Richard II.” The verse is so familiar to me that I suspect Michael would have gone through it with me in depth when I was a teenager.

We discussed “Anthony and Cleopatra” when I was doing my A-levels, especially that amazing speech by Enobarbas.

This is the first part of the speech in which Enobarbus describes Cleopatra to Agrippa. It has very similar imagery to Homer, especially The Iliad. Michael thought it likely Shakespeare used Homer as a source for some of the imagery.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene II.

Enobarbus: I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
O'erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

“The Tempest” was another one of Michael’s favourites. I loved hearing him read Prospero's speech. Act 4 sc. 1, “Our revels now are ended.”

I first saw it with him when I was about 12; Michael would have been 30. I often wonder what people must have thought when they saw this solemn little girl speaking very earnestly to her "big brother" about the play. Michael never talked down to me, and would have discussed it with me in a way I could understand, but still in an adult way.

We saw The Tempest together many times. The first RSC production of it we saw was in 1978, with Michael Hordern as Prospero.

He also took me to see the RSC’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” in 1978, with Alan Howard and Glenda Jackson, as well as “Taming of the Shrew” with Jonathan Pryce in the role of Petruchio, arriving on stage on a motorbike, which I thought was so cool!

We went to see Coriolanus at the Barbican on a Saturday in 1989 or 1990, with Charles Dance as Coriolanus. It was directed by Terry Hands, whose work Michael admired. Joe Melia, [with whom he had a few scenes in the “Minder” episode, “From Fulham, With Love”] played Junius Brutus.

Michael had an astonishing memory, and could quote long passages from Shakespeare and Homer.

Other plays we saw together were The National Theatre’s “The Caretaker” (around 1980) with Warren Mitchell, Kenneth Cranham, and Jonathan Pryce, the RSC panto, “The Swan’s Down Gloves” (1981), “Good” (1982) and “Toad of Toad Hall” (also 1982).

From the programme, Toad of Toad Hall seems to have been it aimed at quite young children. Maybe he knew someone in it. I know he always had great difficulty believing I had grown up, but I would have been around 25 when we went to see that!


Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends.
From: "The Stage" September 15 1966

"Theatrescope are to present 'A Pretty Row of Pretty Ribbons' by Brian Gear at the Little Theatre Club, Garrick Yard, from Monday to Friday of next week at 12:15 and 1:15.

The play was commissioned by BBC TV, and has been shown on the Western Region.

Michael Gothard and Lyndell Rowe are to appear in the Little production."

From a review in The Times, 20 Sept 1966

"This... is the best thing Theatrescope have presented here for some time, and it is well worth a visit."

"The two performances by Miss Lyndell Rowe and Mr Michael Gothard were neat and well turned out."
From: TV Times: 8 February 1973

[Herostratus] brought Gothard approval from the critics, but no actual work. For 18 months - "a period too depressing to think about" - he did odd jobs and went intermittently on the dole. It was this taste of unemployment that determined his practical attitude to his profession.

"I was involved in helping to get the very first lunchtime theatre off the ground. It was a great experience but there was absolutely no money in it."

From: Petticoat interview 6 October 1973

“About a year and a half passed between my first important film part in Herostratus and my next big break – Out of the Unknown – a television series.” (He appeared in the first episode of season 2: The Machine Stops.")

In 1966 Michael appeared in the "The Spotlight" casting publication for the first time.
He does not seem to have had an agent, as interested parties were referred to the publication itself for contact information.

1966 Attwood crop

This was the photo used: taken in 1965 by Graham Attwood.
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.


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