Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT
Jason's heroic endeavour
David Jason takes on the role of World War One hero Captain Frank Beck
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas
Only Fools and Horses star David Jason is returning to BBC TV but this time as a hero of World War One.
Jason plays Captain Frank Beck in BBC One's powerful drama for Remembrance Sunday, All the King's Men.
The film, which boasts a star-studded line-up including Dame Maggie Smith, shatters eight decades of myth surrounding the "vanished battalion" of King George V's Sandringham estate.
"Although there have been many stories about the World War One, none compares with this heart-breaking story of the Sandringham Company.
"They were the King's own regiment. The Sandringham community was like an extended family. It was a story that needed to be told," Jason explains.
On 12 August 1915, as captain of the fifth battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, Beck led his green young soldiers across the arid expanse of the Suvla Plain in Gallipoli - straight into a wall of enemy Turkish fire.
Now, after 80 years of romanticism, All the King's Men reveals that the fate of the men was ugly and cruel. So much so, that for reasons of national pride and morale, the truth was kept hidden.
But enthralling though the events of All the King's Men undoubtedly are, Jason stresses that the underlying tale of loyalty and courage is what truly makes the drama of the piece.
"It is so important to remind ourselves that people gave their lives in tragic circumstances so that we could all be here today.
"I think that telling a story like this can only serve to say that when these terrible things happen it is ordinary people and families that are affected. Ordinary people make heroes - they are not just born with an H on their heads," he says.
Assuming the role of a man of such integrity was, says Jason, a huge honour. But he admits he felt burdened by the task he had taken on.
"I have always played characters that are invented and have been able to fiddle about with them because they have existed in my imagination. Frank Beck, on the other hand, is a real character, the first one that I have played.
"As we were leaving, Edward said 'Well, when I first heard you were going to play this part I thought absolutely not - there was no way you could possibly do it. But now I have met you, I think you can'," Jason recalls.
The seven-week shooting schedule - much of it in the 100 degree heat of southern Spain which doubled for Turkey - left 57-year-old Jason "knackered".
The three-year battle, of all involved in the production, to bring the findings of writer and former policeman Nigel McCrery to the screen has been an additional strain.
"I am a very great pacifist which is one of the reasons why I wanted to do this. But when you make something like this you are trying to get home that if you have to send blokes to war, make sure they are looked after.
"It was particularly obvious in the 14-18 war that nobody was serviced well - on any side. But I am always consistent in that there should be other ways and sometimes you have to stand up and be counted."
All the King's Men goes out on Sunday 14 November on BBC One at 21.00 GMT as the first of three programmes in the series A Century of Conflict.
TV and Radio