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Stephen Fry, writer and broadcaster
Stephen Fry, writer and broadcaster
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: STEPHEN FRY FEBRUARY 24TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Now a host of movie stars will be gathering tonight at Leicester Square for the BAFTA Film Awards. As well as coverage here on BBC1 the ceremony is being broadcast live in the United States for the first time and will be watched with keen interest as an indicator for the Oscar voting. In a moment I'll be speaking to the host of the event Stephen Fry but first a taste of just some of the films that are coming your way tonight.

[FILM CLIPS]

DAVID FROST: That was Iris, A Beautiful Mind and Gosford Park and now I'm joined by one of the stars of Gosforth Park and the host, as we were saying, at tonight's awards ceremoney, Stephen Fry. Good morning Stephen.

STEPHEN FRY: Good morning, an honour as always to have my bottom on so distinguished a sofa, just think of the other bottoms that have been here.

DAVID FROST: Just, it beggars¿

STEPHEN FRY: It beggars belief.

DAVID FROST: It beggars belief and description. Tell me tonight just before the show starts will you be nervous, do you get nerves, do you do something superstitious?

STEPHEN FRY: No an enormous amount of pacing, no real vomiting but certainly a lot of nausea, I think, what one's nervous about, I mean of course you don't want to make a supreme idiot of yourself but the absolute key to these events is to make sure that the audience, both the television audience and the audience in the Odeon Leicester Square feel that it's sort of, it's on proper wheels and nothing's going to break down, nobody's going to be embarrassed and it's going to, it's going to zip along at proper speed and that way it can become rather enjoyable so it's really, you just don't want to let everybody down because so much work goes into these things, every year it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and now as you rightly pointed out, because for the last couple of years it now precedes the Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles it has become the leading index of, of the way film people are thinking as far as the Oscars are concerned and we can't pretend that the Academy Awards in America are not the absolute culmination of the awards year and therefore I think it's right of the, of BAFTA to have moved to before it to allow that climax.

DAVID FROST: Do, do you feel hat the British film industry is on a roll or do you despair of it, is there enough, are there enough tax breaks, lottery money, I mean?

STEPHEN FRY: I think, I think it's terribly important to separate what one means by the British Film Industry and British film talent if you like, I think if one talks of British film talent I don't think we've every had a higher percentage of, of British talent within, within the blockbuster and successful films and indeed the less blockbuster but equally commercial films like Gosford Park for example which for all it had an American director was really an entirely British film and was written by Briton Julian Fellows and it was conceived and produced, through the Film Council and British money. And indeed Lord of the Rings, you may say well that's, that's New Zealand and it's world finance but obviously it's, it's British material, it's an almost entirely British cast and it's a British sensibility, a British use of language, a British way of storytelling, a British style of acting, I mean you could, you could say obviously if you're Australian that the, to have Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, not to mention Baz Luhrmann and Fred Skipsey who directed one of the great hits of the year, Last Orders, but they are also way disproportionate to the, population influential and I think that's partly because of our connection with Australia, it's a language thing.

DAVID FROST: And you, you are involved in the film industry, among other things, have you had some variegated experiences with producers?

STEPHEN FRY: Well it's impossible not to, producers, the greatest thing is you've got no, you've really got no excuse because ever since Hollywood was invented, books have been written and anecdotes told about what producers are like, they're great shaggy, bear-like monsters of, of depravity, greed and philistinism and we all know that and to be surprised by it is ridiculous but I've been in offices where Bill Goldman, William Goldman who's a friend, William Goldman the great screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and Marathon Man and many other films, and I've had an exact experience as him, which is "I've got to take this call do you mind?" and he said, and just before, talking to this person he said "Now what lie did I tell him yesterday?" And there, the point is as Bill Gorman says, when you say shameless you have to realise what the word means, that these people are literally shameless, when we, when we say oh you are shameless we say it to someone who is capable of shame and therefore gives you, no I'm sorry. But to an American shame, shame, what would that be, you know they have absolutely no shame, I once with a group of people and as a writer I'd been asked to think about writing a script for two very, very big filmstars at the time and they had their lawyers and they had their agents and they had this very big and powerful studio boss and the, the most powerful lawyer with the slightly bigger of the two enormous cigars said well what we, we just need a story outline, the two are so keen to work with each other, it'll be a great success and the producer said "I know" he said " I got it, two brothers". Slight pause and the slightly more senior lawyer with slightly more confident said "it's not very original", he said "okay they don't have to be brothers". Fantastic.

DAVID FROST: And yourself, I found yesterday various splendid descriptions of yourself including the thinking man's Jonathan Ross, a bass version of Prince Charles - that's bass -

STEPHEN FRY: Yes quite.

DAVID FROST: And a 21st century equivalent of Noel Coward one place, Oscar Wilde another, PG Wodehouse another, which of those would you happiest to be compared with?

STEPHEN FRY: Well for sunniness and disposition and kindness to be compared to Wilde and Wodehouse is fantastic, let alone that their use of language which I couldn't even come close, I couldn't lick the face of their socks when it comes to that. But I think there's no question that for some reason people perceive of me as being quintessentially English, whatever that means, I've not quite understood what it means, why a Huddersfield welder is less quintessentially English than someone who talks like me is way beyond my understanding, it's really a strange thing. We are in an odd way a very snobbish nation but as Alan Bennett once said, snobbery is an amiable vice when it looks upwards, it's only when it looks downward it's horrible, if you look down on people because, if you admire in some way some style of eccentricity in other people there's nothing that wrong with it. I remember Ben Elton once said to me, slightly moaning he said it's a weird thing Stephen, he said I've heard you swear on television with the most disgusting and you never get any complaints. He said when I say flipping heck the phone lines are jammed, I don't need to hear this kind of language, disgusting Jack Russel but when I use quite appalling language it's great, it's funny so the thing is to have a larynx made of tweed and you can get away with anything.

DAVID FROST: Anything, get away with anything in tweed. And in, where, where are your ambitions strongest at the moment Stephen, I mean in terms of writing or performing, performing on film, television or stage or was Soulmates enough, enough on that.

STEPHEN FRY: Stage like Anthony Hopkins and most other actors I, it's the repetition that, that drives me made about stage and I love being on a film set, I like the rhythms of a film set, boring as they seem to outsiders. I think to be honest I'm interested in directing, I have a project and indeed a war novel, the second novel which we're hoping to make this year and I've enjoyed making documentaries very much. I was in Peru last year, we made a programme about the origins of Paddington Bear which sounds rather strange, but I think it made a very nice programme, introducing this extraordinary country of Peru and the BBC liked it so much that they immediately commissioned another one and in fact virtually the day after broadcasting the Paddington one and I've just spent a whole month in Peru following these extraordinary bears, these spectacle bears.

DAVID FROST: And talking to your quotes, this is the happiest time, happiest time of your life, you've got a life?

STEPHEN FRY: Yes.

DAVID FROST: And people say you're much calmer?

STEPHEN FRY: I think I am, yes, it's very odd, one doesn't notice it in oneself, it takes, it takes one's friends to say you seem to have calmed down about so have been some very strange jittery figure without being aware of it. But yes you know at least, but yes I've at least got the courage to say that I'm happy, I used to be so sort of, a lot of people are so sort of fearful of tempting providence by daring to suggest that I might be happy or daring to suggest that I might have a right to be happy that it is at least okay to. For the particle slice, this vertical slice in time I am happy, what the horizontal is like only fate can decide.

DAVID FROST: And to your loathe yourself¿Because you said you used to define yourselof by your work?

STEPHEN FRY: I did actually, I don't know if you were the same at the time when you were absolutely every single, cramming in everything, crossing the Atlantic all the time and doing the peak of your thing. But I think, it's almost not exactly running away but there's a period in your twenties and your thirties when you are trying to prove something to yourself about your background, about your sense of who you were as a young person and your inadequacy compared to your friends who are better at sport or better¿ you know there's always that sort of early drive and then there comes a moment when you do realise that the obvious¿love and family and things are more important than anything else, they really are, and it doesn't matter what sort of family it is, it's, one's parents, in my case a host of God children and so on, that matters more to me than absolutely anything and that's how it should be.

DAVID FROST: Stephen thank you so much for being with us, good luck for everything?

STEPHEN FRY: Same to you.

DAVID FROST: May everything dance along merrily tonight.

STEPHEN FRY: You're very kind.

DAVID FROST: Stephen Fry there ladies and gentlemen.

END


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