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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Actor Michael York quizzed
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Actor Michael York, whose long career has seen him take on roles from Shakespeare to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, is starring in his latest film.

Megiddo, which comes out in September, is the sequel to The Omega Code, which made $12m (8.4m) after its release in 1999.

It tells the tale of the rise of an anti-Christ character, following him from his childhood through to the Battle of Armageddon.

The clasically trained, British-born York, who lives in Los Angeles, is also up for an Emmy and for his role in US TV comedy The Lot, and starred in The Forsyte Saga (1967), Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and various Musketeers films.

He recently wrote a book to help actors tackle the bard, entitled A Shakespearean Actor Prepares.

What is it like working as a clasically trained actor in Hollywood? What did his latest role involve, and what are his views on Shakespeare?

Michael York answered your questions in a live forum.


Highlights of the interview:


Newshost:

Many people want to ask about your extremely varied career from Shakespeare to Austin Powers and of course a lot in between as well. We have a question from Tracey Lowe in Nottingham who asks: Did you have second thoughts about doing the Austin Powers movies because of the content as with the Carry On films with their sexual innuendo?


Michael York:

I always go by instinct when I am choosing a role. In this case a little light bulb flashed on. At the time one had no idea whether this would grow into this enormous monstrous franchise. What struck me about Austin Powers was that he was naughty but he was also rather nice. Equally what I loved was that he was revisiting the 60s which I had lived through. So all those costumes and attitudes were something that I had actually experienced. In fact I gave Mike a copy of a film called Smashing Time made with Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham which was all about two swinging Liverpool chicks coming to Swinging London.


Newshost:

Tracey wonders whether it was an enjoyable movie - two movies to make?


Michael York:

Very much so - yes. I think the second one, when people were a little more confident that they had something that would please the audience - but then again you don't know with sequels - some sequels just go nowhere. I am happy to say that we are filming a third instalment later this year and I am assured that I am in it - I am looking forward to it.


Newshost:

Do you know anything about the storyline yet?


Michael York:

I know nothing about it except that Mike Myers, who is very scrupulous about these things, is working hard on getting the script right. That is one of the great things about his work in that you could film the screenplay that he writes and provides, but he also has the courage to allow his actors to invest in it too - to let go and to improvise and if it works, it works.


Newshost:

People in Hollywood these days talk about "sequelitis" - the problems of making sequels and the uncertain nature as to whether the same story will work a second or third time around.


Michael York:

In fact I think we are finding that sequels now are working quite well. We have had a rather alarming summer at the movies where all these huge big box-office films are not staying in play. If they open big in one weekend, then that is it and then it is on to the next. I don't know whether this is an isolated trend or whether it is part of the future because it is rather alarming. Films used to stay and play for weeks and weeks and weeks but now it seems that they are not going to do this.


Newshost:

We have a question from Stephen Saul in London, UK who asks: It seems to me that you have returned to the big screen in the Austin Powers movies after years in the wilderness. Was this a deliberate move to come back in this way?


Michael York:

Well it wasn't in the wilderness - not for me anyway. I was exploring other fields of endeavour and doing other things and keeping busy - writing etc. No, it was probably the most creative time. But I accept the fact that you do have to get your passport stamped, so I thought it was time to go back and do a big studio film. It certainly wasn't the wilderness for me - it was wild.


Newshost:

He goes on to ask: Do you think it is high time for a Logan's Run revamp, possibly with someone like Tim Burton in the director's chair? Could you revive that movie?


Michael York:

I keep hearing reports of an imminent remake. In fact the other day, I ran into William Nolan, the writer of Logan's Run and he said that he had heard these rumours too - and I said that maybe I am now old enough to play the Peter Ustinov character. But yes, Tim Burton would be a fantastic choice because he has such an individual and such and interesting way of looking at the world.

It is a great story and every generation has to retell it. The interesting thing was when Logan's Run was made in the 70s, special effects were not really that special - they were good - but now we can do extraordinary effects because of this digital revolution and that would be interesting to see.


Newshost:

The movie that you have been working on is the sequel to the Omega Code. What can you tell us about it?


Michael York:

The Omega Code was this huge surprise against all the odds - it had a modest budget - it was the most successful limited release film. It hasn't yet played in England and I am looking forward to the time that it does. But because it made so much money they have been able to have a budget for the sequel which is up to the work in hand. It is called Megiddo, which is about the Battle of Armegeddon - the ultimate battle between good and evil. I also reprise the role as the anti-Christ and this time I am metamorphosed thanks to the special effects guys, into the devil - the anti-Christ, the Beast and that is pretty spectacular.


Newshost:

Joanne Roberts in London, UK asks: Why were you so intrigued to do this role - what fascinated you about it?


Michael York:

Again I do things on instinct. The producers came to me with this scenario and it just seemed that there was something really interesting. It was a wonderful role. The character is this media mogul - a sort of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdochish character - who crosses over into politics and then ends up running the world with enormous ambition. We had a lot of fun doing it. It was filmed in Israel, in Rome, which was quite ambitious in itself and the sequel again has been filmed internationally.

The source of funding perhaps explains why it is so distinctive. It is funded by Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is the biggest Christian broadcasting network in the world. They wanted to expand their audience claiming that there was a whole group of cinema goers who didn't go to see films because they didn't like what Hollywood provided and they wanted something that would meet their particular needs. So this is what it did. But then the film crossed over for those who wanted to see a fast-paced thriller.


Newshost:

Weren't there stories of pastors buying their entire congregations of a thousand people tickets to see the movie?


Michael York:

Yes it was marketed in a very unusual way. Certainly from its grassroots level from the Churches. They provided the film so they said now you should go and see it. But as I said, it crossed over, the word got out because the figures were quite huge. So we shall see. We have the sequel opening in a month and nothing is predictable.


Newshost:

You are writing a book about the making of the movie are you not?


Michael York:

Yes, I call it Dispatches from Armageddon. While I was doing the movie, I kept a diary day-by day. The sort of blow-by-blow thing that happens on a movie set. But it is also about movies in general. It is also about travel - in fact a whole 30 years of making movies. So it's both a travel diary and philosophical recollections. But because it's in everyone's interest to have the book out with the film, I have been going round the clock. In fact the book gets "put to bed" this weekend. So there is certain stress factor involved.


Newshost:

Do you enjoy the process of writing?


Michael York:

Very much so. I sort of miss it. Last year I co-authored a book on Shakespeare and that took a lot of the year - the writing part of it and also promoting it. You realise that it is certainly a great factor - a company like Miramax will spend as much money promoting a film as making it - it is a crowded marketplace. So you have be prepared to push your little darling into the spotlight.


Newshost:

You have mentioned your book about Shakespeare, Steve in Cambridge asks: In writing this book what was it that you hoped you could teach young actors perhaps about Shakespeare?


Michael York:

Our point of view - my co-writer is Adrian Brian - my best friend of 40 years - we thought where we could possibly contribute is to bring back the focus to the fact that Shakespeare was writing plays for actors to act in, not for academics to interpret or to anatomise. Within the plays themselves a master playwright was telling his actors how he wanted them to be done and that he was on their side. So that was the starting off point. Of course it developed into many other areas but that was the key thing.

See also:

14 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Austin Powers has The Force
19 May 99 | Entertainment
Austin Powers wins the day
03 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Epic Shakespeare show staged
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