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Becoming friends with Clive James


Eric Porter gets confused
Frederic Raphael Writer
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And eventually they got... that actor who had been in The Forsythe Saga. Can you remember what his name was?

[Q] Eric Porter.

Yes, eventually they got Eric Porter. And they told me that he was going to do it. And I was due to go back in order to attend the rehearsals, but I had not attended the first one. And one of my habits is to put at least 18 lines in all my sonnets. And the scripts tended to be a bit long. So the script editor had suggested a few cuts and in the end we had cut them, but it was on the page which had already been done. In those days you didn't press buttons for printers so, you know, it was like that.

And Eric Porter was rehearsing. Oh, it must have been the second or third day when I got back. Conti, by that time, and I were very good friends and he kind of went like this as we went in. And I walked in and there was Eric Porter, sitting at the table with the script. So he said, 'Oh, it's very good to meet you at last'. So I said, 'Very glad to have you in the show, Eric'. So he said, 'Yes, well I'm not likely to have been the first person you asked, am I?' They always know when you haven't asked them first, and Eric Porter's one of those actors who never got asked first because he was a prize pain in the arse actually, though not bad.

So he said, 'Well, now you're here – now you're good enough to grace us with your presence – would you mind explaining to me what that means? Because', he said, 'I was talking about this passage to my accountant last night, and neither of us could understand what it meant'. And he pointed to a place on a page that was crossed out. And all the actors were, kind of, listening to see how this was going to go. So I looked at the passage and I said, 'Tell you what, Eric – why don't we rehearse the show and then, when that's done, we can rehearse the cuts?' 'Very good to see you, very good to see you'. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. He actually did give a very good performance but he was a pain in the arse.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Eric Porter

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014