Digger's interview with
Geoffrey Bayldon is best remembered for his
role as Catweazle, that beautiful TV series
about a wizard from an eleventh century Britain
ruled by The Normans who travels forward to
1969. A busy and versatile actor since the war, he
has appeared in numerous stage and screen roles.
He even has a distinction of being one of the very
few actors to turn down the plum part of Dr Who,
a decision he made because he thought the character
too old and the series too long. As it turned out, this
left him available for the part that would establish
him as a household name and which would give him,
and a whole generation of youngsters ( in body or in
mind ) so much enjoyment, namely Catweazle. I was
lucky enough to persuade this charming, witty,
intelligent and friendly man to chat about
Catweazle and about Geoffreys career.
Here is that interview that he kindly just
* See also the Catweazle page in
the Cult TV section
( ........... Phone rings )
D: Hello Geoffrey,
G: Hello David
D: What have you got
lined-up for today?
Its a lovely day
G: Yes. Its a
lovely day. Weve got a wine from northern
Italy. Its a lovely fizzy wine and they hand it to you as
an aperitif wherever you go and its very light.
And very delicious!
G: And well be
enjoying that in the garden.
D: So you go
to Italy a lot?
G: No, dont go a lot. Have been.
D: What did you
G: Ive only
been to Rome,
D: A lovely place.
I was filming there and
I was there for a month. Completely on my own as far
as spare time was concerned and I had quite a bit so
I would go out into Rome with a little tape recorder
that I could sort of speak into very quietly with a
map. Its a small city, isnt it? And also very compact.
And Id say things like "just turning right,
rather interesting fish shop on corner
( Digger laughs. )
D: What was this
with a view to though?
G: ........Then when
I got back to the hotel Id get
my red pen out and map in where Id been.
I painted Rome red.
brilliant. Thats a clever idea, where did
you get it from?
G: Me! Oh God,
Im so full of ideas! ( Digger laughs.)
D: That sounds like
something you could market
in some way.
G: No, no, no.
Its obviously been done in
D: Well, one thing
that some pals and I were thinking
of doing was recorded tours where people whose
voices you know and trust talk you round places.
Voices that you recognise. We could have Geoffrey
Bayldons tour of Rome. Start here, day one and
you do this
.. youd feel as though you were with
the person as a guide. Oh well, just an idea!
G: It is an idea.
The only thing is that in my case,
believe it or not, Im a terrible pedestrian I dont
drive and on TWO occasions I had a hit from a car
on my hip it was THAT close. And its the only city
that Ive been in where Ive literally gone back to my
hotel room and been driven to drink.
G: Just to steady
myself. Cos theyre monstrous.
D: Tell me about it!
We were there last year every
car, even the new cars all had dents in them. It
seemed as though a car wasnt Christened until
it had a dent in it.
G: Well, I was one
of their dents. Terrible.
G: Yeah, they admit
it. Its a National disease
Now, the questions. You read them to me as though
were doing it properly!
G: And, feel you can
butt in and well do them
in the same order, changing as we see fit.
D: Alright. Sounds
G: And we can go in
and out of being official.
D: ( Laughs.) Have
you done this sort of thing
before? Just a few times?
G: Just a few times.
Ill tell you my favourite
horror. When we were doing Catweazle someone
came out I wont say from which magazine,
with a camera, and he said ( impersonates
the guys voice ) "Excuse me, Im going to take a
few photos and do you mind if I ask a few questions?"
and I said "No". And the more he talked I thought
"Youve never seen Catweazle in your life". But then
he thought hed better say something so he said
"Will you strike a Catweazle pose?" So I did
exactly that and that gave him his clue. He said
"Theres something Ive always wanted to ask you" .
"Yes", I said. He said "When you were playing
Catweazle you open your eyes VERY WIDE".
I said "Ye
es". He said "Tell me
Does it hurt?!" ( Both laugh. )
question that. That sounds really
good to me. Is he still in the business do you know?!
G: I dont
know! I have my guesses.
probably in charge of something.
G: Yes, probably
behind a desk.
number one then. What were your thoughts
when you first read the Catweazle scripts?
G: Well. Ive
got to say that I knew that the
Catweazle scripts were on their way.
Id met Richard Carpenter, the
writer, who is a chum as Ill tell you later.
And he said. "Im writing something for you".
Now, he was an actor and I knew he was not having
an easy time and had decided to write. I did
know that but I didnt know he was writing
anything with me in mind. When he told me this
I thought "Oh dear! It probably wont come to
anything but God I wish him luck". And thought
luck unlikely. And then, one day, I got my agent
saying "Geoffrey Ive had these scripts". And I
knew by now that it was beginning to happen. And
she said "Ive just read the first script.
It is SHEER MAGIC". She said "Youre in for
a whale of a time" So when I opened it I took
a deep breath and just went into Wonderland.
And I thought "Its fantastic, Its MINE and
Im keeping it!" (Laughs)
G: Yes, just
D: And it was you,
wasnt it? He obviously must
have known you really well?
G: Well he
knew me as an actor when both of us, not
exactly together, were at The Old Vic Theatre
School. Hed seen me in my sort of end of years
play which was called The Clandestine Marriage
in which I played Lord Ogleby which is a
wonderful restoration part and he
just said "I wanted that kind of actor".
D: Was it all foppish periwigs and all that stuff?
G: It was but sort
of with heart and exaggeration.
So there we go and the rest is history!
D: What about the
development of the character?
You had this script in front of you. Were you
visualising what you were going to do?
G: Immediately. I
wish I could I wish I had that
script to quote. But it said something like the word
Cat Weazle the suggestion of something animal
fizzing about. It also said something like he runs
through the forest like a startled hen his lanky legs
. something or other.
D: Its great
because I can remember that in that
first episode Ive seen it a few times since of course,
but I remember the first time I saw it and you could
smell him as well! And you could smell the fear!!!
It was brilliant. Did you come up with all the
catchphrases and so on. The "Sa sa sa sa sa".
G: That was not
scripted. That was me.
G: Touchwood was
scripted of course. No, in the
second episode Catweazle hides in a wardrobe
Carrot smells him out! ( Both laugh )
Opens the door and Catweazle
.. no I suddenly
went "whagh!" ( Digger laughs at familiar Catweazle
noise! ) That just happened and the wonderful
Quentin Lawrence to whom I owe more than I
can tell you ( the director ) he said "Geoffrey,
that weird noise. I think we could use that!" And it so
happened that the first episode had a camera fault
and we had to do it again
D: Oh my God!
No! It was one of the greatest things
that happened to the thing. Because I was already able
to do most of the first one again and make it more like
what Id now decided I was going to do.
D: Isnt that
D: So fate took a
G: Yes it did. I
remember seeing the rushes
D: It was filmed,
wasnt it, which was unusual,
rather than videotaped.
right. It was and it was given the full
..Ive forgotten what I was
going to say.
G: No, no.
D: You were talking
about looking at the rushes.
G: Oh yes, and I
said to myself "Now watch it.
This could be overplayed beyond belief. It could
be embarrassing, turn peoples toes under".
Im used to the theatre and Im now going to
have the camera up close. Also in the first
episode I played it as real as I could do and so on.
And then I saw the rushes and I thought "This is
just ordinary". Catweazle isnt ordinary, the skys
the limit so long as the inside of him is real.
D: Hmm. I think
thats a brilliant observation. But one
of the things you said earlier about loving the director,
you had this friendship with the writer, I think you
must have got on with Robin Davies as well.
D: Thats the
key, surely. You could tell there was
this love oozing out of people enjoying themselves.
G: And so were the
D: Oh! Thats
G: I mean they went
right into a kids world. Well,
it wasnt a kids world, it was a Catweazle world. It was
for everybody if they accepted it. And the crew were
just so careful and enthusiastic.
D: Did they know
that they had something special
there do you think?
G: Yes I do. Yes I
do. It was so new. It was so
original. It was about magic. At a time when that sort
of thing was being almost frowned upon, if indeed
thought about. The direction of drama had changed to
a gritty, usually working class, realism. Somehow gentle
fantasy was not part of the picture.
D: Kitchen sink,
wasnt it. That was the phrase.
D: You had to have a
northern accent or a
G: Talking of
accents, Catweazle had one.
D: Right. But
YOUVE got one! Where are you
G: Im from
Yorkshire. Oh yes
.. And when we did
the first reading of it just testing it suddenly
I said "I think this is dull. Could I try
it north country, not Yorkshire". Because
its possible that the language in his day would have
been much rougher and not so posh. So water was
watter and so on. And thats how that came about.
D: And you talk
about woon rather than one
and so on. Even as a kid I noticed there was an accent
there. I think that the ordinary viewer, whoever that
is, wouldnt realise the amount of thought that
goes into these things to get it just right. So,
weve touched on the writer, Richard Carpenter,
would you like to expand on that?
G: No, except to say
that we were in cahoots
throughout the run of the piece.
D: Nothing wrong
G: Oh no. And it got
to the point that he sent one
marvellous script after another and sometimes I would
say "I dont think Catweazle would say that" . He said
"if you say he didnt, he didnt". ( Digger laughs )
D: So it ran for two
series. Why did it end then?
G: Er. Two reasons.
First, London Weekend ( Television )
had a sort of explosion of resignations, sackings and
God knows what not directly affecting us but we had
no longer got the wonderful director Quentin
Lawrence he had died. And because we had come to
an end and it was someone elses baby there was
noone wanting to take it up.
D: The old thing,
new boys wanting to make their mark.
G: Yes, thats
one thing. More important really is
Catweazle, and Im the first to say it, couldnt go on
much longer. Hed seen the 20th century and we didnt
want him to go to a city where hed be the equivalent
of a wino. As I said at the time. It usually starts with
"where is Catweazle?" in episode after episode,
where is he now? And I said hes now got a semi-
detached, in Surbiton, sitting in front of the telly
with his feet up and a brandy watching Coronation
Street! ( Digger laughs )
D: Its like
Paul Hogans Crocodile Dundee, did
you see that?
G: Yes, I did.
D: They could have
gone too far. He went to the city,
the fish out of water. Maybe they did go too far there.
Oh, so thats the reason. That makes sense.
Have you had any magical experiences?
Do you BELIEVE in magic?
G: No, I
dont. I, to be sort of pompous
D: Not talking about Paul Daniels sort of magic.
G: I know
The only magic I believe
in is the explainable kind. Which is connected with
beauty, nature, music the arts, you name it. But I love
wonderment and the idea of magic.
But Ive not experienced any at all.
D: Do you see
yourself as more scientific and needing
rational explanations for things?
G: No, its
just that no magic has offered itself
to me at all and generally speaking it doesnt happen
to many people.
D: So magic is from
special moments with people
or music or getting a beautiful script.
G: Yes. It can be
wondrous and wonderful. But
Catweazles kind of magic was not magic. He was able
to do some bad tricks appallingly wrongly! But
electrickery was electricity which we know isnt
magic but it was to him.
D: What about the
international reception that
G: I cant name
all the countries that had it. The
ones that I get a lot of fan mail from Australia,
Holland particularly and its
grown and grown in Germany. I still get
fan mail from all of them.
D: Do you have to
write to them in their own languages?!
D: Are you a
D: Well, you speak a
little French on Fort Boyard
so I dont know where that comes from then!
G: Ah, my wonderful
French, yes. No, I speak
French a little.
D: Are you in
contact with anybody from
the series still?
G: Well, the answer
is yes, but whats sad is that
nearly all the permanent cast died. I mean, its
been awful. Even a lot of the guest artists died.
Only yesterday I was having lunch with Peter
Sallis so yes, indeed, the moment I can, I do. And of
course Robin Davies ( 'Carrot' ), naturally.
D: Hes kept
himself busy, hasnt he?
G: Yes, he HAS.
Hes been doing something I
havent quite understood in Wales!
D: Its not
going to turn into a Prisoner is it?!
G: Well, it seems to
be a lot with children and
hes playing a psycho I think. But dont take
that for gospel. I could be wrong.
D: I loved the thing
they did on the video that
they put out with you two re-tracing your steps.
That brought tears to my eyes
G: Oh good!
seeing you two. It was great.
G: It was a great
day for us. You see, we dont live near.
And so it was our first meeting
.. weve been on
the phone a lot, but we hadnt met for God knows
how long and we were sort of hugging each other.
D: Lovely! What
about this Catweazle movie then?
It sounds from what you have said that its not going
to happen? Or am I wrong?
G: A script
D: Oooh!! And what
do you think of the script?
G: I havent
D: What?!! ( Both
G: Ive heard
it being talked about by the would-be
producer and, of course, Richard.
D: Do you know
details of the script?
G: Its pretty
much the old story, I gather.
D: So they're not
spoiling it with computer
animations and bells and whistles?
G: I dont know
what. The main thing is that its not,
at the moment, happening.
D: Would you be
G: Er. Im
interested. Im also MUCH older. Im still
energetic. Earlier this year I had a hip replacement.
D: Well, if you will
bump into cars in Rome.
G: Absolutely! And
then climb 180 steps
twice daily for Fort Boyard.
D: God. Youre
fitter than me, I tell you. I had
my 43rd birthday yesterday and Im aching all over.
We had a party last night and we all went to bed by
twelve! Sorry, Im side-tracking again!
G: Your Wife said
youd probably be lying in bed for
an extra hour before this call.
D: Yes, and of
course, they dont take you up there
( the lighthouse on Fort Boyard ) you have to
get up there yourself.
G: Yes, indeed.
D: So what were the
best and the worst things about
G: Well, the best
just having the wonderful chance
of playing ( emotional )
.. that lovely fellah. And the
worst, well.......... its that I had to have TWO baths
every night to get the dirt off. ( Digger laughs )
I was covered in dirt but, more difficult, was
body make-up. And originally the costume had
completely bare legs from top to bottom and arms.
Fortunately, through a little talking to the writer,
I said "Do you think we could find in the 20th
century some combinations". So at least
it covered up a bit more.
D: So two baths a
day. And I suppose you were up
early in the morning getting plastered with dirt
and make-up again.
D: Continuity must
have been quite difficult or was
that not a problem on the series?
G: Not on make-up
because I had the most wonderful
make-up artist and friend. No, on the whole my
costume was pretty regular and very little
that I had to change.
D: So what about
time travel, then? Do you think
its ever going to happen?
wait a minute!!!!!! ( Digger laughs ) Er, the question
AS IT WAS was Do you think humans will ever
be able to travel in time?
D: Thats true!
G: Certainly not ON
TIME, being as they are. Travel
from one time to another? I hope not. Because people
are barmy enough as it is.
theyve already done it and thats why we
are like we are. Did you ever see
D: What did you
G: I thought it was
a lovely idea.
D: It was a lovely
G: Yes, the lovely
they went to several series and so they started
to get too clever and they were tying to meet each other
coming back and all that sort of thing. What tends to
happen on some of these things is that they start off
with one writer and then that writer gets bored
or runs out of ideas so they start giving it to
committees and then it really changes.
What do you see as your biggest
professional achievement or achievements?
G: I dont know
quite how to answer that
.. If I
want to give myself a little feather in my hat
D: Go on! You
suppose I have the ability to play characters
that range from the really ordinary humdrum
to the fantastic creation. I count Catweazle as
a fantastic creation. And they all must have a truth
.. youve got to say "Yes, thats him". I
its my range that Im proudest of. And I do enjoy it.
D: If you dont
mind Ill ask you ANOTHER one which
wasnt on the bit of paper which is did you BECOME
Catweazle for the duration? I mean some actors say
"Oh no, as soon as I get home, thats it and Im back
to normal". Did you become him?
D: Right. A simple
G: I switch off.
D: Its quite a
knack, isnt it?
G: Yes, its a
must. Otherwise, its a form of insanity
in my opinion.
D: So what sort of
roles would you like to have played
that you didnt?
I dont know. Em. I always wanted to play
Captain Hook. And I thought "No, when Im older Ill
play Captain Hook" then I heard it was being done
somewhere and I thought "Oooh. No I couldnt"
I thought to myself.
too old. Captain Hook has to double with
Mr. Darling and Mr. Darling must be the
Father of those children. And I thought
"No, I cant do it".
D: For a voice-over or something you could.
On a cartoon version.
G: Oh yes, but thats not the way Id want to
do it. I say I would love to have done it
but I went to see Nigel Patrick playing Hook. He
was splendid but he had to fight the noise of the
children in the audience. You couldnt hear, they
even ran about the aisles. Times have changed
D: Oh my God!
.. And I thought. No, this aint for me.
Do a telly of it.
D: Because for my generation, we would
have been sat there on our best behaviour
and it would have been a real treat and
all that stuff.
G: Sure, sure.
D: Its a cliché but it does seem to have
gone downhill a bit, doesnt it?
G: And how. When we did Worzel Gummidge
as a stage musical, the same thing applied.
D: Thats another question I didnt put on the
paper. How did you get on with Jon ( Pertwee ).
G: Oh, wonderful!
D: He seemed
like a lovely man.
G: Yes. A monster and a very loveable man!
D: Often, the best people have that side to them.
You love to hate and hate to love sort of thing.
But seeing you in the background there, on Worzel
Gummidge, that was a bit spooky sometimes 'cos
sometimes it could ALMOST have been Catweazle
but not quite, do you know what I mean?
G: Yes I do
but I'm sorry to hear this as I had a
rule to myself that it must not be Catweazle
and I had particular ways of doing it and
one was that before every shot my bottom teeth
were in front of my top ones so that I had a
permanent jowl. And I had a different accent.
So I was more or less okay, I hope.
D: All the people looking at this site will be going
back to their taped episodes and seeing all these
things that youve pointed out. Clever devices that
G: I probably should shut up. ( Digger laughs )
D: Well, one of my questions was what would
Catweazle make of the world 30 years on but
Im not sure now thats relevant. Do you think
hes going to be coming 30 years on and seeing
computers, cds and mobile phones?
G: What I thought was, never mind Catweazle,
as Geoffrey Bayldon cannot begin to understand
the workings of those things at all, I suppose
Catweazle would have found peace fizzing
quickly back to the eleventh century.
D: But Im sure that Geoffrey can appreciate that
used in the right way
I mean you said that
you dont drive but you can see that cars a real
menace in lots of ways but they can also be a
boon as well if used in the right way.
D: And its the same with these other things,
would you say?
G: Of course I do. Yes, Im not agin them, I just
dont understand them.
D: Can you tell us a little bit about the start of
your acting career?
G: I suppose
by quiet steely determination. I always
wanted to be an actor. But I had to make two
little detours mainly on account of the war.
At first I tried architecture, the buildings of
which would have fallen down within a week and
then into the R.A.F. and while I was in the R.A.F.
I got a chance to do an audition at the Old Vic
Theatre School. And thats where I learnt me job
for two years and then......
D: Met lots of pals, I guess.
G: Lots of pals.
D: One of my questions was do you have any
recollections or memories from the swinging
sixties' although that might have been tongue in
cheek I dont know!!
G: Er, no I had a
lot of trouble with that one!
( Digger laughs )
G: Somehow, in the
swinging sixties, the swinging
passed me by. For two reasons. I was already too
old to swing.
D: You were
probably about the same age
then as I am now.
G: Absolutely. And also, I was too busy.
G: Oh, it was. They
creative years for me, on stage, on films and telly.
D: Did I see
you in, was it The Saint or The
Avengers as well?
D: Did you enjoy
G: Yes, of course. I
was filming in Hollywood and
things like that in that period and then came back
and did two or three as a result of the Hollywood
one. It was a period where things actually
fitted-in and worked for me.
D: Did you feel that
sort of buzz that was going
on in the country at the time?
G: I did but, rather
I was terribly conscious of
the rebellion of kids it was the time of the
teenager who got all the attention and, having
money, became a centre of fashion and all that.
I was there when some kids were accusing
their Father or Mother of not being with-it, being
square and being with-it became obsessional
D: There was a big
boom in creativity then. Have
you any idea why that was? It happened in Britain
and Britain was the place to be.
G: It was Osborne,
lets face it and
Look Back In Anger.
D: So it started in
G: Yes, yes.
D: Was it a backlash
to the war and to the
austerity do you think?
G: I do, and the
fact that, to be cynical, it was the
rebellion of people who hadnt had to go through the
hoops ( the war ) which I found I resented.
I hope I didnt become too
D: I dont
think so you channeled it into most
people would see Catweazle, and I hope youd
agree or at least see it as a compliment that it
was your biggest achievement or at least the one
that most people remember you from and they
wouldnt say "Hes resentful" or any negative
stuff, even the characteristics that he had,
which came from you, he was a loveable man.
G: The whole idea
from the scripts was to have warmth
and show it although Quentin Lawrence said to me
at one point "Geoffrey, keep him acerbic". We cut
any obvious sentiment between me and the boy.
Today, thank God, because there are such dirty minds.
D: Oh God, I mean
you dont even think of that,
but these days.
D: I think when I
spoke to you briefly before you
were saying "Maybe a few years ago but Im
getting on a bit now" and that brought me on to
my other question about the energy it took to
play Catweazle because he was supposed to be
an old man Im not sure how old, but he was
climbing up into water tanks and God knows what.
Were there doubles, were there stuntmen?
Did you have to do it all yourself?
G: I did it all
myself except the two jumps into
the lake. The second jump, which was from the
turret of a castle into the moat was done by trick
photography with a wonderful stuntman who jumped
that height onto cardboard boxes and so on and
then it was tricked. I only had to come out.
D: Getting all the
G: Catweazle was
permanently bursting with energy,
even when hes sitting still the eyes were at the ready,
his fingers were twitching.
D: Is Gary Warren
still around, are you in touch
G: Hes in
America somewhere. Hes given up acting
D: Do you know what
hes up to?
G: I'm afraid not.
D: He may see you on
this site. Its surprising
the folks who do come in.
G: Well, wherever he
is, hello there!
D: Can you describe
yourself in a sentence and by
way of comparison and contrast, Catweazle in a
D: You can say no if
you like ( Laughs )
G: Wait a
We have a common
denominator. Were both a bit immature.
Not uncommon in actors.
D: Its not
uncommon in men either.
energetic, Im lazy.
D: Thats good.
Thats a sentence! Have you got
a message for all the Catweazle and Geoffrey
.. my love to you. Thanks for
D: Thats very
G: Just a minute! A
piece of dotty advice to them.
Dont copy Catweazle!
"dont try this at home"?!
G: Dont go
jump in a lake!
D: I think they
should try to copy some aspects of
D: Maybe be a bit
G: Hmm. Dont
experiment with chemicals.
( Both laugh )
D: There are all
these donts these days, arent
there? They were innocent times. Maybe even
ten years later they couldnt have made it. Well,
its been great Geoffrey. I really appreciate
you talking to me.
G: Have you seen the
Catweazle site where there
are all the clippings?
D: I think Ive
seen all the Catweazle sites. I even
had a look at the German ones and tried to make
some sense out of them. One problem with the net
is that people start these sites and then give up so
the links go and you cant find them again. Its such
a huge library of information. Its a great place
for nostalgia buffs and finding like-minded folks.
And this site is really taking off now and I
have been able to get some good interviews.
G: Speaking of the
sixties though, The Beatles
were enormous fans of Catweazle.
D: How do you know?
G: They told me and
I worked for Ringo on one
occasion. They had to be with telly because when
they had children
and at one time they were
going to do something with me.
D: So you met up
G: I only had
letters from Paul McCartney. But
Ringo, I did a weird programme with, called Born
To Boogie with Marc Bolan. In fact, I did Marc
D: He died just
around the corner from where
G: They laid a
memorial stone, about two years
back and I had to read one of his poems.
D: Oh! That was
D: Did they ask you
because you were the local
G: No, because
Id been in Born To Boogie.
D: Thats good.
It really annoys me when they
dont look at more recent pop stars and actors
and celebrate them. You know when there was
that big fuss about the plaque that went up for
Hendrix and they were saying "Why should they
have a plaque to a pop star" and next door there
was one to Handel. Well, whats the difference?
They both gave pleasure to millions of people......
crazy! Sorry, Im ranting now!!!
G: No, no!
D: Well. Ill
type this all up. It will probably take
me a few weeks!!!!
and Ill send it off to you
and Ive really appreciated your time and its been
great talking to you. Youre a lovely bloke to talk
to. Thanks for taking the trouble to make all those
notes and to keep me on track!
G: It was fun.
G: Thank you.
D: See you later.
Digger, August 2000
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