ORBzine - 2001.03 MeCon Delta Events [Michael Sheard]

ORBzine - MeCon Delta Events [Michael Sheard]

Yes, it's that time of year again. MeCon is on us again. The guest of honour is Michael Sheard, best known as Admiral Ozzel in Empire Strikes Back. Last year he was an incredible guest. However, this time there were problems. Your own dear Editor bumped into the Con Director a couple of hours before it was due to start. The conversation went something like this.
ORBzine: How's it going?
Con Director: Michael's not here!
ORBzine: Got here?
Con Director: No, NOT here. Because of the foot and mouth regulations.

As a result I was most surprised when I turned up that evening and found Michael sitting in the foyer! He recognised me from the previous Con, and we had a brief chat. Michael mentioned that he almost HADN'T made it to the Con. The Con Director e-mailed him with the words I hope you read this e-mail before you leave today ... This reminded Michael that he had to be at the airport in a few hours! Michael made it to Gatwick by 12.45, with his plane due to leave at 01.15 and the tickets non-refundable!

Michael remarked that he was having trouble sorting out an e-mail address that fans could reach him at, so we gave him the address michaelsheard@orb-store.com

Michael had met another Con guest, Dave Lally, at a BFI event in 2000. Dave remarked what a coincidence it was that only a few days beforehand the film Force Ten From Navarone had been screened, which showed Michael getting killed by Harrison Ford. Michael countered by saying Angus McGuinness and I shot each other.

The main event of the Con is the Main Quest's opening speach. This time Michael even gave us a wonderful Q&A session. He started by revealing that CyberCon Organiser Dawn is now called Stripper. He explained about her request to play strip poker at MeCon III, and the game that actually took place at a Con in Winnipeg, Canada. The Canadians had rented 3 suites upstairs - a Starship, a Tardis and a Speakeasy - and needed fresh ideas for their Dead Dog Party. Michael suggested a game of strip poker, and things went on from there. With every hand the crowd ante'd up - they got a total of $960. The girl [who remained nameless] who ended up naked offered Make it a grand and I'll dance on the table!

What's Harrison Ford Like?
Michael was in at least four films with Ford - Empire Strikes Back, two Indiana Jones films and Force Ten From Navarone. Michael stated He's a doll, he's a bum actor in the American sense. If you read my books you'll understand. He uses the term as a reference to medieval vagabond players, the heart of the modern acting profession. Harrison Ford was very laid back, and is now just about the biggest name in Hollywood. If you want him for your movie you will have to offer him at least twenty million! And the most astonishing fact ... Harrison Ford is actually older than Michael Sheard!

Who shot you in Force Ten From Navarone?
Michael asked if we were referring to the TV or the Cinema version. The Cinema version has Ringo Starr's wife, Barbara Bach , naked in the bath. Michael maintained that he had been shot by Angus McGuinness, a Canadian who now lives in Edinburgh. Dave Lally got it wrong!

Why do you always play a Nazi?
Michael's role in his second movie, The MacKenzie Break, had all his dialogue in German! He had to give paragraphs of exposition and technobable in German, to which the REAL German actor playing his commander would reply Jawohl! Usually Germans would dub all English-language films that they imported, but the German version of that film has Michael's dialogue uncut!

Did you enjoy Grange Hill?
Michael - I did it for five years!
He found it exhillarating to work with young actors. However, he knew he had to be perfect in every single take - the one where the kid gets it right is the one the Director will use.

As a side note, he and Gwyneth [Mrs McCloskey] were recently asked to be in a pantomime. This year they may do it - Beauty and the Beast.

What was the role you most regret?
Michael's only regret is playing Goering. He didn't name the series, only said that it is mentioned in his autobiography. The series was nearing the end of its run, and was getting really dreadful. The episode was recorded in front of a live studio audience, and went down very badly with them. There were very few applause at the end.

What was Herr Flick like?
The actor who played him had left the show at the end of the previous Season.

How is Dave Prowse?
He is fine, although he was diagnosed with Sceptic Arthritis. Dave got off a plane in London, and couldn't move his right arm. He thought he'd had a heart attack. He spent three days on morphine, and was still in hospital.

Why did Sebastian Shaw get the role of the elderly Anakin Skywalker?
Sebastian was married to a Casting Director. Unfortunately they must have felt that Dave Prowse' face was wrong for it.

Tell us about Jeremy Bulloch and Boba Fett.
Fett and R2-D2 are both in Episode Two - but the original actors [Kenny Baker and Jeremy Bulloch] have not been cast for the roles.

Someone mentioned a rumour on the Internet that Fett would be revealed as female. Obviously someone has misinterpreted discussions on RASSM!

Jeremy Bulloch once shocked Michael Sheard by appearing at a Con with a mocked-up autobiography entitled In bed With Boba Fett.

Jeremy was very lucky to get the part. His brother-in-law was an Associate Producer of Empire Strikes Back. He knew that Jeremy was an actor in search of work, and phoned him up to say There's a part. Get up here!

When Jeremy auditioned in the uniform he found some strange hairy things attached to it. He wondered what they were, then realised they must be the character's long hair. As a result he stuffed them under the edge of the helmet. George Lucas came in and said What are those doing under the helmet? Jeremy replied It's my hair. Lucas said That's not you're hair, they're wookiee scalps! They're trophies that you hang from your uniform!

Do you enjoy basking in reflected glory?
Michael - I feel I'm very fortunate. But at the end of the day, I'm a working actor and they were just jobs. A woman once asked me, how did I ever get the role of Admiral Ozzel? My Agent rang me and told me about the part! George Lucas actually said it was the best screen death he had ever seen.

I do like attending Cons. But the thing to remember is that at the end of the day the Organisers and Guests aren't important, it's the attendees. They are the ones who pay to make it happen.

What are you working on at the moment?
Michael directed a stage version of Shirley Valentine. The Agents who had the rights wouldn't let it go on tour, so he commissioned a 1-woman play. It's called Breaking Through, and it is very dark.

What do you think of Hollywood?
Michael worked on a Hollywood film called Green Ice with Omar Sharif and Anne Archer . He found Hollywood to be very false, and everyone was extremely insecure. At parties they would ask you Who are you, and what's your movie?

Michael mentioned a Glasgow Con he did with Robert Picardo. Robert did the 1-hour Q&A, and the 1-hour signing he was obliged to do. At the end of his hour Robert headed off, even though there was still a line, and left Michael and others to judge the competition. However, at the Starfleet Ball Robert was the life and soul of the party. He had discovered why Cons are fun for all concerned.

If you could kill one SF character, who would it be?
Michael - Captain Scarlet. I wouldn't kill anyone, so let me kill a puppet.

What part would you like to play?
Michael never turned down a part, but he did once turn down the role of Lenin. There were no lines, he was just marched off to be executed. The role went to someone called Patrick Stewart, now of Star Trek fame.

Michael was also offered a 1 in the film Reds. He wanted to take it, so he could work with his old friend Donald Sutherland again. However, he had other engagements.

Other events at the Con included screenings of Dr Who episodes [with Tom Baker and Lalla Ward] and the Buffy episode School Hard. We even got to watch The Prisoner - an alternative version of Chimes of Big Ben, with really corny music!

That night was the quiz, entitled Who Wants To Be A Chocaholic, and Michael gave us some humourous banter with Dave Lally while they drew the lottery numbers. Michael referred to That horrible Jar-Jar Stinks when someone won a Jar-Jar back-pack!

The next day the Con Director had a severe hangover. It's tradition, he told us. You should have seen the Treasurer! Ruth from Octocon tried on her new T-Shirt with the Octocon URL emblazoned on it, and ran around ordering people Read my tits!

The SCA gave a demonstration, and some of us were lucky enough to try on some genuine chain-mail. Photographs of Michael Sheard in it are on some Con Attendees' web sites!

Dave Lally had to head off early, but we still presented him with an e-mail address - davelally@orb-store.com

Michael told us that he had spoken to his wife and learned that the proofs of his new book, Yes, School's Out, arrived at his home on the second day of the Con. The books would be for sale at Cybercon in August!

Ian McDonald announced that his new book, Ares Express [a companion to Desolation Road] will be out soon in hardcover - and the first one will be out in paperback!

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