Martin Clunes interview
Martin Clunes is a British actor whose career has spanned the course of three decades. He first came to prominence in 1983 with TV series No Place Like Home but it was as bad-boy Garry in Men Behaving Badly that truly launched him. The series was so successful that it ran for over 6 years with the Americans even making their own version of it with Rob Schneider playing one of the leads. He's been in numerous films and in several successful theatre productions, and returns to our screens in the ITV series Doc Martin. Where he plays a curmudgeonly London Surgeon who's forced to move down to Cornwall and become a local GP. It is a part that Clunes clearly relishes: 'I love being loathsome, it is very liberating!" he claims. We caught up with Martin after the shooting of the second series once again filmed in idyllic Port Isaac - an historic fishing village that plays the part of Portween, Doc Martin's country town.
LF: There's a very homely feel that surrounds Doc Martin. Is there a special bond between cast and crew - especially as you were living and working in Port. Isaac?
MC: Oh yes defiantly. You know we'd shoot at a sound mixers house as part of a scene and at the end of the day we'd all go off and meet in the pub and join the pub quiz team - so we had a very good bond. Much better then working within the M25 where everyone just shoots of home. And it was such a huge treat to work with such a talented bunch of actors
LF: How did Doc Martin come about? You and your wife run the production company that produce the series but where did the idea originate?
MC: We developed it ourselves alongside ITV. It has a bit of a strange past I was in a film a while back with Brenda Blethyn called Saving Grace and I just played the part of a GP - a really small part in the film - but it happened to be set in Port Isaac where we set Doc Martin and the character's name happened to be Martin.
So, Sky Pictures who made that film said to us: 'would we like to make a spin-off from it for Sky Pictures and do 2 telly-films a year for 3 years" and we said of course we would, but by the time we had developed and made them Sky Pictures folded, which was rather annoying. So we tried to sell the franchise on to ITV, who liked everything about it except the tone of it - which was fine for a movie but not great for an ITV programme. So we set about pulling it apart completely but keeping the elements we like - which was me being a doctor in Port Isaac. But then rather then do what we originally planned which a series about a London doctor downsizing to the country and being rather amused by the quirky locals, we turned it on its head and focused instead on a small community united in horror by their ghastly new GP.
LF: Have you got another series planned?
MC: We've just finished the second series last Friday; we don't have time to get another one written for next year, but our plan, if ITV like it, is to do a Christmas special next year and then get our ducks in a row until somebody shoots us.
LF: You're a man of many talents not only do you act and own a production company but you've also tried your hand at directing
MC: Yeah I was engaged to play a role in a British film called Staggered and it was a very low-budget film and quite early on in production the director fell out. We found another director but then he left as well, I think because there was so little money in the production it was hard to get someone to commit whole heartedly to the film. And I wasn't doing much really and was in almost every scene in the film and had directed in the theatre a fair bit, it seemed an idea that I'd have a go.
LF: Was it difficult directing yourself in the lead role?
MC: Yeah that was a bit of a mistake, I've done it a few times now and I don't think I'll do it again to be honest with you. You sort of miss out as an actor. I love and need to be directed. So you end up providing what you think the scene needs rather then being tickled into something more interesting
LF: Would you go back to the theatre do you think?
MC: Well I gave it a go about three years ago at the National Theatre for the first time in about twelve years and that was enough, I'll quite happily wait another twelve years. The thing is my daughter was, well still is pretty young and when your out at night late - I'd come home after work and everyone would be asleep. Not long hours as such, very short hours in fact, it only took about 3 hours out of my day but it was at a time when everyone else was going to bed.
LF: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island with only your DVD player and screen to entertain you what films do you think would be your desert island DVDs?
MC: Right, ok well let me think…I've got Lawrence of Arabia which I've never watched and I think owe it to myself to watch that. I've got Terminator 3, but I understand that its shite - but I'm still going to watch it someday. Time of the Gypsies - it's a Yugoslavian film, and its just beautiful I could watch it over and over again. I think Citizen Kane, I do like Citizen Kane. Full Metal Jacket. Ah I tell you what, I'll take all three Matrix films and try and work out what the fuck they're all about.