Wednesday 21 December 2016

Unforgettable... Peter Sellers

I've been immersed in Brian McDonald's latest book, Ink Spots A theme Brian repeats in the book put me in mind of this 1974 interview. In it, Peter Sellers, the late, great, demented Peter Sellers, is talking to Michael Parkinson.

The principle Brian has been drumming into me (no pun intended) has been about the need to set up a story properly. He complains that a lot of modern "action" films skip over the boring stuff, where an audience can get to meet and like a protagonist, and jumps straight to the car chases, explosions and mass killings, where all the fun can be found.

Brian compares this to doing a magic trick without bothering to set it up first, or telling the punchline of a joke without setting it up first.

Brian does magic tricks; so does Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen, and Terry Rossio, and many other writers. If you want to write a thriller, learn some magic tricks first; they will help you with the skill of misdirecting an audience.
In the nine minute clip that follows, Sellers complains about the Churchill Centenary (Winston Churchill, 1874-1965), then in full swing in Britain; does a magic trick with a red scarf; then talks about why he quit being a drummer. That's the story I wanted to show you here. He starts with, "Well, it's a very dreary business being a drummer, or any musician doing gigs, really, around the country."

Listen carefully to the story that follows.

Unforgettable... that's what you are.

Okay, you want to hear the rest of the interview. It's a classic, so enjoy.

First posted: 23 December 2012

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