Tuesday 6 September 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Francoise Pascal


Last week I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the wonderful actor Francoise Pascal about her career in film, television and theatre. It was fascinating to learn more about Francoise's life in acting and to hear her thoughts on some of her co-stars over the years. So if you like classic British film and comedy and want to hear more about the likes of Diana Dors, Yootha Joyce and a rather hilarious encounter with the infamous Violet Carson, Carry On Reading...

First of all I'd love to hear more about what made you want to become an actor?

I was an actress ever since I was born, my father remarked one day. I use to rehearse in front of a mirror. I use to watch the film Sissi with Romy Schneider, which made me want to be an actress even more. That was a very strong dream for me. I had to fulfill it one way or the other. I did, my dream did come true at an early age of 12 playing Cosette in Les Miserable to Jean Louis Barrault's Jean Valjean in Paris and I was nearly 13, don't confuse with the musical it was a straight play. The fever started then on stage and continued but my parents did not feel that it was suitable for a very young girl. That dream was still in me and I wanted to carry on. School was far from my mind.  I resumed my acting career in 1966 at the age of 16 and then went back to France to study at La Sorbonne and came back again resuming my acting career with my first film in England and the rest is history as they say.


In 1976 you starred in the British comedy film Keep it Up Downstairs, alongside many familiar faces from that era. What was that film like to work on?

It was a fun film and I absolutely loved it. There was Aimi McDonald, the very shy Jack Wild, the very beautiful and the lovely Diana Dors, then there were the other actors like Sally Harrison who did The Professionals, the fabulous Neil Hallett who played the Butler and Simon Brent who I co-starred in my first film in the UK, Loving Feeling, directed by Norman Cohen. There was also Willy Rushton who was a great friend if mine who I had worked with on Celebrity Squares in several episodes. Carmen Silvera who I absolutely adored, whose laughter when she told a joke was infectious.  Finally the formidable Julian Orchard, lovely man and very tall, such a story teller. 

The film was produced by Hazel Adair and Mark Forstater. They were on the set daily because I refused to appear nude.  They wanted to persuade me to do some nudity and I said no. They got Mary Millington in the film to do just what I would not do. They did not pay me enough to appear nude besides I was so fed up with nude scenes in films that I decided not to do it again. My agent was asking me why I did not do it and I told her why. I had such fun making that film and travelling to Knebworth House from central London at 5.30am, where there were no traffic and I felt at that time I was in a happy place. Yes definitely a very happy movie to be on and great actors to work with and enjoyed their company and their laughter very much. I miss those days!

One of your co-stars on that film was the legendary actress Diana Dors. What are your memories of Diana?

I loved Diana Dors, we also did the Pyramid Game together. She was a lovely and a very kind woman. I remember watching her play her part in a scene that we were all together in, the party where I was serving the drinks with Mary Millington. I watched her professionalism, her togetherness as she said her lines. I was mesmerised by her. She was very lovely to me and Mary. I was very at ease with both her and Alan Lake. They adored Mary Millington and I think they looked after her, Poor Mary, I wish she was alive now she would have loved it or hated it. Mind you, you have to be super strong minded to survive this business today. It has changed so much. I did not have many scenes with Diana so there is not much I can say about us working together. 

You appeared in the classic ITV comedy series Mind Your Language for three series. What was it like to be a part of that show?

It was fantastic being part of a show that was a hit show. We were all still dreaming when we were told that we had a hit on our hands and every time a season finished we wondered whether we would be back and yes we were back for 3 series. When I knew that we were not going to be back after the third series, I knew deep down that I was fed up with it and Barry Evans was also fed up as well as Kevork Malikyan and Dino Shafeek. Yet they made another series in 1986, I watched one episode of it. It was so awful I cringed and was happy that I never did the new series. We were a close family in the first series, the big mistake they did was to bring new people into it and it changed the whole atmosphere, I did not like it but the Producers and Writer knew better so I had to accept it.  To be very truthful, it was one of the happiest and well balance series that I have ever worked on.

One of your co-stars in Mind Your Language was the late Barry Evans. What was he liked to work with?

Barry Evans was an absolute angel and a dream to work with as his response to me on the set was absolutely professional. At times Barry was moody but that was his prerogative. We all have moments like that and Barry had his. The professional that he was would actually hide in his dressing room when he was in a mood so that no one would bother him and we didn't. He was an actor that gave his all and let you shine at the same time. he was the star of the show and yet it was more important to him that we should be the stars of the show. Barry was a timid guy and loved having a joke or two on the set but always stayed a pro at all times. I simply adored the guy. I miss him!


As well as being a fan of classic British comedy, I also love Coronation Street. I understand you appeared in The Street early on in your career. What are your memories of working on such a famous and popular show?

Hahahaha! Yes that was in late 1971. The year before I was filming Burke & Hare and in that film I went through a fire and unfortunately for me I actually was in a fire in real life at around that time. The publicity was enormous as I had dropped down from the 3rd floor of a house in Belgravia onto the railings, where my arm was practically impaled and broke it in 6-8 places. As I said the publicity was enormous it even reached the USA. "Actress impaled on Railings" The headlines shouted in the UK and the USA. My name was now recognised. 

By the Autumn of 1971, I had recovered and was asked by my agent if I would like to do a television role. Work is work and I have never turned down the chance to work. It turned out to be Coronation Street. The day that I arrived for rehearsals, I was to be photographed by a group of photographers, well it wasn't a group it was a hoard of photographers.  I was whisked onto that famous cobbled street, photos were taken and I thought it was great! But then, Miss Violet Carson (Ena Sharples) decided to dislike me and called me 'That bloody French Woman', which of course I found very funny and she got even more mad because I was laughing instead of getting mad or upset.

I made great friends with the girl who played Lucille Hewitt (Jennifer Moss). I adored her but not many people liked her because she had been into drugs and it was a well known fact in the press.  Nevertheless I really liked her and we became firm friends for a long while after I finished Corrie. I was only there for a week. I started the trend of famous outsiders appearing Corrie. Of course Joanna Lumley followed me and she got to stay longer than I would have liked. They don't like outsiders soaps, the actors have their own niche and they gather together in defence of their place in the soap. Fair enough I understood that even as young as I was. The men were lovely to me - I really liked Bill Roache, he was a darling to get to know.  All in all I had a very good time except for Violet Carson, and I still laugh by the way when I think of her face looking at me saying those words. 'That Bloody French Woman'! Hahahaha!

In the 1972 film Burke and Hare, you worked alongside the wonderful Yootha Joyce. What was she like to work with?

I loved meeting Yootha, she was a joy to meet and make her acquaintance. She made me laugh a lot along with Derren Nesbitt. Unfortunately, I didn't have any scenes with her in the film. I wish I had as she must have been a joy to work with. I did see her a couple of times years later when she was playing Mrs Roper in George and Mildred. I was sad when she passed away. We lost a great  Comedian and a great actress as well as a great lady.

You also guest starred in an episode of the BBC comedy Happy Ever After starring the legendary duo of Terry Scott and June Whitfield. What were they like to work with?

Well Terry was my mentor in comedy, he taught me a lot about comedy. Both Terry and Peter Sellers taught me the art of timing in a comedy. I was mesmerised by both June and Terry. June, because she was like a little porcelain doll with porcelain skin and admired her delivery with Terry and Terry for making his role his own without making it too domineering. I admired both of them.  Many years later when I was living in Godalming, I received a call from Terry saying that he was around the corner and would I like to come to tea. It was great. Unfortunately,  he was not looking too good when I saw him. I was devastated when he died. Again we lost a great Actor and Comedian.


As an actor do you prefer working in theatre, television and film, and why?

Theatre all the time! When you work on TV or films, there is not an audience that you can feed on and receive feedback from. When you work in the theatre that is what you get. It's live performance and anything can happen, which makes it so much more interesting and exciting!  In films or TV shows, when an actor goes wrong, they can just edit it or shoot the scene again. Performers on stage have so much more pressure put on them to get it right first time, but they get more of a reward for all their efforts - a huge round of applause from hundreds of audience members who paid and came especially to see them! That is what theatre is all about.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am producing a film and a TV mini series. Hard work in front of me but that is my calling these days.  I am not acting in them just being the Executive Producer. Enjoying that role immensely!

Are there any roles out there that would still love to play?

No. I think I am too old now to play Cleopatra or Hedda Gabler or too old to play Camille. So no I stick to producing -  it is much more fun and has so much more to offer. I keep busy and that is the main thing!

I started my blog partly as a tribute to the late actress Joan Sims. Why do you think actors like Joan are still so popular today?
Her comedic instinct. She was a natural, sensitive, that is why she is so popular today.  I guess she endured a lot for her craft. They played so many jokes on her and the audience will always feel sorry for the downtrodden. She played it with great dignity. I bet she must have had a fork tongue when it was needed. She seemed also to have suffered from depression, I don't know but her eyes hinted this in her later years. She will always last because any actors who did what she did and endure the banter of Kenneth Williams and Sid James deserve a medal. I loved watching Joan Sims and she will always, no, forever last in my memory.


Finally, who is your favourite Carry On actor?

Kenneth Williams and Sid James, there you go I named two instead of one!

Thanks so much to Francoise for answering my questions, I thoroughly enjoyed being in touch with her and hearing more about her really interesting career. You can follow Francoise on Twitter @Fpascal 

And you can visit her website here: http://francoisepascal.co.uk/

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

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