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Maureen Russell

Maureen RussellMaureen is working on a new Highlander project to follow from The Watcher’s Guide, a 13 episode best-of audio and video package, for which she is filming new interview material. Which 13 episodes are a secret, although she said that, (inevitably), Comes A Horseman and Revelation 6:8 were two of them. She had previously written a book on the show Days Of Our Lives, which had been well received, and knew Donna and Gillian, who introduced her to Bill Panzer. Apparently, long before there was a contract, Bill was referring to “Maureen’s book”. Warner Books had not wanted to pay for colour pictures, although Bill Panzer had wanted it to be longer and better. After pre-orders for the book started to roll in, Warners added 36 pages to the book's length, enabling Maureen to put back some of the material she had edited out. Bill Panzer still wants to do a longer collector’s edition.

Asked which of the interviews she enjoyed most, she singled out Roger Daltrey’s, because of the time she spent on location during the filming of Unusual Suspects. As an American, she was adopted as Roger’s new playmate, as he doesn't speak French, so she had a week of stories from him. One of these was from his days in the Who, when he bought a Jacobean manor, to the concern of the local residents. During the filming of Lisztomania, there was a giant phallus on set, which Roger requisitioned and set up on his front lawn, complete with floodlights. After a party during which the guests danced naked round this thing, (so the story goes), Roger felt he had lived up to his reputation as a rock star.

Peter Wingfield’s had been the longest interview, as he listens to the question and thinks it through. She first saw him faxing something from the production office in Vancouver and they went out for lunch, conducting his interview over a three hour meal of sushi and tempura. Peter walked down the street in his Highlander jacket, but nobody accosted them, much to her surprise. She said that Peter and Jim Byrnes were great fun together. Jim was not so much a joker as a great storyteller and he had had a great time in Scotland whilst filming Homeland, because of the large number of pubs around. Jim had apparently tried to get them to change the scene in Comes A Horseman about who invented the twist, as he says it wasn’t Chubby Checker and he’s still going on about how they ignored him!

Of the other interviewees, Valentine had been very sweet and F Braun McAsh went down as the master of the convoluted story. Adrian lights up when he’s talking about directing and she found Elizabeth Gracen very sweet - of them all, Elizabeth had been the one where she hadn’t known what to expect. The book had a short deadline and was written in two months. Maureen was told to deliver 300 pages, but nobody remembered to tell her that they meant double spaced. The editor’s scream could be heard at some distance.... The reason that Alexandra Vandernoot is not in the book is that approaches were made to her “people”, who said she didn't want to do it, but Maureen had spoken to her at Anaheim and Alexandra knew nothing about it. She had not been asked, her “people” had just turned it down out of hand.

Because of the short deadline, there had had to be omissions and decisions about what would and wouldn’t be in the book. Maureen had consulted Bill Panzer and they had agreed that they would concentrate on the main characters, with recurring characters as space and availability permitted. Some people didn't want to talk, some weren’t available, like Anthony de Longis, singled out by both Adrian and Braun as the best swordsman to appear on the show. David Abramowitz had loved the idea from Tony that became Duende. Of the material she had to leave out, Bill Panzer said he didn't know “they could talk that much”. She said some people can be difficult to interview, but that hadn’t been the case with anyone associated with Highlander. With so much to cut out, she had removed much of her own thoughts and observations, such as the descriptions of what she had seen on set, in favour of letting the cast and crew speak. She said she had really enjoyed her time with Post-Production. She had been amazed to see Sparky drawing a Quickening, which could consist of anything from 700 to 3,000 hand drawn bolts of lightning.

Of the directors, she said that Dennis Berry, an American raised in France, was insane in the nicest possibly way and that Richard Martin, (son of Dick Martin of Rowan And Martin fame), can actually be seen in Diplomatic Immunity - he is the driver of the car that Willie steps in front of moments before he meets MacLeod in the present.

Maureen has a PhD in History and is not into creative writing per se, preferring to write real stories. Her father was a film editor, which may explain her evident soft spot for post-production, which apparently had a huge section in the first draft. Bill Panzer wasn’t convinced by that version, wanting more dirt and less “swinging halos”, but despite her putting Peter on the spot, he couldn’t think of any, nor could the others.

She felt that they got tremendously good results on such a tight budget. She said there was an honour, integrity and honesty that came across to her and she seemed to be saying that this came from David Abramowitz, who got to play out his philosophical debates through the show. She had felt there was a family feel through the cast and crew which extended to the fans, a theme later to be picked up by Peter Wingfield and, (if I heard him right), Michael J Jackson. The crew adored Adrian, who works hard. The guest actors would pick up on that, but she knew Adrian hadn’t always seen eye to eye with the writers. Adrian is an admitted perfectionist, who David Tynan had described as “the broad back on which the show rests”. Adrian got beat up a lot during shooting and he and Stan Kirsch were always ragging each other, although not in such a way as to mess up production.

She said that, at the first screening of To Be and Not To Be, she realised that she and Bill Panzer were the only ones who knew the people from the Paris and Vancouver crews as well as the post-production and LA people, so she spent most of her time introducing people who had, at best, only ever spoken on the phone.

Maureen brought some of the dailies from Unusual Suspects, which were shown separately. She had been cooped up in a cupboard during the dining room sequence along with the sound guy and they had had problems with the rat. They couldn't find a way to hide it on Adrian when he walked in and they didn't want to him to have it in his hand, so they arranged for a grip to be under the table with the rat on a plate, which he would offer to Adrian out of sight of the camera. When Adrian saw this hand come out from under the table offering him a rat, he cracked up and they had to think again on that one. She told us a story about the opening sequence in Diplomatic Immunity, where Willie is with the young Molly. The film had got past director Richard Martin and Don Paonessa, the head of post production and had been given to Tracy Hillman to edit. There was a scream from the editing room, so Maureen went in and Tracy asked her to watch the film. Maureen spotted the problem straight away. The actress playing Molly bent over in one shot and you could clearly see that she was wearing no underwear, but Richard and Don had missed it. Even when it was pointed out, Don didn't see it straight away and they had to cut the scene keeping the camera about her waist at all times!

Next... The Three Horsemen