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Valentine Pelka

It's me againValentine came on stage holding a copy of "David Copperfield" in his hand. He had been asked to give some readings for us only the night before, and so had chosen to read from Copperfield as he was reading it himself at the time. He started by reading from the beginning of the book.

He said that he was wandering a lot at the moment - he had just got home from Los Angeles, then come to Australia, then he was returning home, but starting a new project in May, which should last about 10 months. He would not talk about what it was, (but we worked out that he had to be talking about Queen of Swords and it's since been confirmed that he will have a recurring role as a bad guy). He hopes to return to Australia with his wife and son after that.

He said he would like to read more French literature, as he had never attempted Zola. He said he had started "The Masterpiece" several times, but never got beyond Chapter 5. He only reads the classics or genre novels, never potboilers. Asked what he would read at the airport, he said that he would prefer to draw, whether what he could see or from memory.

He was asked how he reacted to auditioning for one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He said that he didn't know that at the time and responded to the character he saw in the few pages he was asked to read, as he didn't see the whole script until after he'd got the part. He said research was tricky, as you can research a factual scenario, but Kronos was a flight of David Abramowitz's imagination. He said he had to work with the script and find what worked for the part. He said that he didn't regard Kronos as fitting the adage that those scarred and ugly on the outside are scarred and ugly on the inside. He said that he regarded Kronos as completely whole on the inside, the only scars not visible being perhaps on his pride. He spoke of how fencers wore duelling scars with pride and the Prussian fencers had a slit in their mask to ensure that they received the badge of courage. He added that Kronos' scar was latex and came off at night!

By contrast, he had done a lot of research for his portrayal of Shelley in Rowing With The Wind. He felt that the script made the character too nice. He had found that Shelley was a bit of an alchemist and he should have been more awkward as a character. He said that, when you understood them, it was obvious that Mary Shelley's Doctor Frankenstein was bits of Shelley and Byron bolted together. He said that, during filming, they were caught by a squall on Lake Geneva, which swept across the lake in under a minute and lashed them for of an hour. Valentine said that, once it had passed and they recovered to shore, he had asked the lifeguard if that was normal. The life guard said no, it was the most dangerous thing he'd seen in years!

I hate false beardsHe said that he had done very little work recently, as he had been holding himself in reserve, for a new and exciting project, [Queen of Swords - PDE]. He said that he had finished filming a project in December, called The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells, with Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian Holm, playing a character who collects tropical fish. At this point, we had some more Dickens, this time Copperfield's meeting with the ebullient Mr Micawber.

He was asked if he plays chess, to which he replied "badly". Of Ivanhoe, he said that he had had his hair permed, as if he was going to be spending four months on horseback, the last thing he wanted was someone messing with his hair between takes. He said that too much research can be a bad thing - he had read the book, but it hadn't given him too much of an insight into the character. However, he knows that period of history well. He said that they had filmed the series in castles which were decidedly draughty without central heating!

Asked if he would like to direct, he said that he would love to. Asked what, he said that he had been talking to Maureen Russell about how he thought there was still a lot in Shane. He had not felt that Alan Ladd was right for the part, but who would he cast now? - he suggested Gary Sinise. Asked why he was always behind Sean Connery in First Knight, he said that once the positions of the knights around the table were set, they stayed that way - it made everything easier. Asked if there were any taboo subjects between actors, he mentioned the usual politics and religion, but added that actors in the UK are very upfront about money.

A very Valentine lookAsked about his most difficult outfit, he said he had to wear chainmail over his normal costume in Ivanhoe, which had been heavy, but not a problem to move in. In fact, they had filmed the series through a hot summer and he had been surprised to find that the chainmail kept him quite cool. He said that had studied aikido for a little while, but had to stop when he injured his back. He said that martial arts are difficult for an actor - you can't take the risk of turning up for work with a broken wrist.

Asked about the problem of bringing the memory of other actor's interpretation to classic roles, he said that he had taken to heart something that Jonathan Pryce had said, that he approached each play as if it were a new play and he tried to use that approach. He quoted Mel Gibson's Hamlet as a fine performance and said he had been knocked out by it. Asked what he would bring to the role if he played it again, he said you had to look for clues in the script. He felt that the keys to Hamlet were that the father-son relationship was unfinished, that Hamlet genuinely loved Ophelia and that anyone who rejects him has to die.

Asked if Highlander was his best performance, he said that one of his teachers told him never to recreate a role, always try to do something new. He felt sure that there would be room for improvement in what he had done. He said that playing the bad guy gave you more freedom, so he likes to play bad guys, but he also likes to play dippy guys as well. He enjoys his freedom to play different characters all the time.

Valentine finished his session with a final reading from "David Copperfield", in which Copperfield recalled his first real conversation with the unctuous Uriah Heep.

And then we did it all again halfway round the world
- Legacy 2000