UnNews:Oliver Reed: the lost interview
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25 June 2012
Guernsey, Channel Islands -- A good journalist will tell you they have some stories that are unfit for general distribution. Most "famous" people of today make their own secrets up for publicity and so the honor of the journalist becoming friends with a talented actor or singer and not going against their trust is long gone. Oh, the days of being invited to a well-known person's house because they WANTED to have a conversation, knowing that whatever subject matter arose; they don't have to worry about being humiliated in the papers the next day.
One such person was Ollie Reed. In 1991 (the tape box says Oct 3rd 1991) an informal chat with Oliver at his Guernsey home became the highlight of any interviewer's career. "What one drinks in the morning is the same as drinking in the evening; our perception changes that's all. A bird sings in the morning, an owl hoots at night, it's still a bloody bird." Oliver immediately follows this statement with a look to confuse and amuse me, he has a knack of looking into you with a one-eyed grin to make you unsure if he is joking or offering a sort of profound wisdom. "Look what it is here, a beautiful kitchen in the morning light, I can sit with tea or gin and can have both on cornflakes".
Looking at the items on the table in front of me, I see no evidence to suggest he's been drinking. I dare to ask a question that has always been on my mind. Does he play drunk? "I've been picking up the guitar recently, (sly smile) and I find I can't play it whether sober or in an Irish bar." Clearly he won't give me an answer. So what of the reputation? Keith Moon? "The 'reputation' is as reputable as a holiday rep. They get up to naughty things while being the leader of someone's dream holiday; one minute professional, the next being sick and shagging in the staff quarters. Actors are similar." However he describes things, Ollie ends up making sense, I feel I'm in the presence of an intelligent man with the driest sense of humor. .."as for Moony, he was one of the greatest people, nobody saw the quiet side of him as they didn't want to. There were numerous times not pissed and of course that isn't reported."
I take the conversation towards his career and ask which he feels was his best role? "Castaway, it was as close to being myself as any other film I did. Who wouldn't want to be stuck on a deserted island with only tits to stare at? I nearly didn't do the film, as I said about Moony just now; the press only wanted to know about the crap he got up to, the same goes for me. The roles were disappearing fast because of the shit they wrote, film companies actually read tabloids now instead of auditioning actors."
Castaway surely is Oliver Reed at his finest, the film, directed by Nicolas Roeg is an idyllic and honest depiction of what life might really be like on a tropical island.
Did he come to the island of Guernsey as a result of making the film? "I don't think the locals would like my John-Thomas swinging around on the beaches here, Guernsey is a great place to live. I was too tired with everything in Britain, I have a great many friends here who act with respect towards my wife and I... He adds proudly: "going fishing and boating has become a favorite past time of mine."
Oliver's wife is Josephine Burge, a gentle woman who seemingly places Oliver's integrity before all else. She stays within earshot of the interview but never once shows any reaction to his words. I ask Ollie about the marriage and how it began. It was well known at the time that Josephine was only 15 when she met Oliver. "They always make these things into more than it is. Look, there she is, still with me. Age is a number. I have met 40 year old men with less intelligence than her at 15. Nay-Sayers beware, this marriage will last until the cock croaks"
Only then does Josephone remind Oliver of another appointment to get his hair cut. I ask him finally what he usually does at this time of the day? "My dear boy I eat my cornflakes" Ah, honesty will always be something Oliver Reed uses to have the last word.