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Chronicles '98

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Peter Hudson

Peter Hudson

Transcribed from audiotape as best as I could — Peter is a soft-spoken person so a lot of what he said came out muffled on the tape, which drove me nuts when I was trying to transcribe him. So there are tons of gaps in his talk. Nevertheless, I hope you can still enjoy what's there. Please send any corrections or clarifications to me at or leave a note in the Guestbook.

[Square brackets] indicate either (1) my paraphrase of parts of the tape that weren't clear, (2) proper names where I'm not sure of the spelling, or (3) explanatory notes or commentary to make the text more readable.

[laughter] indicates laughter from the audience.

[?] indicates I don't have a clue what was said.

Ellipses indicate quotes dropped because they either weren't clear on the tape or they were repetitious/redundant and don't add any new info.

All audience questions are paraphrased for brevity's sake (some people took a while to get to the point) and because many of them weren't clear on my tape.

Now here's Peter...

Another quite important moment [in the beginning of my career] was in Scotland when — my parents weren't very wealthy so we didn't often go on holiday, but we did one year go to a hotel in Scotland with my brother.... I was in my bedroom rehearsing, [?] I was preparing, and I was on my own — at least I thought I was on my own. And I was standing in front of the mirror saying, [deep voice] "I'm the guy around town" for a very long time and trying different postures. And what I didn't know was that my brother was actually hiding in the cupboard in my bedroom.

So when we went to lunch in the restaurant, my brother did a very faithful rendering — rather exaggerated, I thought — of what I'd done, not only in front of my parents, but in front of all the guests at the hotel. And I was deeply humiliated, and in fact that was a setback to my career [and it was] several years before any other anecdote is worth recounting.

I was for a long time determined to be a writer.... The problem is you can write but people always have to read it. And what do writers really know?

I thought while I'm writing and nobody's actually buying my novels — or publishing them... — maybe I should do some journalism. I had always been interested in anything to do with the theater, so I thought I would go and study English-speaking theaters, but English-speaking theaters in Europe outside of English-speaking countries, and that's what I did for a while. I went to Frankfurt in Germany. I went to [the Hague] in Holland.

I also went to a small theater in Paris where they put on plays in English and I met the director who was very English and I interviewed her. And she said, "I'm preparing a new play [and] I can't find a new character." And then she said, "Actually, you look a bit like the sort of person I'm looking for. Can you act? Would you like to audition?" ... Which I did and I got the role, and that role is in a play called Entertaining Mrs. Sloane by [Joe ?]....

He's a really nasty character and he comes into a family as a [?]... and he begins by seducing a middle-aged sister. It's a family of a sister, a brother and the old father. He seduces the sister first of all; she's normal. Then he seduces the brother when he comes home from driving a taxi. Then later on he keeps on hitting on the old man. So that is why — you're really beginning to see the profile [laughter] of this character.

And that brings me really onto, I suppose, Horton. I don't want to talk too much about Highlander because I imagine that you will have some questions that you want to ask about Highlander, and so on, that I'll be delighted to answer if I can.

You might be interested to know [that] I almost didn't finish doing James Horton because of a slight accident that took place on one of the episodes, which in fact was "Counterfeit II."

There was a chase in the cemetery and we were rehearsing. We hadn't even started rehearsing, we were just standing talking about it early in the morning and I stepped backwards, caught my foot in a tuft of grass and fell onto a tombstone, you know, a marble stone on the corner, which just went into my back here.

I do know I hurt myself badly because I couldn't breathe, and secondly, it was very very painful. But being James Horton you think, "Well, I'm the man you can't kill" [laughter] so I thought "I'm going to go on," and I said, "We must get this done," because it was the last day in that particular location, and if we hadn't done it, we would have had [?]. So I was [?] that day, which actually shows if you look at the episode, because I wasn't running, I was staggering....

Because [?] to work with the team at Highlander, you, I think, experience something in the episodes that's engendered on the show, that's here today — you can feel it too. It's unusual.

I've done a lot of TV things and you don't always have the solidarity and the generosity that's been on this show. It starts at the top actually, and it goes quite the way down. Adrian is very much the source. Often stars on these shows are particularly concerned that they should look the best there... and so quite often, actors visiting the shows or who have secondary roles have a certain feeling that you mustn't do too well because it might show up the lead person. With Adrian there wasn't any question of that. It was always him trying to help all the other actors to make the show as good as possible.

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Peter Hudson

What's your favorite episode?

Well, that's a good question. I think actually maybe "Armegeddon" because it was the most interesting situation to play. I love the action stuff as well, you know, running around, firing [?] was very thrilling. But I think "Armegeddon" was completely intense.

About "Armegeddon," as far as working with Jim Byrnes in the bed scene —

What? I'm in the bed scene?...

I'm not going there! I talked to Jim in New Orleans and he said that was his best work. What was it like filming that with the realism of the situation?

Well, we had a talk about it. I knew that he was accepted to do it and [we got together before].... They were very sensitive too on the set. It was suggested that the minimum number of people be present for that scene.... He was very brave to do that.

What was it like on the set of "To Be/Not to Be"?

Well, I can't really give you a very detailed answer on that because, as you know, I was hardly there, only a couple of days. And I was outside on the street as well... so I didn't really get much of a feel of it.

It must have been emotional.

Well, there certainly was an atmosphere about being with Adrian. Absolutely. People were sad.

Any roles coming up where you're playing a good guy?

That's the problem, you see. None at all. Well, yes, there is one. A Swiss film.... He is a very nice guy. He's really like me, in fact. It's a TV movie....

Do you enjoy playing evil people?

Yeah, it's a curious question, isn't it? I mean it's a curious thing one does get asked to do. Yes, I do enjoy them. I do because it's so different from the way I see myself.... But I'd like to do something else as well because we need to do different kinds of stuff.

Are there any TV shows, films or plays that you would have liked to have been in?

Well, I would have loved to have been in Bonanza. [laugher] I was really young. Why? Well, because that corresponded to the time when I discovered television, and I thought what a fantastic thing it was....

I have a little boy. I do silly voices as well. When I'm not shooting things, I do cartoons and stuff like that. [does a comic "Uh oh"] My little boy — there's a series in Britain on channel five — he saw me, or at least he saw the show and he said, "That was a really good costume, dad." Bonanza corresponds a bit to that kind of stage I was at when it was on.

What would have crossed Horton's mind if he had to kill his brother-in-law, Joe Dawson?

He knew [Joe] was a running character so he wasn't going to be asked to do that. Yeah, I think Horton would have done it. What I like about him was that he was a guy who did something he believed in. He believed that he was doing a great service to humanity. He would do what was necessary. He wasn't just a psychopath; that was what was interesting about him.

How much input are you allowed?

Well, none in the writing. But, of course, as the writers get to know your character because they've seen you on the screen, then there's a relationship that's set up even though you only meet them once a year.... I think they wrote better and better for me because they knew the things that they'd like me to do — if only I could remember my lines.

In a sense, you improvise all the time because sometimes you look at the dialogue and you think, "Well, this scene isn't quite as good as some of the other scenes." And you never quite see how you can make much of it. And then you find something to make it mean something.

How were you chosen to play Horton?

I auditioned. I had an audition in Paris, which I went to, and I got the role.

We all know how Horton felt about Immortals. What are your thoughts?

That's a heavy question. In Highlander terms, I don't conceive of immortality. But I certainly believe in a spiritual dimension with us, and I believe that needs to be nourished. So I believe that there is a spiritual life which each person can find in their own way if they choose to.

[Something about playing Ahriman]

Well, a lot of it was in the technical. I think that's why "Armegeddon" worked well because technically instead of him walking across the room, he just zapped from place to place and that gives a great power.... So that was helpful.

Also what I tried to do was again make him a little bit more than just a caricature of a baddie. My feeling about Horton when he at last became Ahriman was that he — going back to that talk about spirituality — if you think about traditional ideas about the devil, he was a fallen angel. And my feeling was that somehow Horton, as Ahriman, was a fallen angel. And then he saw Jim Byrne's legs; he was moved almost as if he had been a good man. He wasn't just getting pleasure out of being bad. He was moved emotionally. But he was just twisted, so it never quite went the right way. [laughter] That's why he's an interesting character to play.

Was it hard coming in to work just once a year?

Not really because I quite often worked with the same director. There were five directors on Highlander. There was always people that I knew: the cameraman or the director. There were enough people there who knew me and I knew there'd be some continuity.

I hardly worked with Peter Wingfield at all but I knew he was on the show, and I'd seen a couple of episodes but I wasn't really influenced by his being there. We had one scene together....

Horton despised Immortals. What would have happened if found himself turned into an Immortal when he was finally killed?

Well, he'd ask to read the script and rediscuss his contract. What would he have done? Well, yes, he would have been in difficulty, wouldn't he?

I think what was interesting about Horton was that fact that he wasn't immortal. There are any number of Immortals in the show whereas he was... ordinary....

What I would have liked was if at some point he came back a reformed character. [laughter] And he actually helped MacLeod, and that created a real link with him, and only then would have been to the point where you'd always wonder if [his change] was genuine. That was what I would have liked.


No.... He didn't discriminate really between good Immortals and bad Immortals....

Did you watch the series before you were cast in it?

Well, I was lent a couple of episodes. Yeah.

So you weren't really watching it.

Oh, you mean was I [?] at the time? No no no, not at all. [laughter] I didn't mean I didn't like it. I saw the movie, but science fiction isn't really my [interest]. Paranormal —

So you're an X-Files fan?

Well, actually, I wouldn't mind being on The X-Files. I tried to get on that show but didn't succeed.

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Peter Hudson

If you could play another character on Highlander, who would it be?

Well, I think Methos, the Horseman, would be a very interesting character. That would be great fun.

How about Darius?

Well, that was an interesting character. He was very good too.

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

Well, I suppose I would hope to, on the professional level, I would hope to continue to evolve as an actor, to have a [?] career.... On a personal level, I would hope that I would manage to maintain my family.... And the third wish: [???].

What was it like working on [?]

Ah, nervous. Well no, it was great. It was very interesting except I had a problem because you need to be a very very good horseman, and I'm a kind of standard horseman.

We were in Turkey and they didn't manage to get horses that had ever been trained to [?]. They were... very nervy horses.... And the director said, "Well, you've got to stand by the camel." So I stood by the camel.... And on another occasion... they had to inject them to keep them calm because they got [?], - rather like Horton gets. They used to inject them but they had to get the doses right. Either they were hysterical or they used to fall asleep. Literally, you'd be sitting like this — looking very military — when all of a sudden, you [?]....

And they could only turn left.... Because they were only used to going on this track, so when they got out in the open country, they started falling over....

Why was your name changed at the end in the credits?

Because Equity [?]. We're not allowed to work under the same name as someone who's already registered with Equity and when I became registered they said, "We already have somebody...."

I ask you, because I was talking about this last night, if someone said to you, "You've got to change your name," you think, "Oh, that might be rather fun." You take on a new identity. But in fact it's a very worrying thing. I always worried about it because first, I couldn't find a name that I thought in any way corresponded to anything I [?]. So eventually I took the name of my wife. Not her given name, her surname....

So that's why. And also if I ever get a check, [?]. And I also identified with the name. I didn't worry being called her name whereas it would have been [?].

What made you decide to do this, your first convention?

The only reason I've never been to a convention before is that nobody invited me.... [audience awwwws] Nobody asked, and when I was asked, I thought, "Well, why not?" It's great.... It's great for us to realize who we're working with... and quite apart from the fact that you're paying, it's a charity event so everybody's with us.... It's always amazing that a show can be so successful so to [be a part of it] even in my small way, it's a surprise.

There's a good story about Charlie Chaplin who just signed a $5 million contract with whichever studio he was working with, and he was out in Times Square and they just brought up an electronic billboard and he just saw "Charlie Chaplin signs $5 million deal with" whichever studio it was. So he looked and thought, "It's me!"

Not that I'm comparing myself to Charlie Chaplin, but you are surprised if you've been involved with something so successful. There is a kind surprise and you think, "Why not?" It's a great pleasure.

What sort of things do you write?

I wrote a very unprofessional novel. [laughter] I like it. But I think it ought to be published. I mean, I still think it ought to be published. And I've written some plays.... I wish I was doing something a little bit ambitious, but I'm not. I've not very good at thinking, "Well, what would I do to get this put on?" Which is what you need to be able to do.

What was the novel about?

It was a sort of parody about the detective novel and it took place in London following a kind of social... social decay.... It's very funny. A leopard escapes; it's a pet of a bureaucracy. And it escapes from home and this policeman who's on the point of retiring — who has about six months — is put in charge of this case. This is just one thread. And this leopard escapes into London and begins to proliferate. And people begin to call in saying they've seen leopards all over London. It's hysterical. There's a kind of paranoia [that] sets in and a guy gets shot going home after [?] because somebody thinks he's a leopard....

Would you like to direct?

Yes, I'd love to direct. I'm on the verge of [doing] a short film....

[something about generating characters?]

It doesn't really worry me at the moment. But to be truthful, I don't like to think about too seriously....

Who has inspired your career?

I've always admired [?], I think, ever since I saw him on television.... [?] I like. In fact, I called my first son [?] because I like [?]

I heard that you're a drama coach. What specifically do you teach?

Did you hear I was a drama coach?

Yeah, in the program book.

No, it's true I was a teacher originally, but I wasn't an acting teacher. I was a teacher of literature and drama. In fact, I had absolutely no provocation to teach [?]. I never went to drama school myself, which in some ways is a very good thing, I think. I don't know if you've talked to any of the other actors, but some are like Val, who has done all the right things, and I've done all the wrong things. He's an example of the advantages [of if you] get it right. But I don't think everyone [will] get it right. You can be, I think, limited by ideas that you learn in drama school [compared to someone like me who just hangs on and makes the mistakes].

Did you approach the role of Ahriman differently than you approached Horton?

Well, yes, because technically, for example, the idea I had for Horton was [that] he was a guy who had SAS training, who was ex-military, so he was very disciplined, very [?] in his movements, [and who had weapons training]. I worked at him being somebody who was extremely concise and precise.

And with Ahriman I tried to work [in] a completely different way of moving, of, you know, being more fluid.... It was very interesting. The trouble is with something like Highlander, [despite] all the support you get, there isn't really time to prepare things the way you'd like. So you have to [?] while you're actually shooting....

I think the Ahriman thing sometimes went a bit over the top. I don't know what you felt.... You know the difference between "Armegedddon" and the previous episode "Avatar"? I think it's quite [?] because I totally went over the top with "Avatar" in view of "Armegeddon."


Honestly, I didn't think if it in those terms because as much as I love Highlander, it's not my only life, any more than it's yours — was it you who bought that t-shirt for 390 pounds?

[Something about the Highlander curse — someone always getting injured during the filming of the season finales]

There was a stuntman who was badly hurt on "Avatar" when we were preparing a car chase.... Originally he was supposed to jump up and hang on a sort of [?]. He leapt up and [?] and he fell upon his back.... But last I heard he was going to be okay.

Have you done any book readings or radio shows?

No radio shows. No book readings.... And I do lots of documentary commentaries.

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