Alfred The Great

Directed by Clive Donner

Starring David Hemmings
Michael York

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Ian McKellen, Henry Woolf, David Hemmings, Michael Billington and Andrew Bradford stand before Offa's altar
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Vivien Merchant, Ian McKellen, Henry Woolf — bandits fighting for Alfred the Great

I was a bandit fighting with Alfred against the Viking invasion. My mate was played by Vivien Merchant (then Mrs Harold Pinter.)  Harold came out with us to Galway in Western Ireland and the night before, he read the script.  Over breakfast next day, he told Vivien that she was not to speak any of the unspeakable lines in the script, so the director agreed that her part would be mute.  This meant that Vivien got lots of BIG close-ups and that I was landed with all her lines.

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Roger the Bandit (Ian McKellen) paddling his coracle in an Irish backwater.

"Alfred" was shot entirely on location in County Galway where Clive Donner expected mist and rain for his gloomy epic. The previous year cereal crops and bushes had been planted around the pre-fabricated 'pre-mediaeval' sets. 1968 was a record-breaking sunny summer, so day after day I wasn’t called for work.  I lived in the old railway stationhouse at Oughterard, which had been converted into a first-floor flat and a ground-level carpet factory. Friends came to stay including Richard Cottrell with whom I was planning our stage production of Richard II.

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Ian McKellen as "Roger the Bandit" in battle

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Above my out-stretched arm is Colin Blakeley, my favourite stage-actor of the period whom I had known in Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre.


Production Designer: Jocelyn Rickards