Exclusive interview with John Challis from Only Fools and Horses
As most of you will now be aware, we are extremely proud to welcome the one and only John Challis to the Petwood Hotel on Sunday 1st September. In this now sell out show, John will be regaling the audience with tales from his illustrious career and of course lots of anecdotes about his time on Britains favourite comedy series, Only Fools and Horses. We took a few moments to ask John some questions about his career, his thoughts on the men and women who fought so bravely in WWII and of course what Boycie and Del Boy would think of the Petwood Hotel!
Welcome John! So, you are appearing at the Petwood Hotel for a special performance of ‘Being Boycie’ on 1st September. What are you looking forward to the most about visiting the Petwood?
A full house! And a chance to see for the first time the fabled Petwood Hotel, especially for its connections with the RAF. My old school friend Patrick Tootal has been instrumental in getting together the information zone at Capel le Ferne in Kent and organises Battle of Britain Memorial Day each year, which I have attended a few times. My screen wife Sue Holderness goes too as she had uncles who flew in the Battle of Britain and she lays flowers for them at the memorial. I’ve heard that the Squadron Bar has some good photos and information, so I hope to spend some time in there and raise a glass or two to the brave young men and women.
What do you think Boycie would make of the hotel?
It might be a little ostentatious and rambling for Boycie but if Marlene takes a fancy to it then he’s scuppered. Especially if there’s an in and out drive. Who’s going to do all that mowing?
Would he want to move in, or do you think Del Boy would have beaten him to it?
Since Del Trotter came into a fortune, I suspect he would have snapped up Petwood, only because he’s now a pilot and it could act as HQ, and also to get one over on Boycie.
When you think back to the days of Bomber and Fighter Command, what are your thoughts on what those young men and women did back then?
I’ve always been full of admiration for the brave young men who volunteered to get into those planes and take off into the blue yonder not knowing what to expect and wondering if they’d ever see land again. They were all so young, unbelievably passionate about serving their country-I wonder if the same willingness to lay down their life would be shown by the young people of today?
On to your forthcoming performance. What can the audience look forward to on the night?
I hope the audience will indulge me if I spend some time recounting the early stages of my career?!I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and I’ve done hundreds of parts in TV, in movies and on stage before OFAH came along. They may be surprised at what other parts I’ve played. There’s a Q&A session at the end and after the show I meet and greet everyone and will be selling signed copies of my books. For those people who can’t come along the books are all available on my website www.wigmorebooks.com Follow me on Twitter @BeingBoycie
How much responsibility did all the cast of Only Fools all feel knowing that they were part of the best loved comedy show in British History?
We didn’t realise for some time just how popular the show had become and it wasn’t until series 4/5 that we began to get recognised in the street and the series was acquiring cult status! For those of us still here we meet up twice a year for an OFAH convention and we reminisce about the good old days and remember dear departed friends-Lennard, Buster, Roger, Ken and Roy, and of course John Sullivan, the man who created all of us. We know how much the show means to people and how loved the characters are because we hear it all the time. The show is permanently on GOLD and we live in people’s homes on a daily basis. We’re like ‘family’! Of course, it’s a responsibility to carry forward the legend and to honour the memory of our writer. Sullivan changed all our lives and we thank him.
Do you still get people shouting for Marlene when you walk down the street?
All the time! Usually it’s young lads who wait until I’ve walked past and then comes the crafty Maaarleeene, followed by gales of girly laughter!
You have so many different anecdotes from your time on the show it must be impossible to fit them all into the one man show. Have you got an anecdote you’d like to share with us that you don’t always get a chance to mention?
I once played the part of a shipping clerk in a movie version of Dracula played by a famous Hollywood actor Jack Pallance. One day I arrived on set and there was nowhere for me to change so I was told to use the star’s Winnebago because he was not on set that day. I was nearly changed when the door flew open and in came Jack Pallance! ‘Have you had a drink?’ ‘No Sir, I haven’t touched a thing.’ Well, pour yourself a whisky. Sorry to have interrupted you.’ And off he went! I was a complete gibberish mess. Never saw him again.
What do you think makes Only Fools so special to worldwide audiences and why do you think it has endured as long as it has?
The show sells to countless countries all over the world, but we are especially ‘Big in the Balkans’! I recently did a chat show in Belgrade and I don’t know if the audience understood a word I was saying but the band played a fantastic version of the OFAH theme song. Everywhere I went I was warmly greeted and even bear hugged! Apparently during their conflict, the Serbians were only able to receive OFAH on their televisions and they were cheered up by the antics of Del and his mates. Every country can identify with the characters, duckers and divers, people wanting to better themselves, but especially the true family spirit as portrayed by the Trotter’s.
Finally, If you could spend an hour with any member of bomber or fighter command from WWII (past or present) who would it be and why?
I’d spend it with Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum DFC who was a true hero, an ace Spitfire pilot whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions. His story is amazing and his book First Light one of the most inspirational tales of WW11. He always had a twinkle in his eye, and he loved the ladies! I cried when he died last year, a few years short of his 100th birthday. Gawd bless ‘im.
Thank you to John for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to welcoming him to the hotel on Sunday 1st September.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT