TUESDAY: I'm a member of the Cricketers' Club of London, and every month we have a lunch, so I tend to host it and make a little speech. One of my great heroes is the cricketer David Steele, and it's good to mix with your gods, so we invited him. He was a great folk hero in the 1970s because he used to stave off the West Indian fast bowlers. I could also immediately identify with him because his hair went white at 35, and was described at the time as looking like something out of Dad's Army. I went white even earlier than that. He was very funny, very dry and we drank a lot of red wine, and that was the day gone.
WEDNESDAY: Up to Cambridge for a production meeting for Aladdin. I do like having control in pantomime because I have strong feelings about it. I get upset when people say: "It's only pantomime." I don't like actors just coming on and doing acts. It sounds po-faced, but it's most people's first time in a theatre, and it's one of the few times a whole family goes together. It's a great mix, but a hard slog. Directing a pantomime is different from a play, which is man-management. As a pantomime actor, I try and stick to what Arthur Askey told me years ago: "One day you'll do the dame." And I said: "I hope so." He said: "Always remember they must see the trousers." Wearing a dress is great fun. I don't know why ladies want to wear trousers. I also like the variety of pantomime; it's my one chance as an actor to cross the line.
THURSDAY: Went to hospital for a blood test. I've had a couple of thromboses and once you've had two, you're on rat poison for the rest of your life. I had one 10 years ago, then I was treated for cancer four years ago and had a post-operative one. But I don't mind needles going in my arms. The rest of the day was spent talking to journalists about the Dad's Army anniversary. I really don't mind; I don't know many actors who don't like talking about themselves.
FRIDAY: I met Dad's Army's creators Jimmy Perry and David Croft at the Imperial War Museum, and actors Clive Dunn [Corporal Jones] and Bill Pertwee [ARP warden Bill Hodges] to launch a first-day stamp cover. I had no idea that the original show would be so successful. When I started it was just eight weeks' work. It was tremendous fun, going out to the country to film. I was so green, I didn't even know we weren't coming home that night. I had to nip home quickly and pack a bag; I'd never stayed in a hotel before. There was something in every one of us which echoed our characters - there was a pompous side to Arthur Lowe but he sent himself up, and there was a vague side to John Le Mesurier, but there was nobody sharper.
Interview by Rachelle ThackrayReuse content