Dennis Waterman: You Ask The Questions

So, do you think it is time to film a remake of The Sweeney? And what do you make of Little Britain's 'Little Dennis Waterman'?
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The Independent Online

Dennis Waterman, 56, grew up on a council estate in south-west London, the youngest of nine children. He was educated at the Corona Theatre School and, aged 12, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. By 14, he was in Hollywood, starring in the American sitcom Fair Exchange. He is best known for his roles in the Seventies police drama The Sweeney alongside John Thaw, andMinder, whose theme tune gave him the top-three hit "I Could Be So Good For You". Divorced three times, he has two daughters from his second marriage. He now lives in Buckinghamshire with his partner, Pam.

What is your favourite memory of John Thaw?
Claire Beeny, Birmingham

I've a lovely memory of when we worked together on a television play when I was 16. He took me under his wing and a couple of times, at the end of the day, he said: "Let's go up to the Serpentine and get a boat out". It was a strange thing to do, but great fun. He was a solid, mature bloke and very, very shy. One of my other favourite memories of him was from when we were doing The Sweeney. Every now and again he'd jump up on to his desk and sing "The Sun Has Got His Hat On", accompanied by this little tap-dance, which was totally out of character, but very funny.

After the success of Starsky and Hutch, is it time to film a remake of The Sweeney?
Gareth Dellmann, London

I doubt they will - we are in England, aren't we? I haven't seen Starsky and Hutch, and I was never a big fan of the series. The Sweeney was first and it was better. It was about real people, as opposed to Hollywood ideals. I'm not a fan of Seventies revivals: I think we should be making good programmes of our own. Instead we have reality television.

You have played a policeman on screen. Has this come in useful when you have run into the police in real life?
Sean Jones, Liverpool

Sometimes, sometimes not. My manager put his Rover in a ditch after a couple of drinks. When the police arrived, he mentioned that he'd been celebrating with John Thaw and myself, and they told him to get off home quickly. Whereas I've been pulled over because they think "Oh, there's that tosser Waterman".

Your autobiography was called Re-minder. What was it you were trying to remind people of?
Stuart Henderson, London

I was playing golf with a bloke, and he asked what I was up to. I told him I was working on my autobiography and he said, "Oh, is that a reminder?". And I thought it was a clever title so I used it. Writing about my childhood was like writing about someone else. It was bizarre. I was living in a council flat, then suddenly I'm in Stratford, then Hollywood. I don't know how it all happened. I've always felt lucky. If the director had been different on The Sweeney, chances are my career would have turned out very differently. There are so many fantastic actors who never cracked it.

Did you watch BBC2's Little Britain and if so, what did you make of their "Little Dennis Waterman" and his catchphrase "Write the feem toon, sing the feem toon"?
Jack Cunningham, Oxford

I did watch it, but I never saw that bit. I just saw a lot of some bloke dressed up as a woman.

You are the youngest of nine children. Were you spoilt rotten or downtrodden?
Maya Saunders, by e-mail

I'm afraid it was the former. Nobody had enough money to spoil me rotten, but I was six years younger than the last one, so I was the baby of the family. I've no idea if all that attention contributed to my decision to become an actor. Basically it was my oldest sister who got me into acting. She dragged me into amateur dramatics. We all had to do it. I started off doing Shakespeare - A Winter's Tale and Love's Labours Lost - when I was about eight and I don't think I was mad about it at the time. I had to go to rehearsals and miss the football.

In the crime drama New Tricks, as in Minder, you sing the theme tune. Did you suggest this or did the BBC? And are you planning to release it as a single?
Brian Dixson, by e-mail

I was asked to do it, in fact. I don't know what the plans are - we might throw it out as a single. Strangely enough, I've always been asked when I've sung a theme tune, except with Minder, which we had written already and gave to them to see if they liked it. But it's not something I request in contracts.

Will you vote for Tony Blair at the next election?
Sue Hardman, Birmingham

I wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire, quite frankly. I haven't always felt like that. When he was first elected, I thought "This is nice and fresh". Now I don't believe a word he says.

What do you think was the cultural impact of The Sweeney?
Bella Ingleby, Colchester

Well, it made the pubs less full because everyone would go home to watch it. And we certainly had an impact on the police. When we first started, the police didn't want to have anything to do with us, but then they realised it was quite healthy for the public to see that the police were as tough as the villains. Then they got worried that their wives would realise what they were up to. We had two police advisers on the series: one from New Scotland Yard and one, a sergeant in the flying squad, who was paid to tell us what they actually did. That's where phrases such as "Get your trousers on, you're nicked" came from. We didn't make them up.

I understand all your siblings are very successful. What was it about your upbringing, do you think?
Sharon Parker, Manchester

I don't know, I couldn't explain it in my autobiography either. One of my brothers was a British boxing champion, another joined the RAF and three of my sisters work in the film industry in Los Angeles. Our parents had no interest in us whatsoever and I think that probably had something to do with it. We just had to get on with life. It was very much the kids working together. Everyone thought my sister was my mum. We all wanted to better ourselves so we worked at it.

What were your first impressions of Hollywood when you went there aged 14 to make a sitcom?
Julia Hayes, London

I loved it. I was spoilt rotten. At first I stayed in a hotel with a chaperone while working on the pilot. I lived in an apartment after that with my mum during the series. In the next-door lot, they were filming The Untouchables. And in the next-door studio, they were doing Bonanza and Gun Law so I got to mix with the cowboys. We'd go out riding sometimes - it was excellent. Coming back to the council estate was a shock.

Would you say you are as un-PC as your character in New Tricks?
Paula White, by e-mail

I'm much less politically correct than him. I hate political correctness. It makes liars out of everyone. I guess that makes me a chauvinist as well then?

'New Tricks' is on BBC1 tonight at 9pm

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