An Interview with Françoise Pascal
Actress Françoise Pascal rose to fame in 1970s sitcom Mind Your Language. She talks to Roger Crow about that series; critically acclaimed film The Iron Rose; working on Coronation Street, and her current projects, including Radio Scarborough and her pending movie…
I love your film The Iron Rose – a haunting piece of work.
It is actually. It’s a strange film. There is great depth in it, and that’s what I loved about it. It’s quite sinister in a way, but it’s something I really wanted to do.
Is it true you turned down Kirk Douglas, because he wanted you to be in a film around the same time?
I did! Absolutely. I was at The White Elephant Club in Curzon Street, one of the most elite restaurant clubs in London in those days, in the 1970s, and I was with my then-partner Richard Johnson. This woman came up to me and she said: “My husband thinks you’re the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.” I never thought as myself as beautiful. I thought of myself as being pretty, but never beautiful. So I turned round and I was completely flabbergasted, and it was Kirk Douglas. He raised his glass to me. I had already signed up to The Iron Rose. And there was no way I was going to get out of that one. I would have loved to have worked with Kirk Douglas. Oh my gosh. What a wonderful opportunity to work with someone like that; put my name up in lights. Fantastic. Instead I chose a little film, with very little money and no fame with it. I’m so happy I did it. I really am.
Working with French horror master Jean Rollin on The Iron Rose must have been interesting.
The thing is when it opened in France, and Richard and I both went to see the premiere in Paris, next door Last Tango in Paris opened, the film with Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando. Fans of Jean Rollin, they came in and they booed it because they didn’t like the fact that Jean had changed his genre; he used to film a lot of vampire films with a lot of breasts, and things like that. They didn’t like that he’d changed his way of filming. He’d spent a lot of his money on the film. He’d mortgaged his house to actually do the film. So it was very sad for me to see this and sad for him. And yet years later what happens? It becomes a cult film. It’s unbelievable.
“I knew I was a good actress”
There were some scenes where you were thrown about. Were you bruised by the end of the shoot?
I was actually. The top of my legs and I did something to my ribs. They hurt a lot. My arm was bruised also, but I loved it. It was one those films that was mine. I was going to make it mine. I did make it mine. I thought that’s the way I wanted it.
How was it making Mind Your Language after The Iron Rose?
Well, I actually welcomed Mind Your Language. I welcomed the fact my name was going to ‘be’ something. I knew I was a good actress, so I wasn’t worried at all. I wish I could be known as someone who did some great films. But I wasn’t given that opportunity, because the English are very strange that way. They love you or they hate you. If you’re too successful, they love you then they hate you afterwards.
What are your memories of working on Coronation Street?
(Laughs) My memories of Ena Sharples? My God, she was dreadful to me. I had an accident in February 1971, there was a fire, I jumped out of a third or fourth storey window and I landed on some railings. I had an enormous amount of publicity, so much so that they couldn’t get in to operate on my arm. I just passed out and I remember waking up in Saint George’s hospital, and I said “Oh my God, my arm. I can’t stand it”. They said “We can’t get you on the operating table because of all the Press around”.
“I want Michael Caine in a cameo role”
Were you ever offered a James Bond film?
No, I never did a Bond film and I never did a Hammer film. And I was really cross about that.
And you’re making a movie?
Yes, I’m producing a film called Hide and Seek. I already have Ian Ogilvy to do the film. He’s playing quite an upper class Englishman. He’s like M in James Bond. Also Gabriella Wright, who is a lovely actress. She is French-American. I want Michael Caine in a cameo role and Ray Winstone in the main role, as an assassin. It’s about an assassin with a heart, and two girls who are against the assassin. That’s going into production next year.
‘The Iron Rose’ is out now on Blu-ray, and can be seen at BFI Southbank, London, Friday, 16th November, 2018 at 8.40pm – NFT2.
Francoise can be heard on Radio Scarborough every Sunday, between 4pm and 6pm