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Exclusive Interview: Charlie Higson – Star of the Fast Show, writer of Young Bond and The Enemy


A few weeks ago I posted a video about Ray Harryhausen and his brilliant creature work in films. It proved very popular and was helped along by a retweet by Charlie Higson (@monstroso). He also has an official site which is well worth a look.

As you no doubt know, Charlie Higson was one of the main writers and performers on The Fast Show. He also wrote, directed and starred in the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) series with Vic and Bob, and wrote and directed Bellamy’s People.

He is also a prolific author and has written a series of books about a young James Bond and is currently working on another series of books dealing with Zombies that began with The Enemy.

You can buy all of Charlie Higson’s books here.

As he is a lover of film, Ray Harryhausen and James Bond I thought I would ask him for an interview. He was kind enough to say yes and without any further ado here it is.

What film do you first remember watching and do you feel it had an influence on your life?

The first film I remember actually going to see in the cinema was Thunderball. I was seven so I must have seen films before this – in the cinema and on TV – but that is the first one I actively remember. It is still very vivid. For me, when I was growing up, going to the cinema meant going to see a Bond movie. Bond was cinema. And Bond has dogged me all my life… My band, the Higsons, used to play the Bond theme as an encore. My first novel, King of the Ants, had a character called Sean (whose mum had named him after her big crush – Sean Connery) who is reading From Russia With Love during the course of the book, and the book is a weird sort of parody of a Bond novel. The film series I fronted for CH4 was called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – after the Italian nickname for Bond. The character of Swiss Toni was meant to be an impersonation of Sean Connery, and he goes to a club caller Flemings (not to mention Bob Fleming on the Fast Show…) And then of course, I became a bona fide Bond writer with my Young Bond books. So, yes, you could say it had an influence on my life.

Does having a brother who is a Professor of Film Studies lead to any interesting arguments over film? Does he always win film arguments?

I think I’d probably beat him in a film based pub quiz. We both approach films from different angles. He is a proper academic, ultimately more interested in the ideas behind film, what they mean socially, historically and culturally. I am more interested in the technical, mechanical, practical side. So, no, we never have arguments. We do like very different films, though

What do you find most difficult about writing action and horror aimed at young adults? What favourite scenes / moments had to be taken out of the books?

They are no harder or easier to write than anything else. The trickiest thing is that I’m writing a series, so trying to think up new ways to scare readers takes some effort. In the end zombies are quite limited, there’s only so much you can do with them, so I’m having to expand my potential terror base in later books. I’ve had a completely free hand in how extreme I can make them. It’s amazing how much more you can get away with in print. The moral guardians bang on about violent video games and films and stuff on the internet, but maybe they don’t read books. They just think, “Oh, how marvellous, little Johnny is reading a book, that’ll be really good for him…” I think some people would be horrified at some of the stuff I’ve got away with in the Enemy series. They’re aimed at teenagers, but a lot of younger kids read them too, ten year-olds. Poor little bastards. I’ve had to take some scary scenes out, but that was purely for length. That’s the upside of writing a series, though, nothing is ever thrown away. Good scenes can be kept for later books.

What is your favourite horror movie?

Don’t Look Now. It’s a horror movie for grown-ups. It’s not about snogging teens in peril, or monsters from outer space, or pervy Europeans torturing nice young Americans. It’s about the fear within. Brilliantly shot, acted and edited. Unbeatable. The idea that some Hollywood twat wants to remake it and ‘replace all that boring atmosphere with plot’, is a sign that it is time to leave the planet and take our chances with those monsters out there.

I’m also a big fan of Night Of the Living Dead. Obviously.

Which of your book series would you like to see be adapted for the big screen first or would you rather have The Enemy series become a Walking Dead TV show?

I’m not fussy. It’s all money in the bank. It would be hard to make films of the Young Bond books, though, because you’d have to try to find a 13 year old with the charisma of Sean Connery, and then you’d have the problem of him ageing over the series. And it would be hard to make a faithful adaptation of the Enemy series and still have it aimed at kids because of what I said earlier about how much more you can get away with in books than you can in films. Plus you’d also have the same problem with ageing. The first 6 books of the Enemy series cover only about four weeks (apart from the flashback in book 2 The Dead).

Which is your favourite Bond movie?

The one I enjoyed most as a kid – because it came out when I was the perfect age for a Bond movie – 9 – was You Only Live Twice. Probably not the greatest Bond movie, but I was obsessed with it. I remember collecting the cards, watching the ‘making of’ previews on the TV, finding out about the mini chopper, and then there was the actual film itself… Dynamite! It set the mould, with the amazing Ken Adam set of the villain’s lair inside a volcano, colour-coded armies of henchmen with machine guns falling off gantries, and of course, the ultimate Bond villain – Donald Pleasance as Dr Evil himself, Blofeld, complete with white cat, bald head, scar and piranha tank. What more could a small boy want?

Having been successful in the world of TV and Books would you like to get behind the camera and have a go at directing?

I directed several episodes of Randall And Hopkirk Deceased, which I really enjoyed. I also directed the recent Bellamy’s People TV series. One day I’d love to do a film, but I’m probably considered too old now.

What is your favourite book to film adaptation?

That’s such a huge question… A Bond book? Goldfinger? They actually improved some of Fleming’s shaky plotting in the early films. Actually there is a very good film of my favourite book, Jim Thompson’s POP 1280, made by Bertrand Tavernier, called Clean Slate. It really captures the twisted spirit of the book, transposing it from the racist deep south of America to colonial Africa. So I’ll say that.

What film did you last watch and what did you think of it?

I just rewatched an old Australian comedy film called Malcolm, which was as good as I remembered it. A great character piece. The last new film I saw was… God, I can’t remember.

As this interview came about because of a Ray Harryhausen tweet what is your favourite Harryhausen creation?

Well, Talos in Jason and Argonauts is pretty scary, but you can’t beat those skeletons. Actual physical effects are so much more… affecting than boring CGI. The Transformers films are just dull. Where’s the magic?

What recent film would Swiss Toni have enjoyed the most?

Surprisingly, Kung Fu Panda 2.

If you were being killed by a movie monster / maniac which one would it be and what are your final words?

Alien. “No need to take your teeth out, love.”

What are you currently working on and when will we next be able to see you on the TV?

I have a very exciting, but sadly top secret, project in development. I’ll make sure you’re the first to know when it’s announced.

Charlie Higson thanks for your time.



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