Exclusive interview with MARVIN… well i mean Stephen Moore !
Published the13th December 2003
Stephen Moore is a legend. He is Marvin, certainly the best-loved character in all the Hitchhikers history. He gave his voice to our depressive robot in the original radio series, was there again for the tv version, has said yes to the new radio series and will maybe also play in the movie.
Nicolas Botti : How did you meet Douglas for the first time? What did you think of him?
Stephen Moore : I met him at the Paris Studio in Regent Street, London when I started my association with H2G2. He was amiable, but pre occupied as he had not quite finished the script.
NB : Did you keep a close relationship with Douglas or see him from time to time? When did you see him for the last time?
SM : We were not close friends but always glad to see each other. We met from time to time after the radio series and the records and the Marvin singles had been completed.The last time I saw him was at The National Theatre. He was giving a talk about his book about almost extinct creatures and I Introduced him to the audience.
NB : How did you learn about his death?
SM : It was announced on the radio.
NB : You were Geoffrey Perkins’ suggestion to play Marvin. How did it happen? Were you surprised by this character?
SM : My agent ‘phoned me one day. He asked if I were interested in a new science fiction series on the radio. I said I was interested and could I see a script. “They’re still writing it” he said “but they want you to be in it” So I said OK.
NB : Douglas told everybody that Marvin idea came from the comedy writer Andrew Marshall. Did you ever meet him?
SM : We never met. But when I asked Douglas what sort of character Marvin might be he told me he was a cross between Eeyore and Clement Freud (A descendant of Freud who was a chef and TV personality who had a face like a Doberman and talked very slowly and monotonously).
NB : You made two single records as Marvin. These are now some collector items. Do you think you could have been the first robotic Sinatra if you went on? Will we ever hear the Christmas version that was never released? Will you make some new singing performances or even a concert?
SM : Yes, the public shamefully failed to realize what a great talent could have been unleashed upon the music loving world. C’est la vie – la vie? – don’t talk to me about la vie. But my singing career was not entirely extinguished. I’ve appeared in two Musicals since then – Poppy at the Royal Shakespeare Company and, most recently, as Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady
NB : Which is the place of Marvin in you career ?
SM : He is certainly a character I will never be allowed to forget (witness this interview) but I regard him (it?) with great fondness.
NB : When I played marvin part in my french adaptation of the radio series, I found it quite difficult to sound depressive and robotic enough despite the help of the vocoder. Did you find it difficult to play the part of the first ever maniaco depressive robot in the history?
SM : It came rather easily to me I’m afraid to say – Tim Curry always used to call me Eeyore long before H2G2.
NB : Despite your celebrity as Marvin, you haven’t been approached to play Eeyore, have you? ( Regarding the well-known fact that these two characters are very similar).
SM : As I say, the character would be too like me and people would say “He’s not acting – he’s just being himself”
NB : You were part of almost all the h2g2 versions (radio, tv, records, i think you even recorded audio books…). Which was the most enjoyable and which one is the best from your point of view?
SM : That’s a really difficult question. They were all enjoyable in one way or another. The radio shows were possibly the most fun because everyone in the team from Geoffrey & Douglas, the technical crew and the actors and guests were all great and fun guys.The Audio books were very satisfying too but bloody hard work. I was still working at the National most nights and had very little voice left at the end of the day.
NB : Douglas had some phases of love and hate regarding h2g2 and Marvin who was one of the most popular and best loved character in the story. Did it surprise you when Douglas killed Marvin in the third hitchhiker’s book ??
SM : A little, but authors often does kill off their most loved characters because it diverts the readers/listeners away from what they think are the more important issues in their work. The most notable example I can think of is Shakespeare killing off Falstaff.
NB : Are you surprised by h2g2 cult following more than 25 years after the first radio series?
SM : Not at all. There is no reason now why it should ever cease.
> THE FIRST SERIES
NB : Which are your main memories from the recordings of the first series?
SM : Being handed pages of dialogue at the last minute. Being put in a cupboard whenever I had to be Marvin.
NB : Was h2g2 very different from all the things you did before? Did it change your career?
SM : It was different in that it was quite unlike working for BBC radio. Up until H2G2, I had only been involved in Drama which was (& still is) very disciplined, organized and taken very seriously. The atmosphere during recordings of H2G2 were almost suicidally casual and great fun.
NB : Douglas told about you that you are “a wonderful actor, absolutely brilliant…. Whenever I had a character that i didn’t have enough clues about or didn’t know how it could be played, we’d say let’s give it to Stephen and see what happens”. In the radio series you played Gag Harfrunt or also The man in the shack or the pupil (in the Dolmansaxlil training film). Radio is one of the few medias where an actor can take several parts. Was it part of the fun?
SM : Yes indeed. Also an actor can play parts on radio that he would never ever be asked to play on stage or screen. I also played a mouse and a whale.
NB : How did you deal with douglas’ sometimes approximative and contradictory feelings about his characters, and the fact that you had the script at the very last second (The man in the shack was originally due to be played by Jonathan Pryce but the part was not written yet when he arrived for the recordings)? ?
SM : It was all part of the fun. The part wasn’t finished till after lunch that day and Mr Pryce decided he’d done enough for one day and didn’t fancy hanging around all afternoon on the off chance that he might be given more to say – luckily for me.
NB : Were you surprised by the h2g2 radio series immediate and huge success?
SM : Yes, because, as a rule, when a cast enjoys themselves so much, the audience doesn’t always see it in the same way.
> THE TV VERSION
NB : Have you got good memories from the tv version?
SM : I have no memories of the TV Version. I recorded the voice of Marvin after the filming had been completed.
NB : Wasn’’t it frustrating this time to be just a voice?
SM : I was always just a voice so I was not frustrated
NB : Are you happy with the tv version of h2g2? And the design for Marvin?
SM : I didn’t find the tv version completely satisfying although there were some great moments. The best thing about it were the graphics for THE BOOK. But technically the tv was a bit of a letdown.
> THE NEW RADIO SERIES
Stephen Moore when he is not Marvin!
NB : You recorded some weeks ago the tertiary phase. It may have seemed strange to be in studio again doing what you did more than twenty five years ago with Simon Jones, Mark Wing Davey and others.
SM : I was amazed that we all immediately recognized each other.
NB : Some historic voices like Peter Jones and David Tate are not here anymore… And Douglas being away too, wasn’’t it a little hard to go on?
SM : Yes there was a feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
NB : Is Dirk Maggs way of working very different from Geoffrey Perkins style?
SM : He is slightly taller than Geoffrey and has a post punk haircut but (as was Geoffrey) he was very much in tune with Douglas’s style and humour
NB : Radio technology changed a lot during all these years. Did they put someone in a cupboard again ? Did technology changed the process of recording and your way of working ?
SM : Technology has made enormous strides since those early days – yes I was put in a cupboard but – this time it had a window!
NB : Did you say yes straight away when you have been approached to make the new series ?
SM : Certainly.
NB : Marvin being dead at the end of third book, you won’t be part of the fourth and fifth part or will you play another character?
SM : He didn’t die at the end of this recent series so I’ll have to wait till early next year. Maybe I’ll be asked to play another character later – who knows?
> STEPHEN MOORE
NB : When did you make your first appearance on the radio?
SM : I started by reading short stories in the early seventies.
NB : You played for a lot of medias (radio, tv, theatre). Which one do you like the most?
SM : All of them but I feel most at home on the stage.
NB : Which are your projects in the near future?
SM : I’m going to be a guest in a TV series in January and hopefully a stage show after that.
> AND THE MOVIE !!!!
NB : Regarding the movie, Robbie stamp told me “Stephen is firmly in the frame and the design for Marvin is terrific”. Would you be happy to be part of this new adventure? Have you read the scenario, met the directors? Do you think the movie will please the fans?
SM : I’m sure that the technology that was so wanting in the TV series will be overcome triumphantly. I haven’t seen the design for Marvin but it’s got to be better than the TV one – another reason I was not keen to be inside it. Robbie Stamp has told me that the producers would like to have my voice on board.