Hello, and welcome to all the Gimboids, Goits and Smegheads out there in TV land! I recently had the wonderful opportunity of cha...
Hello, and welcome to all you Gimboids, Goits and Smegheads out there in TV land! Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of chatting with the co-creator responsible for the cult-hit BBC TV series Red Dwarf, Doug Naylor. Along with Rob Grant, Red Dwarf (otherwise known as that quirky little comic farce set in deep space) made its television debut way back in 1988 under the most peculiar of circumstances, capturing the imagination of like-minded (if not warp-minded) people who shared an affinity for science-fiction as well as totally idiosyncratic humour.
Of course, just hearing the word sci-fi was usually enough for many people to discount this show at first, but if you combined this genre with a very unique brand of comedy (which ironically has become its own famous trademark) then you were sent spiralling into the universe known only as Red Dwarf. The humour, as well as the many bizarre misadventures that our characters stumble into, are what helps turn the tables on many past fables that we know so well from our television and movie-going culture - and it is this unique blend which has helped Red Dwarf become such a phenomenal and long-lasting TV series, a show that fans still just can't get enough of.
The story begins late in the 22nd century onboard the interplanetary mining-ship, the Red Dwarf, where Dave Lister has been relegated to the stasis booth (suspended animation) after smuggling in a pet cat thereby breaching quarantine regulations. He reawakens eighteen months later (or so he thinks) only to discover that a radiation leak has wiped out the entire crew, although his cat was safely tucked away in the hold to which its descendant offspring has evolved into the coolest of all carbon-based lifeforms - The Cat, or as his crewmates have imaginatively named him, Cat for short. Now Holly, the ship's computer (which is supposed to have an IQ of 6000) decided that it should 'resurrect', as it were, Lister's old bunkmate Arnold 'Judas' Rimmer as a Hologram to keep him sane (however insane this concept seems to Lister, since Rimmer did nothing but drive him bonkers in the past!). Together, these characters attempt to find their way back home to Earth whilst trying to avoid the many entities that seek either to "suck out their brains" or "erase them from history all-together" - to quote Rimmer.
And no, unfortunately the one entity that Rimmer might have considered as "the right stuff", Kryten, is not mentioned at all in this interview, considering this overly-intelligent "automated toilet-attendant" does not make an appearance until at least Series 3. I have decided to keep this interview related to the events that led to Series 1, since this will be the first of the entire television show to be remastered onto DVD for release. Enjoy.
DVDActive: What were your previous exploits that led you to develop a television show based on the smallest storytelling genre ever - the science-fiction comedy?
Well at the time, Rob Grant and I were working on a show called Spitting Image which was a satirical sketch-show with puppets and before that we had done a few radio series, again sketch-shows, and one sketch which was a kind of recurring format in a show that we did for Radio 4 called Son of Cliché was this sketch called Dave Hollins: Space Cadet. It was basically a sketch about this guy who was alone in space on a spaceship where all his crewmates had been killed by an alien and he was slowly going space-crazy with just this computer for company. And previous to that we both had seen Dark Star years previously and I remember remarking to Rob at the time that I could never understand why noone had ever done a kind of comedy series like that, and then we didn't even have a conversation about it or anything like that for years and years later.
Robert was always a big science-fiction fan and had read a lot of science-fiction books and stuff, and I was kind of, uh, I'd read some science-fiction but I wasn't nearly as conversant with the literature as he was. I kind of watched Blakes 7 and stuff on TV and just had never been able to get past the first five minutes of it 'cause it just looks so bad, so I was really kind of prejudiced, really kind of quite "God, science-fiction done on television just sucks". And Rob kept saying "no, but you gotta look past that and look at the stories 'cause they're really great", and I'd go "but the acting's terrible, too", and he'd go "yeah, but you gotta look past the bad acting and the bad sets and, you know, what they're doing is really interesting".
So we were doing Spitting Image and we decided that we wanted to do our own series, and so we looked through for ideas and then we said "look, why don't we do something based on this Dave Hollins: Space Cadet thing that we did for radio?". And so we took a week out and went to my father who used to have this little cottage in Wales, up a mountain with, you know, no pubs, nothing, just kind of the 'mount of civilisation'. And we just went there for a week and hounded out a very fast first draft and then took it back to London and rewrote it a few times, and then sent it to John Lloyd who was the producer of Spitting Image and Paul Jackson who we worked with on Three Of A Kind and he had done The Young Ones as well, to get their reaction. They both phoned back, both really liked it, both wanted to do it and talked about maybe they could do some kind of co-production thing and at the time they were like the two Comedy Gods, you know, they were the two most famous, most brilliant comedy producers in the country. So we thought "this is going to take like five seconds" and we were going to have this thing on TV ... and then three years later it still wasn't sold. John dropped out because he was doing Black Adder and didn't really have time and Paul couldn't sell it, he took it to the BBC three times and three times they rejected it and just said they weren't interested in science-fiction comedy series.
So we went in to see the BBC and the guy who had a copy at the BBC said that noone would be able to relate to the situation, it was too strange. And then just purely by luck we found a 'back-door' which was to go into BBC Manchester and at the time Ben Elton had done a comedy series called Happy Families. I'd only ever intended to do one series, but there was a slot there for the second series even though he wasn't going to do a second series, and basically because that slot was there BBC Manchester were looking for some kind of, you know, something to fill that slot and Paul brought them in several ideas, one of which was Red Dwarf, and they liked it and said "yeah, this is the one we want to go with". And so, four years after the pilot script was written we got it on TV.
DVDActive: So did the name Red Dwarf just sound cool or was there an ulterior motive for the title?
Well, there were two things to it. Red Dwarf is a star, it's a hugely long-living very dull-glowing star which outlives most of the more brilliant ones, and we felt that was particularly kind of right for the kind of ship we were talking about, which is dull; not glamorous; but it outlives everything. And the other thing was, although it was just absolute coincidence, it was for our initials R & D, Rob & Doug, so that's where Red Dwarf came from. And also the other thing was it was strange, so it was like "what or where the hell is Red Dwarf?" - most people who didn't know it would go "what is this? this is weird".
By the way, when the series was sold to Japan they were particularly worried about Red Dwarf because they thought it was (chuckles) 'anti-small-peopleist' ... but of course it isn't, it has nothing to do with small people, meaning to 'embarrass small people' they thought it was about, but anyway ...
DVDActive: Oh right, sorry, I didn't quite pick up on the "Dwarf" thing just then (laughter). So when did it suddenly become popular in Japan?
Um, it's been, well it was sold to Japan about 5 years ago (1997?) and the range of merchandise they've got now is just phenomenal ... they're just opening a Red Dwarf Restaurant where you go in and you choose the meal from a list of curries and choose the episode you wanna watch and then you go into a small booth and watch the episode and eat your Lister Curry - it's a big relief, really.
DVDActive: That's amazing. I suppose they wouldn't have a website for their restaurant, would they?
Yeah, the Japanese website is connected to our official website as well.
DVDActive: I'll look that that one up pretty soon then. Well, I hope you aren't too pressed for time at the moment 'cause from the sound of things these questions might take some time to answer, is that alright?
Oh sure, I'll make them shorter then, sorry ...
DVDActive: Oh no no, it's not that, I'm just worried about the demands on your time at the moment. I mean the intention of my questionaire is to find out as much history as possible about the origins of Red Dwarf, so you can say as much as you want about your experiences ...
Okay then ... boring and long-winded, okay.
DVDActive: Yeah, well no, well (laughing) I suppose that would draw a kind of parallel to the concept of Lister's situation on the show. So was Red Dwarf a radio-serial as well or just Dave Hollins: Space Cadet?
No, it was just Dave Hollins, although Chris Barrie (Arnold Rimmer) did a radio-series of reading the novels, if that makes sense, so Chris Barrie did an audio-book of, you know, just reading the novels and then they turned that into a radio series years later and then we did the TV series - but it never evolved from a radio series in that it was never, you know, dramatised or anything like Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy or anything like that.
DVDActive: Now, this is just my personal opinion here ... the original Red Dwarf series definitely feels like a stage-play as such that you could probably play it out in a small-theatre live. I suppose the reason for creating the TV series this way came down to the economics of production, or was it also let's say a creative or inspirational choice of yours to produce the series like this?
No no, it was all about money. Yeah, that was all just having absolutely no money to make it and it was made even worse because everyone came from (or always lived in) London and this was commissioned by Manchester. Also, a lot of money came out of the budget to fly everyone from London to Manchester and put them up in hotels, you know, and all that stuff, so it was kind of like a lot of money was wasted if you like, so it didn't go onscreen because of just this really strange situation of BBC London turning it down and BBC Manchester saying yes, so there was very very little money. There was no money for any location-filming at all in the first series and all the special-FX budget was blown on the Red Dwarf (mining ship) model, building the Red Dwarf model and those kind of twelve fly-by's that were in the first series, so that was kind of like all our special-FX money gone in that and we can't go anywhere else and, you know, so it was like "ah, so little money" and, yeah, that's why that first series in particular is kind of 'raw'.
DVDActive: Yeah, I agree with that, in fact I would say "the rawer the better". And I suppose the actors were definitely a lot more 'at home' just sort of playing out the script (like in a live play) instead of maybe taking direction like stopping and starting all the time?
No no, not at all, the thing is that in that first series everyone, because the series isn't a success (yet), everyone's quite scared, the actors were all quite scared in a way. I know Craig Charles (Dave Lister) was certainly very scared because, one, he's never done any acting at all - his wife who was an actress, his first wife of course, didn't think he could act and told him that before he went off for the audition. And so he was expecting to be kind of kicked out of the building any minute for being, you know, a charlatan and also he was very concerned with having lots of jokes, so all he wanted was jokes whatever the jokes were, not laugh-lines, he wanted jokes, things that were kind of very very clearly, you know, 'boom-boom'. And we were very much "look, this is about character and you need to establish the character and then when we know the character, you know, a lot of what he says will be funny, but it's not going to be 'joke-jokes' ".
And so there was all that going on and it was, you know, one of the reasons why the first series' of comedy shows often don't take off, 'cause there's a whole bunch of stuff to work out and why I think the second series was most successful and then the third series more successful than that because everyone kind of knew one another, they were much more relaxed, it's much easier to be funny when you're not trying and, you know, it's all "hey, this is easy, we know what we're all doing now". Whereas in that first series especially there was a lot of fear ... funnily enough I don't think not from Rob and I for some reason ... I mean I was horrified when I saw the sets, absolutely, because it was my nightmare made real really, which was the thing we absolutely had to do was avoid Blakes 7 - I was absolutely guaranteed that the sets would not look like Blakes 7 ... and they didn't, they were worse (laughter). So for me it was like "I am part of the next, you know, terrible piece of science-fiction on television", I mean hopefully the scripts aren't going to be terrible, but this just looks like, you know, just a 'dog', it's just horrible.
DVDActive: Yeah, I can see that side of it, although I'm sure that this might well have been a way to play off of it and sort of tell the audience that "yes, it IS a cheesy set" etc.
Yeah, and some people look at that first series and think it's some kind of really clever parody of bad science-fiction ... and in fact it's not, it's just that the sets are really really bad (sniggers).
DVDActive: And because of this you could at least acknowledge to them that you've got almost nothing to work with ... well, you don't want to have to admit to that, really.
No, for sure, and that's why it did get a bit better in Series 2, you know, production values did, and a bit better then in Series 3.
DVDActive: So what were your other sources of inspiration, other than the afore-mentioned Dark Star movie when creating Red Dwarf?
Well, it's interesting as well because I was reading an article by Dan O'Bannon the writer of Dark Star and he was saying how Dark Star wasn't a success and how he got really scared off comedy because of that, because he realised it was easier to write scary stuff because everyone laughs at different things but everybody is scared of the same thing. And so what he did was he took the very very similar idea to Dark Star and made it scary ... and that was Alien. So then he went off and wrote Alien which was his 'scary take' on Dark Star 'cause he didn't want to get involved in comedy because he thought it was too tough ... (laughter) and you know what, he was right!
DVDActive: So with Red Dwarf being created on a very small budget, it could be said that imposed limitations can often bring out the best in people in terms of scripting and execution.
Having said that though, I didn't think that first series brought the best out of people ... I thought the third series started to bring the best out of people and the second series was significantly better than the first series - because there were certain things that we were working out in the first series, you know, certain relationships, all sorts of stuff, and we had much more to do. Rob and I had much more say in the production say of the second series and in the return of the third series, and certainly for Craig and Chris both seeing their performances were much better in series 2 & 3. But I think you're absolutely right, when you have limitations often that's really good creatively when you've not got a lot, that's all you've got, you've just gotta get on with it - whereas as we know from special-FX movies, you know, you can have a special-FX movie that cost $150m and it can be, you know, terrible, because they can do absolutely anything they want and that's not often what's best for the movie which ends up not being really good.
DVDActive: So what was the main reason for developing the main characters in the way we know and love them today ... that being a space-bum hippie, a overly-zealous Napolean wanna-be, a terribly vain feline-sapien and a computer that's prone to bouts of senility?
Well, basically we wanted Red Dwarf to be about the last human being alive (Dave Lister) ... we wanted him to be a very unremarkable ordinary guy, someone who was at the bottom of the heap rather than even in the middle because we thought that was a funnier idea, someone who was just 'nobody' having the responsibility of somehow recreating the human race and the adventures that happen to him. And also because we thought it was a character that everyone, obviously as a consequence of that, would be able to relate to him.
So having defined him being ordinary and slobby and at the bottom of the heap, we would then want it, logically, to surround him with different characters who were unlike him. And so we then wanted someone who wasn't human, who wasn't a robot, we didn't want to do robots because we felt that was a science-fiction cliché ... so we arrived at a hologram and that it was like "who is this hologram?"; well, a hologram has gotta be opposite to Dave Lister so therefore he's not slobby therefore he's blah blah blah blah, and that hologram grew into being (Arnold) Rimmer. And then it was "well, why is there only one hologram?"; because there can only be one hologram on the ship. "What happens to all the other humans?"; well, there must be some accident - and so it sort of all came out of that.
We always knew that there would be a computer and the cliché with computers is they're always smart, they always know all the answers to everything, so again because it was a comedy we wanted to do the opposite of that ... so we got a computer who was kind of senile or slightly, you know, weird or whatever for that, again because then you've a comic character.
So we have three of them and then it was like "okay, we don't want any aliens in our science-fiction series because there are always aliens", it's always about you'll land on the planet or whatever and you'll meet the aliens, we wanted it not to do that because everyone does that and so it was how can we have another character who isn't an alien, who isn't a robot, who can be be played by an actor because we can't afford any of the really kind of cool stuff ... and that was how we arrived at someone who had evolved from something, you know, that was weird and that's how The Cat arrived.
DVDActive: So were these characters based on anyone you knew in particular, were their personae always set in stone and how much of them came from the actors' own quirks and eccentricities ... and how did you find the actors for the parts?
It was like "okay, who do we know like that?" ... and the slob part Rob and I, you know, both of us can and had the ability to be slobby and that went into Lister, but then both of us have the ability sometimes to try and be organised, you know, and all those bits of us went into Rimmer ... so we were very much both Rimmer and Lister.
For Holly (the ship's computer), we knew of Norman Lovett and his work and that was the only time where we knew who we wanted to play the part. And the kind of the 'cool cat' thing, Rob's brother and his girlfriend were both really really cool and we kind of thought "yeah, if the cat's something like them then he'll be great". And that's really kind of where the characters started on the page, and then you cast it and we casted it in a completely different way to the way we were expecting ...
We were only expecting Craig Charles at the time, we were thinking more of an actor like Christopher Lloyd who's American and we knew we couldn't get him, he was a mad professor in Back To The Future and he was in Taxi as kind of a deranged lunatic guy. So we thought Lister was going to be much more someone like him, and his age actually - we expected Lister to be kind of 30s, we didn't expect him to be like Craig who was 21, so we thought "oh well, that was funnier" because 21 and you're a slob and at the bottom of the pile; "hey, you know, so what, you haven't started yet", whereas if you're kind of 30 going onto 40 and you're bottom of the pile then that's where you're likely to stay. So then we saw lots of people in auditions and the best people we saw were Craig as the best Lister and Chris as the best Rimmer. And so it was like "oh right, this is completely, you know, not what we were expecting, but we've gotta go with the best people".
So then we cast them and then, and there was no talk at this point of lager or curry or any of those kinds of things, and then you get to know the guys and you then write what is credible for their persona ... and it's very credible, although Craig doesn't like lager, doesn't drink beer, he drinks (Doug deep in thought) whisky and lemonade so he never drinks beer, right ... but it's credible in that he looks like he drinks beer, although he doesn't (chuckles). And his favourite food is not Indian curry but it looks like it probably maybe is, you know, and so it was then that you kind of write for the actor /stroke/ way he plays the part and then it becomes fleshed out and blah blah blah blah blah. And so that's really how the characters really came about and then, you know, the actors will throw stuff in - I mean Craig threw in the idea of that crazy haircut, he felt everyone had some kind of gimmick, like Rimmer had his 'H' and was a hologram, the Cat had his teeth, and so he wanted a gimmick of his own and it's just that he had those kind of stupid locks at the end, you know, something he now regrets 'cause he's got to have the damned things sewn in into his hair every time he does the series. So that kind of stuff happens and it kind of grows from there.
DVDActive: So are there any amusing anecdotes possibly about the difficulty of filming any episode, whether it be with the actors, props or special-FX?
Oh god, um (laughs) ...
DVDActive: On the spot now (sniggering)
... that's really horrible (gaffaws) ... amusing anecdotes, uh, hang on ...
DVDActive: Just anything that strikes you as "what the heck happened here?"
Well, we used to fly out from Manchester to London and Craig was late once with Danny John-Jules (The Cat) and the reason he was late, he always used to wear this hat with bullets in the band round the top. And (giggles) for some reason he forgot he was wearing it and was stopped and they went "What's in your hat?", so he went "Oh, it's just bullet-cases" ... so of course he was delayed for half an hour, missed his plane and of course we were all waiting ready to shoot, you know, and he wasn't able to get a plane for another two hours and everything, so he was mildly late and really got kind of 'bullocked' by the producer for that.
There were literally things like on the first couple of shows the audience was really really tiny because noone ever heard of the show, and BBC Manchester didn't do that many TV shows anyway with a live audience, so I went into pubs begging people to leave the pubs and come and watch the show. And so we did get some audience in like that by going in and saying "look, there's this TV show it's greeeaaat, it's really great, it's really funny come and watch it".
DVDActive: (laughing) Just a word-of-mouth thing, really.
Yeah yeah, I mean "just come on in" and then some did go in. And then the second series, you know, 'cause it had been on TV, people had heard of it and we didn't have a problem then, people wanted to come and see it.
DVDActive: Okay then, I might as well start asking about the upcoming DVD for Series 1. Firstly,as most of the fans are already aware, Series 1, 2 & 3 was 'remastered' as it were for VHS (with all new CGI effects replacing most of the original model work), however you've stated that the DVDs will contain the original unadulterated productions that were first broadcast on TV. This is good new, although I'm curious if you might have considered still doing a couple of tweaks here and there just fix up some of the nigglies, say, with the audio-sync etc.
No no, all of the mistakes are all there, it's the raw original series, what went out is what you get. I mean you do get a whole ton of extras in terms of interviews with the cast, documentary on the making-of the series with the guy who originally commissioned it for the BBC, interviews with all the actors, storyboards, illustrations, outtakes & bloopers ... just a lot of extras.
DVDActive: Yes, well, I'd have to say that outtakes and bloopers are usually my favourite part of any show, just to see how things sometimes didn't go to plan.
Yeah, they're always great fun, aren't they?
DVDActive: And as for other extras, was there any consideration given to showing maybe something less 'common' for supplemental material, such as the difference between how you used to produce a Red Dwarf episode in the early days compared to how it's done now, especially considering the use of computers (for CGI, editing etc) ... or is it sort of not really that interesting to make something like this?
Um, we'll deal with that kind of thing when we come to it, I mean we've also got the cast commentary throughout all the shows and then there's also an easter egg with Rob & I and Ed Bye the director talking about it if you hit this particular sequence of things in the 'drive room'. So there is a lot of talk about how it was made and the making-of it, you know, but the making-of the special-FX sequences wouldn't be very long because there wasn't much footage of that, there's more talk of it. In fact, the cast commentary is very funny 'cause they're very honest ... like Craig's talking about all sorts of things like how they all used to go out, or how most of them used to go out to clubs the night before it was recorded, be getting in at 4:00 in the morning, you know, because we were in Manchester and they were away from home, and it was like, you know, for them "hey, we're on holiday!" and then they'd all, well not all of them I stress, some of them would have terrible hangovers in the morning - I won't say who yet until you get the DVDs and find out (laughs).
DVDActive: I am so looking forward to seeing them all now you've said that. Well, this is a question you may have been dreading ... it's about the U.S. Pilot episode(s) made way back in 1992 ...
Oh yeah? I don't dread that ...
DVDActive: No, oh I'm sorry, it was only from what I've heard about them - I mean I finally saw it on a bootleg copy through the Internet, and personally I liked it very much for all the familiar references in it, that is when it's put in context with its UK origins, but I suppose stand-alone it wasn't too well received by the US public. What sort of comment do you have regarding that?
Well, basically what happened was the Americans wanted to do an American version and they said they didn't want us involved but they wanted us over as, oh I can't remember what the word is, um ...
Advisers, that's right. And then they cast it, and then we went over a week before they shot it and it became pretty obvious that it had been miscast, and that the script really wasn't very good and we tried to rewrite bits and pieces of it, and then the cast basically came up to us and said "look, this isn't working, we all know it's not working, can you guys help us do your version of the script?" and we said "sure". We rewrote the script literally overnight starting at 8:00 in the evening and finished at 8:00 in the morning, gave it to the producer who read it and didn't like it, then there was a kind of, we told the cast there was no point in us staying, we were going home. Then they insisted on redoing the script and doing a read-through and then they wanted to do our version of the script, but then for all sorts of reasons it wasn't done, or only bits of it were done, and we then we got a sort of 'not-bad-version' and we recorded the 'not-bad-version' and the audience went completely berserk, screamed and went berserk and loved it.
DVDActive: (laughing), so just to clarify, was that the UK or US audience?
No no, this is the American audience, all in America in Universal Studios. And then we went home having nothing to do with the editing which was a big big mistake, then it was edited and of course was 'the dog' it now is, you know. But having said that I think that there is some great lines in it, but it doesn't work because it's too cheesy, I mean it's kind of American in the worst sense, with that really cheesy kind of the "gee, I'm your friend" kind of line, you know, and you just want to vomit.
So then the producer was fired and they said "hey guys, why don't you be the new producers and you do a new version" and we went "terrific" - so we then back over for four weeks but they had no money to pay us or give us any facilities, so they let us have a garage, I mean this defies belief. We had a garage that we were able to shoot in with free camera equipment and we didn't have time to recast it properly and we said that we haven't found the right people yet. But we did very much like Terri Farrell who was a model at the time and there was a lot of fighting with "you can't have her, she's just gorgeous and a model", and I went "no, she's funny and she's a really good actress", and they went "noooo, we just can't see it, she's just gorgeous, you don't see that", and I said "no, I don't agree", and of course she's gone onto great things like Becker and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine so it would have been great to have her.
But the whole thing just wasn't done properly so Rob and I directed that other little 10-minute kind of 'trailer-pilot'. The first version was a full half-hour one which we tried to save but we didn't, kind of 'one arm and two legs were tied behind our back' thing and then we did the ten-minute one, but again there were just huge restrictions on it because there was no money, you know, and also we couldn't get any of the people we wanted. We wanted to fly in people, Americans that we knew, people from the UK to be in it and we couldn't do that - we wanted to get Chris Barrie in to play an American Rimmer and they wouldn't fly him in unless he signed a contract saying he would be in it for 5 years if they wanted him in it, so it was all sorts of stuff like that. And Chris hadn't met them so it was like "sign this contract, but you gotta be in this thing for ..." but you haven't met them, and I was like "look, let him meet you, you know, let him see whether he likes L.A. blah blah blah", so it was all sorts of real kind of craziness like that. I mean if we were to have been allowed to do it properly, I have no doubt that it would have been a massive hit, there's no question in my mind that we would have got it right.
But also to make things more complicated still this was being made by Universal for NBC, and that year NBC decided that they didn't want to take anything that wasn't made 'in-house' at NBC, and so there was a lot of political stuff going on there, you know, that noone really quite 'got' and when we left we were told there was definitely going to be a series. But I can't tell you how glad that there wasn't because it would have been a nightmare, well 'cause we wouldn't have worked on it etc. So that was that really and it was a very interesting time.
DVDActive: Are you personally thinking of branching out into Hollywood or still just purely involved in UK productions?
Yeah, well we're making the Red Dwarf Movie now, we're just about to go into pre-production for the movie which I'm directing.
DVDActive: Is the movie a British-only production or is it financed by anyone else?
It's partly financed by America but it's not gone through the studio system, it's an independent in that way, but it's a decent budget as well, 11 million pounds.
DVDActive: Oh yes, the initial figure touted was something like 15 million pounds before, wasn't it?
Yeah, well at one point it looked like it was going to be 25 million pounds but things have come down a bit, although people I think will be very pleasantly surprised when they see it because it will look like a big, you know, good movie.
DVDActive: Are the special-FX in the movie going to be predominantly CGI or will they be models etc to kind of sell the real-world (if not the infamously cheaper) feel of the first few series ?
There's going to be, well, unless you've got tons and tons of money it's very very dangerous going down the computer-generated room because it just costs so much to get that stuff right, but it doesn't mean to say that you can't have miniatures within CGI, you know, I mean George Lucas used a lot of miniatures in the last two Star Wars films and he also used a lot of CG ... so miniatures are still great, they still work providing they're shot right ... and then for the kind of budget that we've got we'll use CG to enhance a lot of the miniature shots.
DVDActive: Great. So for the Red Dwarf movie, do you think been trying to steer down a more mainstream path with the script (to appeal to the people who haven't wanted to see Red Dwarf before) or is it definitely going to get quite wild and fantastic just like the series of old?
I think it's both actually (chuckles), I mean with Red Dwarf I've always just kind of written stuff that I liked and I thought was funny, you know, and then if the audience like it, great, and it's built up this following. So I never think "is this mainstream or is it cult?" or whatever it is, it's just trying to make something that people like, or something-or-other I like and that hopefully people will like. So I think that as there are more series, then more people get to know about it and in a way it becomes more mainstream because people are more familiar with it and know it and like it. But having said that the story is what counts ... I mean you look at Men In Black, I mean how fantastic is that, you know ... so it's more accepted now and I think in those early days we were quite a long way ahead of our time, to be honest, I really think we were in terms of television certainly. And as someone once said: "comedy science-fiction is the smallest genre of all".
DVDActive: Yes, that was why I decided to start off the interview by relating this to you as well, about the genre being virtually non-existant in story-telling circles.
Yeah it's true, it's the problem of where you say "science-fiction" to anyone and they go "wo-hoh, it's gonna cost a lot of money" ... and they don't want to invest a lot of money in a comedy because comedy is so hard to get right anyway. And so the kind of science-fiction things that they're interested in investing in are the special-FX movies.
DVDActive: Yes, because Hollywood seems to bank on science-fiction nowadays, or at least elements of it.
Oh sure, yeah, it's taken over from Western really, you see.
DVDActive: That's a good observation, actually. So, when the first news for the Red Dwarf movie was announced about two years ago, there were a heap of rumours regarding big-names wanting to appear in cameos for the film, although I'm sure that all this could have easily been disregarded as wishful thinking. But is there still any truth to the rumour?
Yeah, well I don't want to turn it into 'spot-the-celebrity' 'cause I think that's just a huge distraction anyway ... the Spice Girls Movie did that (laughs).
DVDActive: I know, and then it just sort of shows its age for that reason.
Yeah, it's like "oh look, Elton John" etc etc ... and that may be okay for them to do because what they were doing wasn't really a movie anyway, so I mean they've gotta be right for this and it wasn't me who said that there'd be lots of famous cameos ... so you can make of that what you want, but there will certainly be one or two international people in it, but in the end it's gotta work for the story, you know, rather than ... hey, I mean there's lots of stuff about Madonna being in it which is just complete nonsense, but you never know maybe Madonna will be in it, but what I'm saying is that we've never talked about or approached or had the serious conversation about Madonna in it, but it's constantly in the papers about it.
DVDActive: Yeah, and there's even the one about Jackie Chan who allegedly showed some interest in it at one stage.
Yeah, Jackie Chan, that was exactly at the same time as the Madonna one, that he was going to be in it as well which is also completely totally untrue. And also Jackie Chan is, what, probably $10-20m a movie? So, you know, people just need to think about that for a bit, you know, we're not loaded to be able to sort of afford that in that it's more money than our whole movie (chuckles).
DVDActive: That's okay, some celebrities may have indeed once vested some interest in the project, but I usually take everything with a handful of salt these days. Oh, and I just thought of something along the lines of this in regards to some of the episodes of Red Dwarf, because many a Red Dwarf show would have referred to certain celebrities or personalities that I'm sure were purely UK based and this inevitably caused a lot of confusion to people outside of the UK (especially me) about who on earth they were. This is probably the only thing that I still can't come to terms with in Red Dwarf occasionally and I'm sure that even some of the UK residents today wouldn't be able to remember all of the identities that were talked about way back in the late 80s early 90s. It still sounds funny of course, but I don't really understand it for the joke's sake.
There was more of that in the early series than in the later series, it's not something I ever liked. Sometimes they are made up so although the person won't exist, but they will be talking about it as if you would go 'Tom Cruise' they'll go 'Fred Jones', so some of it sounds like it's people that you should know but it isn't ... if that makes sense.
DVDActive: That's fine, I still enjoy it even if I don't fully understand it, I just think "oh well" and it keeps going from there. Okay then, now, my final question, will there be a Series 9 of Red Dwarf?
There could well be a Series 9. What we're doing right now is taking quite a long time to get the movie together, so we want to make the movie then see how we feel, you know, and it may well be that we want to do more movies or it may well be that we wanna do a TV series, I don't know yet. But there are no plans to say "no, we're not going to do anymore TV series" which is good so then we can see how we feel.
DVDActive: Yeah, well the question kind of stemmed from the fact that at the end of Series 8 it closed with "The End? ... The Smeg It Is!", but of course that wouldn't just mean that only another TV series could have been in the works (heck, The X-Files made a movie between series 6 & 7 anyway) - and ironically, it could be that you might follow suit with The X-Files and finish off at Series 9 as well!
Yeah, all of the cast would be happy to do another TV series.
DVDActive: Well, thank you very very much for taking the time out from your busy DVD production schedule and current Red Dwarf Movie commitments so as to help shed some light on what made this TV show such a cult hit way back in 1988. I hope that a whole new group of people will begin to discover this gem of uniquely ingenuitive entertainment as a result of the long-awaited DVDs.
Alright then, nice to speak to you. All the best, bye for now.
So then, if you'd like to find out why Red Dwarf has gained such a loyal following with its fans, you can check out the DVD 2-disc set when it arrives on U.K. shelves on November 4th 2002, with Australia to follow soon after and the U.S. a few months beyond that, and possibly every next series on a three-monthly schedule. The movie is still in the early stages yet and it's hoped that we will see it by the latter half of 2003. And for those of you who'd want to see Kryten when the Series 1 DVD is released, you will only find him in the supplemental material from the A-Z Of Red Dwarf documentary, I'm sorry to say that he will not feature in any of the episodes per sé as he does not become a regular cast member until Series 3 (and to some extent Series 2), so please don't be too disappointed. So, if there's anyone out there that can appreciate a cleverly-crafted storyline, who doesn't mind the occasional inconsistency in timeline events, and adores science-fiction being turned inside-out more times than a pair of Lister's old underpants, then you need look no further than Red Dwarf.
Editorial by Warwick Gaetjens
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