Set to appear in the eagerly-awaited, Steven Moffat-penned adventure in the current series of Doctor Who, Colin Salmon has proved to be one of Britain’s busiest actors. An avid Luton Town supporter, he appeared alongside Pierce Brosnan in the 007 films, and was tipped to become the first black James Bond. His work has also seen him killed by Paul W S Anderson … twice! There’s the small matter of Hex, and his audio work on Blake’s 7, too.
Here he spares us some time for a chat, that took place before the tragic death of Anthony Minghella. Can we start by talking about the numerous movies you’ve been working on. How was The Bank Job, and how was working with Jason Statham?
Jason is a Don. I think his success speaks for itself. The Bank Job was great fun to work on. Roger Donaldson is a top director and working on HD was a new experience. It picks up every detail which is a blessing and a curse if you think about it. Good film
The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is quite a project, too. Anthony Minghella and Richard Curtis are two of the UK’s most prominent movie talents – does it still give you a buzz when you land a project with people like that involved? Is there anything you can tell us about working on the film?
We shot on Location in Botswana and I got to duet with Jill Scott.I also met the Bishop of Botswana, Health Secretary and chief of the village. In fact they were all in the scene with me and it made for the most illuminating lunch conversations. Botswana has an incredible future if it can wrestle the HIV scenario to the ground.
Anthony was perfect for setting up the series because he had a passion for the project and he is a patient and very well mannered man. The locations are not given by right: you have to convince the chiefs and elders that your work is worthy and you have to show grace. Anthony was a perfect Captain. Richard was a silent partner who I didn’t get to meet on set but look forward to working with him face to face at some point. Talented man.You’re also in the new Punisher movie, War Zone. What are you able to tell us about that? Are you a fan of comics yourself? And what did you make of the earlier films?The word reboot has been applied to War Zone. I can tell you it’s very dark and true to the Max series. I have read that series and the Widow Maker and they definitely touch the dark visceral corners of my mind.
You’ve appeared twice in Paul W S Anderson movies, and twice he’s killed you! How does that feel?
I will get my revenge in Jonas Moore. Paul recounted the story of going to see Resident Evil in Harlem. When I was diced someone stood up and shouted “Not The Brother, Not the Brother”. I think Paul took that as a positive and the rest is history!
Did he really write the AvP role with you in mind?
Yes we had spoken about it over time and I got to be British and very Bond-like in the opening sequence…great locations!
You’re down to appear in Paul W S Anderson’s new film, Man With The Football, again with Jason Statham. Was it an easy project for you to choose to sign up for? What attracts you to his projects?
When Paul calls I respond. I feel he has an incredible eye and vision of this film business. Plus I now consider him a friend
Your career has mixed in a variety of smaller projects, big Hollywood blockbusters, television and theatre work. Do you have a preference for any one of them?
I am a father and sometimes I want to stay close to home. By varying the workplace it gives me space to breathe. I enjoy theatre because it reminds me I’m mortal and it’s terrifying when it goes wrong but the most thrilling experience when it flies. Television has been good to me and I feel we have a brilliant drama and documentary tradition that has been instrumental in my background.
Can we talk about Doctor Who? How did you come to be involved in the new series?
My agent got a call and asked if I would be interested in doing The Doctor. Having just been away for two months, my children would have probably locked me out if I had turned it down.
Are you a fan of the show? Are there any episodes in particular that stand out?
I think this latest incarnation is part of the brilliant tradition I mentioned earlier. The Weeping Angels from Blink are a vivid memory.
Have you filmed your episodes yet? Because you’ve landed a role in perhaps the most anticipated, the ones scripted by Steven Moffat? Is there anything you’re allowed to tell us about them?
I am sworn to secrecy but I can say they are very intelligent episodes with some great actors on board and it’s a fantastic story well told.
You appeared in three 007 movies; were you a fan of the franchise, and what kind of effect did it have on your career? How did you feel when the speculation arose linking you with the role?Bond was like Christmas: can’t wait for it to come around. Being in the films brought me to a global audience and I have had the opportunity to meet incredible people. The speculation came out of nowhere and was a heartening and humbling experience that still gets mentioned on a weekly basis. Public support was amazing and the debate was very illuminating. I didn’t realise how open the public were to a black Bond
Can you tell us about working on the audio books for Blake’s 7? Were you a fan of that series too?
I was in a band when Blake’s 7 was being televised so missed it the first time round. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to doing more of it.
You’re worked on a fair few science fiction projects now – is it a genre you’re fond of?
I don’t get to do many BBC costume dramas. Science fiction is a genre that does appeal to me as I was a fan of William Gibson and Assimov. Frankenstein was a favourite cinema character as a child and I now realize Mary Shelley was the mother of modern science fiction.How was working with Woody Allen?
Woody Allen gets it done. Regardless of money, style, criticism he keeps making movies. He is an inspiration and it was an honour to be part of his work. Also he encouraged me to improvise on screen and the results are there and they work. A joy.
What are your memories of working on Hex? Are you disappointed it didn’t go on for longer? Especially as it seems to be finding quite an audience on DVD.
Hex was a blur due to the workload. I felt it was brave, bold and dangerous. I always loved The Omen and it had echoes of that for me. Hex is a serious piece of drama and I am proud of its impact. Amazed it got so far with such a subject matter but more would be good in a bad sort of way…… I took a left turn to do it and I’m proud of it.
Is it true that you were approached about appearing in a Harry Potter film?
I would love to say yes but alas I was never approached. It’s been a very important part of the British film industry and I always want to be part of history in the making as I believe the Harry Potter phenomenon is, plus I’ve read all the books to my boys. Maybe I didn’t push hard enough…such is life.
Your voice is very distinctive and must be a huge asset. When did you first realise this was the case?
That’s kind of you to say it’s been an asset. I have worked hard on my voice. As a child I sang in choirs and as an adult the depth has meant I have to concentrate on being clear and avoiding mumbling. So far so good!
Finally, you’re a Luton Town fan – do you think that Nick Owen and his consortium will really be the club’s saviours?
Luton Town has an amazing history mostly good but some bad. When I was in the Oak Road in the 70s and 80s it was a very formative part of my life and I wish the Club, the Town and all involved with it the best of luck. Luton is full of good people who deserve good things.
Colin Salmon, thank you very much!