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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Patrick McGoohan

Patrick McGoohan died in Los Angeles on January 13, aged 80.
I had the pleasure of working with Mr. McGoohan on TREASURE PLANET. He was the voice of Billy Bones, the dying, pathetic alien character I'd been assigned.
As was usual with Disney recording sessions, the supervising animator was invited to hear the actor record the lines.
I'd last seen Mr. McGoohan as King Edward Longshanks in BRAVEHEART, but also recalled his scary television show THE PRISONER whose simple, yet terrifying, balloonlike Rovers frightened and fascinated me as a child.
I was apprehensive about meeting Mr. McGoohan since I'd heard he could be 'difficult' to work with. Actors are sometimes temperamental, or so I was told.
It turned out that Mr. McGoohan and I were the first people to arrive at the studio. I could think of nothing else to do but show him some of the sketches of Billy Bones-- a twisted, tortoiselike creature in high cocked hat and cloak with glowing eyes that I carefully designed to 'read' even in black and white sketches.
No, it wasn't a caricature of Mr. McGoohan, nor did I use any pictures of him as reference for the design. But it occurred to me that he might think that I had. He definitely had aged quite a bit since his PRISONER days. Would he be insulted by the drawings?
I needn't have worried.
"But these are excellent!" Mr. McGoohan said. "And", he added, scrutinizing me carefully, "I've seen you before."
I explained that other than a few documentaries on Disney DVDs, it was unlikely that Mr. McGoohan could have seen me on film since I was usually behind the camera; there was a slight possibility that he could have seen me visiting my friend who lived in Pacific Palisades, where his home was. He continued to insist that he'd seen me. I didn't contest the point. In Hollywood, actors go everywhere, possibly even where animators go.

We then had a very friendly conversation that I have to paraphrase, though I have never forgotten the main points Mr. McGoohan made.
"I am a journalist," he said. "I wrote for Irish papers...acting was not my main interest. The best thing acting ever did for me was to introduce me to my wife."
"I got tired of the 5 a.m. shoots and decided to concentrate on producing rather than acting." (His performance as Longshanks in BRAVEHEART was done as a favor to filmmaker Mel Gibson.)
"I was also offered the part of James Bond, I was the first actor they asked. I turned it down. It would have destroyed me."

He had no regrets for doing this. How many people would have done the same thing?

We met again for pickup sessions on Bones in early 2000, which was after my auto accident. While Mr. McGoohan had been on a cane for the first session, I was using one for the second, and he was horrified.

I would like to offer my small tribute to this kindhearted and highly intelligent actor.
He was quite the looker as a young man but there was a brain behind the good looks. Apparently Mr. McGoohan wrote and produced many COLUMBO shows for his friend Peter Falk, and he also created THE PRISONER and wrote some of the more disturbing episodes of that series.

Patrick McGoohan was also one of the few successful actors who remained faithful to their first wives for their entire working lives!

Farewell, Mr. McGoohan, and thank you for your kindness and your wonderful acting.


deniseletter said...

Very interesting!! It was a novelty to know you was in "Treasure Planet" You did a so difficult to animate character as Billy Bones I Knew it by the book (I'm still reading it,love it has a lot of good drawings and information) and I now begin to know more about who was Mr.Mc Goohan,the voice.I also admired Tony Jay's voice characterizations especially in the Frollo character.Do you know something more about Sergio Pablos?His character assignment was Dr Doppler

Vincent Bruni said...

I did see him as the King of England in Braveheart and I thought he was fantastic. He will be missed.

Nancy said...

Dear Denise,
I suggest you look up Sergio online. He's back working in Madrid now, or that is where I last heard he was.
Disney casts interesting actors in their projects, and I feel that some of the more memorable ones aren't the most famous (Demi Moore was nothing to write home about in HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, for example, while Pat Carroll was wonderful as Ursula in THE LITTLE MERMAID.)

Nancy said...

Slight glitch here...I should have said that the most memorable performers weren't always the LEAD CHARACTERS. Pat Carroll has had a far more significant career than Demi Moore.
Another superb Disney voice talent was the late Eartha Kitt in THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE. I wonder why she hadn't been used as a villainness years before! What a voice!

Simon W-H said...

Yes, Patrick McGoohan was a fine actor, so good to hear that he was a gent also.
It must have been wonderful to have that rich voice to animate to...lucky you!

Nancy said...

It was mostly rich coughing, actually. Billy Bones is dying, and Mr. McGoohan had a streaming cold during the recording session. I worried about the poor man having a seizure, but the directors said that his cold was helpful to the track. Some of the outtakes were a bit phlegmatic.
He was a fine man and was remarkably kind and friendly to me. I still don't know where 'he'd seen me before'. I am not exactly known for my live action performances...I suspect he saw me visiting a friend in Pacific Palisades. For all I know, they might have been neighbours.

Floyd Norman said...

Thanks for the memories about one of my favorite actors. Nice to know he was a gentleman as well.

I had no idea you two had met during the production of "Treasure Planet." How cool is that? Working with the actors was a regular thing in the old days. It seldom happens today. Animators are usually kept in the closet.

Nancy said...

I don't know about the other directors at Disney, but Musker and Clements always brought the supervising animators to the recording sessions. I asked once to attend a Danny DeVito recording session even though I didn't work on the character, and they let me visit. DeVito did an hilarious monologue that was sadly never recorded. It can be fun watching the actors...I'll never forget how much Amanda Plummer got into the Fates' "WE-E-E-E- KNOW-W-W-W-W-!" line.