Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

The Conversation: We chat to actress Stephanie Beacham

Bright star: Stephanie Beacham
Bright star: Stephanie with Boomers co-star Russ Abbot

The 67-year-old actress, who has starred in Dynasty and Coronation Street and now lives near Girona in Spain, talks about Marlon Brando's animal magnetism, changing sexual mores and why Joan Collins will never visit her.

Is it true you've seen Marlon Brando in his Y-fronts and wellies?

That was protection for me (filming The Nightcomers). I said, "I've signed a nudity clause, I have to do naked scenes". And he said, "Well I haven't". He turned up on set in the biggest Y-fronts you've ever seen and wellington boots and he wouldn't take them off so Michael (Winner) could only shoot us from the waist upwards. I called him 'Wellington'.

So Was he very charming?

I loved him. He wore some really thick old make-up on The Nightcomers. One day I had a question and I knocked on his dressing-room door and I went in. He was putting on his own make-up with his great big farm labourer's hands and his make-up man was reading him poetry.

And you've worked with Charlton Heston ...

He was another really dear friend. Again, someone who protected me and made me feel like a prima ballerina. All right, how do I put this? He was a man of the most enormous talent but – and he was the first to say it – no imagination.

What sets such iconic leading men of Hollywood apart?

Chuck had a gentlemanly unselfishness. And Marlon had an animal quality that I've only experienced in one very, very senior sportsman and a king.

Can you name names?

No. But it was something Marlon couldn't help. It was of his essence. He was also an enormous joker and it was lovely to laugh with him. He came over to England to make a movie and you know how a female star brings more Louis Vuittons than one can ever dream of. Well, Marlon brought a brown paper bag. And he wore his costume the entire time.

When did he wash it?

This was a bit of a worry. But I think they snuck it away from him. Although I did notice sometimes there was a bit of make-up on the collar.

You played the love interest of Ken Barlow. Was it difficult following Bill Roache's trial for sexual offences, for which he was finally acquitted?

It was awful. I emailed and phoned; I gave support. I've got a few theories about that. I'm not talking about Jimmy Savile. That's just horrific nonsense. Awful, awful awfulness. But I do think there's a witchhunt that has gone a little overbalanced.

Well, with the recent convictions, you could say that Operation Yewtree has proved itself...

In a way. And I'm not talking about Bill now. But I think back to those years. They were so different. You'd be offended if you hadn't had a wolf whistle. You knew that if you were alone with a guy, you would be running the other way around a desk so they couldn't get at you.

You would think "Oh lord, they'll stand in that doorway and I know I'm going to get a slap on my bum as I leave".

It was every girl for herself. I had a five pound note sewn into the lining of my jacket just in case I had to make a dive away from somewhere and grab a taxi. Once you'd kicked, you'd run. That was the reality of life as a young, pretty girl.

Has Joan Collins been out to visit you in Spain?

Oh, no, no, no, she would absolutely loathe it. Are you kidding? You've got to wear sort of lesbian sandals to be in this part of the world.

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